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By Rabbi Dovid Siegel | Series: | Level:

 Yeshaya    6:1  This week’s haftorah reveals to us the incredible spiritual status of mortal beings. The prophet Yeshaya shares with us his astounding experience of the greatest revelation ever to be shown to mankind, Hashem’s actual throne of glory.  Yeshaya recounts this and says,  “Fiery angels stand before Hashem in service … They call to one another and say in unison, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is Hashem the master of the legions whose glory fills the entire universe.'”(6:2,3)  Yeshaya informs us of his response to this awesome experience and of his feelings at the time.  He thought, “Woe is unto me for I remained silent because I am a man of impure lips…and my eyes have beheld the Divine Presence itself.” (6:5)  Through these words we learn that the prophet was genuinely humbled by his experience and felt unworthy of even catching the faintest glimpse of the magnificent glory of Hashem.  But, as the Ibn Ezra (ad loc.) notes, Yeshaya was also troubled by his own silence reflecting his inability to participate in the glorious praise of the angels.  He viewed this as the result of his own  limitations and inadequacies.  He felt that his speech was impure  and sinful and that his mouth was therefore unworthy of participating in the Heavenly praise, even to utter a sound before the Divine Presence Himself.  The vision continues and Hashem commands one of His fiery angels to deliver a burning coal to the prophet.  Yeshaya describes this incident and says, “And with tongs the angel removed the coal from the alter and he touched my mouth and said…’Your sin has been removed and your iniquity forgiven.'” (6:6) Immediately following, the prophet hears the voice of Hashem asking, “Whom shall I send?” Yeshaya responds to this and says, “Here I am; send me.”  This overpowering revelation of Hashem coupled with Yeshaya’s response was intended to  serve as Yeshaya’s inauguration  into prophecy. After his initial cleansing, Yeshaya was deemed worthy of transmitting the words of Hashem to the Jewish people.  But, in addition, it seems that this cleansing enabled Yeshaya to join the ranks of the angels, singing the Heavenly praise and conversing with Hashem in His actual presence.  This intriguing incident suggests the unsuggestable, that man is actually capable of rising to the lofty status of the spiritual beings.  Although the prophet was privy to the highest levels of sanctity he sensed his mortality and felt that he could never attain such elevated levels.  Alas, he was a human being and not a spiritual entity.  He was associated with impurity and sin and didn’t deserve to see such great revelations or sing Heavenly praises.  However, Hashem revealed to Yeshaya that the potential was truly there and, that after certain adjustments, man could actually attain these levels. But, as we reflect upon this we tend to wonder.  What position does an impure mortal have amongst the loftiest of heavenly angels?  How could man even entertain the idea of participating in Heavenly praise? The angel’s truly reflect the  glory of Hashem but what can be said about man?!  The answer to this challenge can be found in the fundamental discussion about mortality which took place between Hashem and the angels.  The Midrash (Shochar Tov on Tehillim 8) relates that the angels staged a heavy complaint against Hashem at the time He was giving the Torah to the Jewish people.  The angels argued, “Your glory is for the Torah to remain amongst Heavenly beings.  They are holy and Your Torah is holy; they are pure and Your Torah is pure and they are everlasting and Your Torah is also.” Hashem responded and informed them that the Torah could not remain amongst them.  They are total spiritual beings and have no mortality, impurity or illness.  Hashem declared that His true glory  must ultimately come from man plagued by impurity and mortality.  This response seems quite mysterious to us.  In truth, we view this matter like the angels did. After all, isn’t the total fulfillment of the will of Hashem the greatest manifestation of His honor?  What could be more glorious than the purest praises of the angels themselves?  How could mortality and impurity become major positive factors in producing the ultimate glory of Hashem?  The words of Rashi in this week’s haftorah provide deep insight into this perplexing subject. Rashi (in his commentary to 6:7) reflects upon the incident of the burning coal and notes that the fiery angel was holding it with tongs.  Apparently  the coal was too intense for an angel to hold with bare hands and tongs were required.  Surprisingly however, we discover that Yeshaya endured the direct contact with the coal when it touched his lips and was not harmed in any form.  Rashi, in explanation of this, quotes the words of   Chazal in Midrash Tanchuma which affirm that the human being is truly greater than the angels.  Chazal cite the passage in Yoel which states, “For His camp is massive but mightier than they are those who do His will.” (Yoel 2:11) The Midrash views the human being as mightier than the angels themselves.  This is apparently based on his ability to do Hashem’s will, as is reflected in the above passage.  For the most part, an angel is considered programmed to fulfill Hashem’s will because his sense of Hashem is so great that it leaves no room for question or doubt. However, the human being is, by nature, plagued by impurity, weakness and temptation.  When he fulfills the will of Hashem it is a true credit to Hashem’s greatness. Hashem’s will is so significant and powerful that even the sinful mortal being is willing to subject himself to this upper call. This demonstration is so glorious that it supersedes that of the Heavenly angels even during their loftiest praises of Hashem.  We learn from this that the human being sings the “praise of all praises” through his enormous efforts in overcoming his human imperfections. Yeshaya had originally felt unworthy of participating in the Heavenly display of  glory to Hashem due to his human limitations and imperfections. Hashem responded that the conscious decision of the human to subject himself to Hashem’s will was even a greater display of glory than Heavenly praise.  After Yeshaya’s own speech was purified  he became worthy of participating in the loftiest of all praises.  He could now sing  the praises of the angels but, in fact, he could even rise above them and display,  through his subservience, the greatest honor to Hashem.  This unforgettable lesson sheds a very special light on a unique dimension of this week’s sidra. Chazal (see Shabbos 88a) reveal to us that the Heavenly angels played an active role in the Jewish people’s experience at Har Sinai.   Hashem responded to the Jewish nation’s acceptance of the Torah and sent myriads of angels who crowned the Jewish people with spiritual crowns.  Hashem asked in bewilderment, “Who revealed this secret to My children, to act in the way of the angels?”  The Jewish nation’s readiness to unconditionally accept the will of Hashem was a demonstration of a quality which, thus far, belonged to the angels themselves.  Now that the Jewish people revealed this inner quality they were likened to the angels.  But Hashem instructed  angels to place these crowns on the Jewish people which suggests that they  were even greater than the angels.  In light of the above we now understand that, in fact, the human being is potentially greater than the angels.  If he, with all his imperfections and temptations, can readily bind himself to Hashem’s will there can be no greater expression of Hashem’s true glory in the entire world.  by Rabbi Dovid Siegel, Rosh Kollel (Dean), Kollel Toras Chesed of Skokie 3732 West Dempster, Skokie, IL 60076        847-674-7959 fax: 847-674-4023   e-mail: [email protected] URL: http://www.arlin.net/kollel/  Dear Subscriber,  We are honored and privileged to share with you these personal insights on the haftorah.  Everyone recognizes the extensive neglect of the haftorah over the years and this publication is but a modest attempt to address the problem.  We truly appreciate all haftorah comments and reflections received thus far and welcome all further discussion on the haftorah. Please feel free to convey all your suggestions and opinions for improvements of this publication.  Thank you for all your letters of encouragement in appreciation for this meaningful project.  Permit me to mention that our institution is in the midst of its annual fundraising campaign. Kollel Toras Chesed offers all its community services free of charge and relies upon all its beneficiaries for its continued existence.  Please send us your generous donation to help the Kollel continue providing you this haftorah benefit.  A gift of $54 will be truly appreciated; donations of all amounts will certainly help.  Thanking you in advance,  Rabbi Dovid Siegel   Rabbi Siegel’s  topic-of-interest lectures are available through the Kollel’s Tape of the Month Club. For a free sample, send your name and address.  ————————————————————————- Haftorah, Copyright (c) 1997 by Rabbi Dovid Siegel and Project Genesis, Inc. The author is Rosh Kollel of Kollel Toras Chesed of Skokie, Illinois, which has an internet presence at http://www.mcs.net/~kollel/ .  This list is part of Project Genesis, the Jewish Learning Network. 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