It happens every year. Even though parashat Ki Tavo is chock full of things to write about, I look through the haftarah (which consists of all 22 verses of Isaiah chapter 60) hoping to find something else to write about. Every time I try, I fail. I come up empty. There are a few verses that, individually, provide something to muse about, but taken in the overall context of the chapter, lose their luster.
These later chapters of Isaiah (55-66,) which some scholars suggest represent the writings of yet a third school, a Trito-Isaiah, are oracles probably written after the return from exile.They are generally positive and uplifting, and that’s why the last five of the seven haftarot of consolation that we read after Tisha B’Av and before Rosh Hashanah) come from these last 12 books of Isaiah. (The first two haftarot of consolation are from near the end of what scholars view as the writing of Deutero (second) Isaiah (chapters 40-54.)
It's short enough that I include the entire haftarah. If you want the TL;DR version, this chapter tells of how G”d’s favor is restored over Israel, and nations shall all now come to follow G”d and Israel, that the land will remain theirs, and they will flourish.
ק֥וּמִי א֖וֹרִי כִּ֣י בָ֣א אוֹרֵ֑ךְ וּכְב֥וֹד יְהוָ֖ה עָלַ֥יִךְ זָרָֽח׃
1.Arise, shine, for your light has dawned; The Presence of the LORD has shone upon you!
כִּֽי־הִנֵּ֤ה הַחֹ֙שֶׁךְ֙ יְכַסֶּה־אֶ֔רֶץ וַעֲרָפֶ֖ל לְאֻמִּ֑ים וְעָלַ֙יִךְ֙ יִזְרַ֣ח יְהוָ֔ה וּכְבוֹד֖וֹ עָלַ֥יִךְ יֵרָאֶֽה׃
2. Behold! Darkness shall cover the earth, And thick clouds the peoples; But upon you the LORD will shine, And His Presence be seen over you.
וְהָלְכ֥וּ גוֹיִ֖ם לְאוֹרֵ֑ךְ וּמְלָכִ֖ים לְנֹ֥גַהּ זַרְחֵֽךְ׃
3. And nations shall walk by your light, Kings, by your shining radiance.
שְׂאִֽי־סָבִ֤יב עֵינַ֙יִךְ֙ וּרְאִ֔י כֻּלָּ֖ם נִקְבְּצ֣וּ בָֽאוּ־לָ֑ךְ בָּנַ֙יִךְ֙ מֵרָח֣וֹק יָבֹ֔אוּ וּבְנֹתַ֖יִךְ עַל־צַ֥ד תֵּאָמַֽנָה׃
4. Raise your eyes and look about: They have all gathered and come to you. Your sons shall be brought from afar, Your daughters like babes on shoulders.
אָ֤ז תִּרְאִי֙ וְנָהַ֔רְתְּ וּפָחַ֥ד וְרָחַ֖ב לְבָבֵ֑ךְ כִּֽי־יֵהָפֵ֤ךְ עָלַ֙יִךְ֙ הֲמ֣וֹן יָ֔ם חֵ֥יל גּוֹיִ֖ם יָבֹ֥אוּ לָֽךְ׃
5. As you behold, you will glow; Your heart will throb and thrill— For the wealth of the sea shall pass on to you, The riches of nations shall flow to you.
שִֽׁפְעַ֨ת גְּמַלִּ֜ים תְּכַסֵּ֗ךְ בִּכְרֵ֤י מִדְיָן֙ וְעֵיפָ֔ה כֻּלָּ֖ם מִשְּׁבָ֣א יָבֹ֑אוּ זָהָ֤ב וּלְבוֹנָה֙ יִשָּׂ֔אוּ וּתְהִלֹּ֥ת יְהוָ֖ה יְבַשֵּֽׂרוּ׃
6. Dust clouds of camels shall cover you, Dromedaries of Midian and Ephah. They all shall come from Sheba; They shall bear gold and frankincense, And shall herald the glories of the LORD.
כָּל־צֹ֤אן קֵדָר֙ יִקָּ֣בְצוּ לָ֔ךְ אֵילֵ֥י נְבָי֖וֹת יְשָׁרְת֑וּנֶךְ יַעֲל֤וּ עַל־רָצוֹן֙ מִזְבְּחִ֔י וּבֵ֥ית תִּפְאַרְתִּ֖י אֲפָאֵֽר׃
7. All the flocks of Kedar shall be assembled for you, The rams of Nebaioth shall serve your needs; They shall be welcome offerings on My altar, And I will add glory to My glorious House.
מִי־אֵ֖לֶּה כָּעָ֣ב תְּעוּפֶ֑ינָה וְכַיּוֹנִ֖ים אֶל־אֲרֻבֹּתֵיהֶֽם׃
8. Who are these that float like a cloud, Like doves to their cotes?
כִּֽי־לִ֣י ׀ אִיִּ֣ים יְקַוּ֗וּ וָאֳנִיּ֤וֹת תַּרְשִׁישׁ֙ בָּרִ֣אשֹׁנָ֔ה לְהָבִ֤יא בָנַ֙יִךְ֙ מֵֽרָח֔וֹק כַּסְפָּ֥ם וּזְהָבָ֖ם אִתָּ֑ם לְשֵׁם֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהַ֔יִךְ וְלִקְד֥וֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל כִּ֥י פֵאֲרָֽךְ׃
9. Behold, the coastlands await me, With ships of Tarshish in the lead, To bring your sons from afar, And their silver and gold as well— For the name of the LORD your God, For the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you.
וּבָנ֤וּ בְנֵֽי־נֵכָר֙ חֹמֹתַ֔יִךְ וּמַלְכֵיהֶ֖ם יְשָׁרְת֑וּנֶךְ כִּ֤י בְקִצְפִּי֙ הִכִּיתִ֔יךְ וּבִרְצוֹנִ֖י רִֽחַמְתִּֽיךְ׃
10. Aliens shall rebuild your walls, Their kings shall wait upon you— For in anger I struck you down, But in favor I take you back.
וּפִתְּח֨וּ שְׁעָרַ֧יִךְ תָּמִ֛יד יוֹמָ֥ם וָלַ֖יְלָה לֹ֣א יִסָּגֵ֑רוּ לְהָבִ֤יא אֵלַ֙יִךְ֙ חֵ֣יל גּוֹיִ֔ם וּמַלְכֵיהֶ֖ם נְהוּגִֽים׃
11. Your gates shall always stay open— Day and night they shall never be shut— To let in the wealth of the nations, With their kings in procession.
כִּֽי־הַגּ֧וֹי וְהַמַּמְלָכָ֛ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־יַעַבְד֖וּךְ יֹאבֵ֑דוּ וְהַגּוֹיִ֖ם חָרֹ֥ב יֶחֱרָֽבוּ׃
12. For the nation or the kingdom That does not serve you shall perish; Such nations shall be destroyed.
כְּב֤וֹד הַלְּבָנוֹן֙ אֵלַ֣יִךְ יָב֔וֹא בְּר֛וֹשׁ תִּדְהָ֥ר וּתְאַשּׁ֖וּר יַחְדָּ֑ו לְפָאֵר֙ מְק֣וֹם מִקְדָּשִׁ֔י וּמְק֥וֹם רַגְלַ֖י אֲכַבֵּֽד׃
13. The majesty of Lebanon shall come to you— Cypress and pine and box— To adorn the site of My Sanctuary, To glorify the place where My feet rest.
וְהָלְכ֨וּ אֵלַ֤יִךְ שְׁח֙וֹחַ֙ בְּנֵ֣י מְעַנַּ֔יִךְ וְהִֽשְׁתַּחֲו֛וּ עַל־כַּפּ֥וֹת רַגְלַ֖יִךְ כָּל־מְנַֽאֲצָ֑יִךְ וְקָ֤רְאוּ לָךְ֙ עִ֣יר יְהוָ֔ה צִיּ֖וֹן קְד֥וֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
14. Bowing before you, shall come The children of those who tormented you; Prostrate at the soles of your feet Shall be all those who reviled you; And you shall be called “City of the LORD, Zion of the Holy One of Israel.”
תַּ֧חַת הֱיוֹתֵ֛ךְ עֲזוּבָ֥ה וּשְׂנוּאָ֖ה וְאֵ֣ין עוֹבֵ֑ר וְשַׂמְתִּיךְ֙ לִגְא֣וֹן עוֹלָ֔ם מְשׂ֖וֹשׂ דּ֥וֹר וָדֽוֹר׃
15. Whereas you have been forsaken, Rejected, with none passing through, I will make you a pride everlasting, A joy for age after age.
וְיָנַקְתְּ֙ חֲלֵ֣ב גּוֹיִ֔ם וְשֹׁ֥ד מְלָכִ֖ים תִּינָ֑קִי וְיָדַ֗עַתְּ כִּ֣י אֲנִ֤י יְהוָה֙ מֽוֹשִׁיעֵ֔ךְ וְגֹאֲלֵ֖ךְ אֲבִ֥יר יַעֲקֹֽב׃
16. You shall suck the milk of the nations, Suckle at royal breasts. And you shall know That I the LORD am your Savior, I, The Mighty One of Jacob, am your Redeemer.
תַּ֣חַת הַנְּחֹ֜שֶׁת אָבִ֣יא זָהָ֗ב וְתַ֤חַת הַבַּרְזֶל֙ אָ֣בִיא כֶ֔סֶף וְתַ֤חַת הָֽעֵצִים֙ נְחֹ֔שֶׁת וְתַ֥חַת הָאֲבָנִ֖ים בַּרְזֶ֑ל וְשַׂמְתִּ֤י פְקֻדָּתֵךְ֙ שָׁל֔וֹם וְנֹגְשַׂ֖יִךְ צְדָקָֽה׃
17. Instead of copper I will bring gold, Instead of iron I will bring silver; Instead of wood, copper; And instead of stone, iron. And I will appoint Well-being as your government, Prosperity as your officials.
לֹא־יִשָּׁמַ֨ע ע֤וֹד חָמָס֙ בְּאַרְצֵ֔ךְ שֹׁ֥ד וָשֶׁ֖בֶר בִּגְבוּלָ֑יִךְ וְקָרָ֤את יְשׁוּעָה֙ חוֹמֹתַ֔יִךְ וּשְׁעָרַ֖יִךְ תְּהִלָּֽה׃
18. The cry “Violence!” Shall no more be heard in your land, Nor “Wrack and ruin!” Within your borders. And you shall name your walls “Victory” And your gates “Renown.”
לֹא־יִֽהְיֶה־לָּ֨ךְ ע֤וֹד הַשֶּׁ֙מֶשׁ֙ לְא֣וֹר יוֹמָ֔ם וּלְנֹ֕גַהּ הַיָּרֵ֖חַ לֹא־יָאִ֣יר לָ֑ךְ וְהָיָה־לָ֤ךְ יְהוָה֙ לְא֣וֹר עוֹלָ֔ם וֵאלֹהַ֖יִךְ לְתִפְאַרְתֵּֽךְ׃
19. No longer shall you need the sun For light by day, Nor the shining of the moon For radiance [by night]; For the LORD shall be your light everlasting, Your God shall be your glory.
לֹא־יָב֥וֹא עוֹד֙ שִׁמְשֵׁ֔ךְ וִירֵחֵ֖ךְ לֹ֣א יֵאָסֵ֑ף כִּ֣י יְהוָ֗ה יִֽהְיֶה־לָּךְ֙ לְא֣וֹר עוֹלָ֔ם וְשָׁלְמ֖וּ יְמֵ֥י אֶבְלֵֽךְ׃
20. Your sun shall set no more, Your moon no more withdraw; For the LORD shall be a light to you forever, And your days of mourning shall be ended.
וְעַמֵּךְ֙ כֻּלָּ֣ם צַדִּיקִ֔ים לְעוֹלָ֖ם יִ֣ירְשׁוּ אָ֑רֶץ נֵ֧צֶר מטעו [מַטָּעַ֛י] מַעֲשֵׂ֥ה יָדַ֖י לְהִתְפָּאֵֽר׃
21. And your people, all of them righteous, Shall possess the land for all time; They are the shoot that I planted, My handiwork in which I glory.
הַקָּטֹן֙ יִֽהְיֶ֣ה לָאֶ֔לֶף וְהַצָּעִ֖יר לְג֣וֹי עָצ֑וּם אֲנִ֥י יְהוָ֖ה בְּעִתָּ֥הּ אֲחִישֶֽׁנָּה
22. The smallest shall become a clan; The least, a mighty nation. I the LORD will speed it in due time.
Sounds nice, doesn’t it? G”d will forever be our light, we shall have no need of sun or moon. There will be no violence in the land. Like the words of the Vaye’etayu poem that we read at Rosh Hashanah (and which Israel Zangwill turned into a Jewish hymn) - All the world will come to praise you. Everyone will worship the G”d of Israel. So why am I so troubled by it?
I’m troubled because of how it embraces chosen-ness. Not only will the world come to serve G”d, they will serve Israel. They will rebuild her, send her their riches. Then the kicker: all Israel’s people, all of them righteous says Isaiah, shall possess the land for all time.
Our own tradition teaches us that that test between true and false prophets is that the prophecies of a true prophet come true. Israel’s history following the return from exile hardly follows such a path. There was a brief period of success, but there was no true Camelot in second Temple period Israel. Yes, some of the prophecies came true (though can we be sure this part of Isaiah was written before they did?) The Persians did indeed offer some assistance, so “aliens” did indeed help rebuild some of the walls. Governor Zerubbabel himself contributed funds.) But then went, well, gang aft agley, as they say in Scotland. Alexander the Great conquers the region, and after that Egyptian Ptolemys conquer the land from Alexander’s squabbling generals. The Selucid ruler Antiochus III captures the land. Then the Maccabees revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and set the stage for the period of the most despotic rulers of Israel, eventually leading to the Romans effectively being invited to come in and take over. So much for the golden age predicted by Isaiah in this chapter.
Okay, I’ll admit that the idea of the Israelites living in perpetual peace, the envy of the world, living only by G”d's light is a pretty nice vision. I just don’t like the idea that Israel is so elevated above all the other nations. Why couldn’t the fantasy be “all the world will come together” rather than “all the world will come to bow before G”d and G”d's chosen nation/people Israel” ?
Had I lived in the times when these words were written, I might feel totally comfortable with them. However I cannot ignore all that has transpired since. Instead of comforting me, when I hear these words, they do not make me hopeful. Instead, they remind me of how the promise of Isaiah did not become reality, and, in point of fact, though our people have survived, we have suffered countless horrors and indignities since. This is the price of being G”z's am segulah, treasured people? Can I get a refund?
Why can’t we just tell it like it is. Here’s the real chapter 60 from my perspective.
1. Arise and shine for your light has dawned. Note, however that power outages seem to occur with alarming frequency.
2.Darkness will cover everywhere, but your emergency lighting will work – until the batteries run out.
3. Other nations will walk by your light, but unfortunately this will drain your emergency batteries even faster. Look and see how they have all come to you. Have fun dealing with all this excess population.
4-5. Lots of money – the wealth of nations, will flow your way. Just remember that money corrupts.
6-7. Camels will come to you bearing gold and silver. Just remember someone has to clean up all that camel dung. Same with the sheep and goats that will come your way.
8. You will be like a bug zapper. You’ll attract hordes. Not so certain how they’ll all end up.
9. Ships will come from afar laden with riches. You’ll have to build more seaports. Never mind the poor folks who will be displaced in the process.
10. Foreign labor will come and help you rebuild. They won’t be like you, and some might come to resent them.
11. Your gates, always open, will need constant screening and security. Who knows what riff-raff might come in? Just remember that Eliyahu might be among them.
12. Nations that do not serve you G”d will destroy – but what G”d fails to mention is that G”d may require the agency of your own people to fight and die in these wars.
13. Lebanon shall send you cedars and cypress, probably deforesting their land in the process, leading to an environmental disaster.
14. Your enemies shall come to you hat in hand. You’ll have to accept them, and they, too, will live among you, require support from the state. You may grow to resent these aliens in your midst even though you yourselves were once aliens in Egypt. Learn to make nice with them. Seriously. Otherwise, things are gonna suck.
15. I’m gonna raise you up above everyone else. Just remember what happens to people at the top of the ladder – they’re always targets for everyone below.
16. You shall drink the milk of other nations, suckle at the breasts of their leaders. As a result, they will come to truly resent and hate you.
17. You’ll get the center of the meat, cushions on the seat, houses on the street where it's sunny, summers by the sea, winters warm and free. Everyone else gets the rest. It’s all for the best.
18. No more shall cries of violence and wrack and ruin be heard in your land, and you will name buildings for your blessings. However, this will require stricter weapon control laws, which the NRA might oppose. Also, some people will find your naming of buildings ostentatious and haughty.
19-20. You won’t need sun or moon – G”d alone will be your light source. You will be billed monthly. Late payment charges are quite steep. On the plus side, maybe the planet won’t be raped and ruined in the search for coal, oil, and natural gas.
21. All of your people will be righteous. Yeah, right. Thus they will earn to right to live in this land in perpetuity. Maybe. Seeing a lot going on in the land these days that’s not so righteous.
22. Your population will burst, and all will be mighty and powerful. Of course, this will stress your infrastructure, and lead to a lot of jealousy and fighting. Eventually, some maniac will try to wipe all of you out.
There. Now I can handle Isaiah chapter 60. Not sure how that works for you, so feel free to find your own truths in these words. May your search be fruitful.
©2018 by Adrian A. Durlester
Other Musings On This Parasha:
Ki Tavo 5777 - We Are But Uncut Stones
Ki Tavo 5775 - Rise and Shine (Redux 5761)
Ki Tavo 5774 - They Don't Make Them Like They Used To
Ki Tavo 5773 - Catalog of Calamities (Redux and Greatly Revised 5760)
Ki Tavo 5772 - Mi Yitein Erev? Mi Yitein Boker?
Ki Tavo 5771 - Curse This Parasha!
Ki Tavo 5769 - If It Walks and Talks Like a Creed...
Ki Tavo 5767 - Uncut Stones
Ki Tavo 5764-Al Kol Eileh (in memory of Naomi Shemer, z"l)
Ki Tavo 5763--Still Getting Away With It?
Ki Tavo 5760--Catalog of Calamities
Ki Tavo 5761--Rise & Shine
Ki Tavo 5762--Al Kol Eileh