This morning’s parsha describes for us the great “theophany,” the revelation of God, at Har Sinai, an event witnessed by the entire nation, experienced by millions of people. This morning’s haftarah relates to us the personal “theophany” of the navi Yeshayahu who alone sees the vision of Hashem’s throne and His glory and is charged to bring the vision and Divine message to the entire nation. This vision, this message, is found in the sixth perek of Yeshayahu but it is the earliest of all the prophecies delivered by this great navi; indeed, it is his formal “induction” to the service of Hashem. Much in the same way, Bnei Yisrael are “inaugurated” into the service of God at Har Sinai, with Hashem declaring “V’atem tihyu li mamlechet kohanim, And you will be a kingdom of priests [better: attendants] for me.” And just as the people trembled and stood afar in fear of witnessing God’s revelation, so too did Yeshayahu believe he would die for having “seen” Hashem.
It is interesting to note that the Ramban, in his commentary on the Aseret Hadibrot, points out that the pronouncements of God heard by the nation were understood by each and every person according to his or her own abilities. It was not simply a communal experience but an intensely personal one as well and, perhaps, the choice of this perek as the haftarah was meant to teach that Yeshayahu’s individual encounter with God described therein was, ultimately, not that different from the one experienced by all of Israel at Har Sinai.
In essence, however, it is the contrast between the two events that cries out to us, for the glory revealed to Bnei Yisrael at Sinai was meant to impress upon them the power and majesty of Hashem and, accordingly, the absolute necessity of accepting and keeping His mitzvot. The vision seen by the navi, on the other hand, was part of his inauguration into God’s service to accept the mission of admonishing the nation who failed to perform the mitzvot and to warn them that God’s punishment would not cease “until the cities become desolate…and the land become…wasted and Hashem will drive the people away….”
We look back today upon the thousands of years that saw the fruition of this terrifying prophecy but we look today at the reversal of this vision as the people have returned and the cities are heavily populated and the land gives forth fruit. It is a reality that brings to life the many prophecies of comfort that fill Sefer Yeshayahu. Today’s miraculous reality came about because we never forgot the words spoken at Sinai and will continue as long as we continue to heed those words.
By Rabbi Neil N. Winkler