Isaiah 57:14 – 58:14
Isaiah (prophet)- c. 740 – 681 BCE
The painting above is part of my “haftarah series”, in a style inspired by Marc Chagall. Images from the haftarah text appear in the picture. I painted challah (to represent feeding the poor and oppressed) observing Shabbat, and “raising your voice like a ram’s horn”. (ch 58: 1) The blues evoke “A spring whose waters will not fail” (ch 58:12) and there is “light that bursts through the dawn”(ch 58: 8). Click on the image to enlarge it.
Yom Kippur is a difficult day for many of us. Not only do we have to fast (some of us start weaning ourselves off caffeine a week early) but we go to synagogue and face ourselves. Thinking about our weaknesses is difficult, and deciding to improve realities is even more difficult.
This is a very dynamic reading. Right at the beginning Gd says, “Build up a highway! Clear a road! Remove all obstacles from the road of my people!” In energetic language the Jews are told that Gd notices them and how they are faring. HaShem sees illness and will heal them.
The message is one of an attentive Gd who knows and recognizes the challenges all people face. Fasting is mentioned a number of times. The text describes what many people do- they take advantage of their employees and those in a lower position. It continues, “…No, this is the fast I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness…to let the oppressed go free…” (ch 58: 6) We are reminded that fasting must be done with the right intention.
Many of us go to synagogue on Yom Kippur filled with trepidation. It is a day when we feel our mortality and we fear for the future. It is often a comfort to be in synagogue surrounded by others who are also praying for self-improvement and/or a better year.
These are very troubling times all over the world. I won’t list all the challenges in front of us because it’s too depressing. On the positive side there are millions and millions of wonderful innovators, optimists, do-gooders, and creative givers who make the world a better place. We should all support the positive changes and work towards greater mending in the world.
Have a “positive” fast. May your year be filled with peace, health, happiness and “parnassa” (financial security) for you and your family. Happy 5775!