This week’s haftorah teaches us never to despair or feel abandoned. The Prophet Yeshaya opens with sharp words of rebuke to the Jewish people for their shameful attitude regarding Hashem’s concern for them. He asks, “Why does Yaakov say, ‘My path is concealed from Hashem and my judgment alludes Him?'”
This desperate plea is based on the tight control the nations exercise over the Jewish people during their seemingly endless years of exile. They exclaim in bewilderment, “If Hashem really cares how could He allow the world to continue on its present course!? Where is the Jewish nation’s reward for their perseverance throughout the ages? Why doesn’t Hashem respond to the nations’ cruelty and deliver them their well deserved catastrophic blows?” These emphatic cries reflect the Jewish people’s deep-seeded feelings of pain and anguish during their difficult moments in exile.
Yet, this similar perspective is shared by the mighty powers of the world who perceive themselves in total control. They see Hashem as aloof from His world and incapable -Heaven forbid – of interfering with their vicious hatred towards His devout children. In this week’s haftorah, Hashem responds to the Jewish nation’s plea and calls the world’s mighty powers to task. Hashem engages them in heavy dialogue and invites them to defend their audacious position about Him. Hashem says, “Be silent distant nations and mighty powers recharge yourselves. Draw near and speak; come together for judgment. Who inspired the (dweller) of the east to proclaim My righteousness with his every step; delivered nations into his hands and gave him the control over the kings? Who transformed dirt into his sword and chaff into his bow? … It is I, Hashem, who declares the generations from the beginning. I am the first and will remain with the final ones.” (41: 1,2,4)
The Sages explain that the “dweller of the east” here refers to our patriarch Avrohom Avinu. (Breishis Rabba 43:3) In this moving dialogue Yeshaya reveals to us the secret behind Avrohom Avinu’s success. In truth, Hashem was responsible for this total turnabout of an entire world. Hashem inspired this lone soul, Avrohom to reject the universally accepted practice of paganism that had distorted the view of every known human being on earth. Hashem kindled the fire within Avrohom Avinu to educate the entire world about their perversions. Hashem, likewise, protected Avrohom Avinu against every attempt to thwart his sacred undertaking of preaching the unpopular to the masses. And Hashem assisted Avrohom Avinu in his miraculous war against the four mighty kings that resulted in Hashem’s universal acceptance by all leading world powers. (See Breishis Rabba 42:3; Rashi Lech Lecha 14:17)
The above words send a powerful message to all regarding Hashem’s active concern for the world and its affairs. Historically speaking, Avrohom Avinu’s generation could have brought anyone to total despair. The entire world – save a hidden pocket of Shemites – had no clue of Hashem’s existence and were engaged in aggressive idolatry. Yet, even during those times, Hashem controlled His world and ministered its spiritual development. In response to this tremendous spiritual decline Hashem designed from the outset for Avrohom Avinu to be born in that dark era. Hashem armed Avrohom Avinu with an incredible mind to oppose an totally misguided generation and launch a single-handed campaign in the belief in the one, true Hashem. In fact, Meiri teaches us that through lectures, writings and personal example Avrohom Avinu convinced most of the world’s population to believe in Hashem. (Intro to Avos) This incredible accomplishment, against all odds, displays Hashem’s interest and involvement in His world. Hashem secured the world’s direction by planting Avrohom Avinu – the greatest of all thinkers- in the generation most needy of him.
This remarkable upheaval serves as perfect testimony to Hashem’s ability and involvement. The fact that one lone soul convinced an entire generation to abandon its previous beliefs speaks for itself. The shocking phenomena that Avrohom was not executed for his beliefs but was instead miraculously spared and victorious against the mightiest powers tells the complete story. Obviously, Hashem controls the world and is constantly leading it to its necessary perfection. Consequently one must conclude that even the nations’ control over Hashem’s people only happens with His permission. With these words Yeshaya addressed the Jewish people and emphatically declared Hashem’s concern for them. When Hashem appears to be removed from them this can only result from their wrongdoings.
Ramchal teaches us that, in truth, Hashem is involved at all times in leading the world to perfection. Overtly, Hashem operates the world through the system of reward and punishment allowing for free will, good and bad. This general policy leaves room for one to perceive that Hashem is not involved in His world. He permits evil to reign in untold proportions and allows His dearest to suffer for their most minute of transgressions. True reward and punishment is reserved for afterlife and only faint traces of Hashem’s response can be discerned during one’s lifetime. Yet, irrespective of all the above Hashem is secretly leading His world to its fulfillment. Working under cover, Hashem is perpetually involved in directing all world events in preparation for the final day of redemption. (see the Knowing Heart section 48)
Avrohom Avinu’s era is a perfect example of this. On the surface, the world was as far away from its purpose as one could fathom. Civilization already experienced partial and total destruction during the days of Enosh and the devastating flood. The world’s population was forced to separate and disperse in response to their rebellious attempt to build the tower of Babel. Yet despite all the above humanity did not learn its lesson and was totally absorbed in the ugly practices of idolatry. This was the world’s record within the system of free will, good and bad, reward and punishment.
However, Hashem conducts His world with a second system of sovereignty wherein He directs the world to its ultimate purpose. According to the time tables of this system the time had arrived for Hashem’s truths to illuminate the world. The Sages explain that Hashem’s original plan of creation called for six thousand years of existence divided into three equal segments. The first of them allowed the world to remain spiritually void, the second demanded the dissemination of the Torah’s truths and the final segment was designated for the years of Mashiach. (see Mesichta Avoda Zara 9a) Prior to Avrohom Avinu, the first segment was drawing to a close with practically no trace of Torah ideals or people to personify Hashem’s truths and ethical lessons. The sad reality was that not one person existed who could be entrusted with the sacred task of furthering the world’s spiritual development.
Suddenly, out of nowhere emerged the perfect candidate. Avrohom Avinu, born to a family of idolators discovered the truth of Hashem and developed into the pillar of the world. His contagious and uncontrollable love for his newly discovered Creator inspired everyone who came within his midst to sign up to the program. Within a span of fifty years there was not a person in the world who had not heard of Avrohom Avinu and his principles of faith.
In addition to Avrohom’s personal lessons Hashem extended these truths through miracles and revelations revolving around Avrohom Avinu. Until this point Hashem’s overt involvement in this world was limited to severe punitive responses to mankind’s wrongs. Avrohom Avinu, however, merited Hashem’s constant protection manifested through open tangible miracles. These experiences convinced the world of Hashem’s existence and involvement and eventually led them to crown Avrohom as the prince of Hashem.
Avrohom Avinu’s story is perfect testimony to Hashem’s system of sovereignty. During those days one could never have imagined how the world would shape up. Virtually no one was on the proper path or even reflected interest in getting there. Yet, Hashem’s system of sovereignty called for the world’s accelerated upswing. Immediate action needed to transpire with a relentless commitment to the furtherance of truth. The answer came within the system of free will and the world was privileged to the shining beacon of Avrohom Avinu. Hashem inspired, guided and protected Avrohom Avinu throughout his struggle until the world was eventually pointed in the direction of perfection.
The Prophet Yeshaya reminds the Jewish people that their path is never concealed from Hashem. The world is constantly moving towards its ultimate purpose with the Jewish people playing the lead role in this development. Hashem spares no effort in accomplishing His goal and, as we learn from Avrohom Avinu’s era, steps in and guides the entire world towards its necessary spiritual climax.
This timely insight is so apropos for our times. The rapid moral decline in our times coupled with mass rejection of the practice of Judaism are certainly significant factors for despair. The descending direction of the world’s population through secularism and immorality projects its ultimate detachment from Hashem. However, Hashem declares that He never loses sight of His world and His people. He secured Avrohom Avinu’s appearance in his appropriate time and inspired him to lead his nearly insurmountable campaign. In this same vein Hashem secured the salvation of His world through the eventual arrival of Mashiach. Hashem pledged to send the world an individual of Davidic descent wiser than Shlomo Hamelech blessed with a similar prophetic level to that of Moshe Rabbeinu. Mashiach, like Avrohom Avinu, will totally devote himself to Torah and Mitzvos, educate and inspire all Jewish people in the Torah’s ways and fight the wars of Hashem. (see Rambam Hilchos M’lochim 2:4 and Hilchos Tshuva 9″2) Hashem never forsook His world or people and secured their spiritual perfection since the beginning of time. Mashiach’s successful campaign, like Avrohom Avinu’s, will eventually educate the entire world and bring them to the true recognition of Hashem in its fullest capacity.
May we merit to witness this speedily in our days.