Isaiah (prophet)- c. 740 – 681 BCE 765 B.C.E.
“Arise, shine; for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, the darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples: but the Lord will rise upon you and His glory seen upon you. And nations will walk at your light…”
This is how the Haftarah for Ki Tavo begins.
It is the 6th of the seven Shabbatot of Consolation following Tisha B’Av. Isaiah paints a bright and promising future for the Jews who are still in exile. He tells them that the gates of Jerusalem will be open to them, they will be blessed with light and riches and the other nations will recognize them and be in darkness.
The poetic prose consistently refers to light and that is what I chose as the theme for this week’s painting. The sun and moon are both suspended in the sky and the rays of their light illuminate the dark mountains. This is to indicate that the path of B’nai Yisrael will be illuminated even when the landscape of the rest of the nations is in darkness. The two tall mountains are an acknowledgement of Mount Eval and Mount Gerizim from the parsha.
The imagery of the haftarah also fits very well with the message of the parsha. The themes of light and dark presented in the haftarah echo the rewards and punishments discussed in the parsha.
The parsha begins reminding the Israelites that Yaakov’s children went down to Egypt and became a successful family but then lost everything and were reduced to slaves.
The text continues with an interesting rendition of some of the Commandments. Rather than the “Thou shalt nots…” the language is strengthened to become “Cursed be he who…” followed by “the people shall say Amen.” The language is stark, reminding b’nei Yisrael that the commandments are to be taken seriously, otherwise there are dark and bleak repercussions.
The next 15 verses are the lovely rewards B’nei Yisrael will reap by following God’s laws followed by 54 hugely frightening verses describing what will happen if the Israelites do not follow the Commandments.
These contrasts laid out in the parsha are echoed in the dark mountainscape of the desert. The light is the positives the Jews gain when following God. The darkness is the abyss the Jews find themselves in when they refuse to live morally and within the Commandments.
The beam of radiance represents the light God shines on b’nei Yisrael- the light mentioned by Isaiah to the desperate, exiled Jews. The Jews benefit from light and clarity while the other nations see Israel’s light. They recognize the “or le Goyim”- or the light unto the nations that Jews can share. The other nations can share in it too if they treat the Jews and the God of the Jews with respect.
The quotation seen at the base of the painting is the phrase I quoted at the beginning of this entry. “Arise, shine; for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…and His glory shall be seen upon you.”