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July 27, 2012 / 8 Av, 5772
Shabbat Hazon

Isaiah 1:1-27

Occasionally, a Haftarah is so striking in its message that its opening words lend themselves as a title for that Sabbath as a whole. So it is with Shabbat Hazon, the Sabbath immediately prior to Tisha B’Av. The text is the third in a three-week series of "Haftarot of Rebuke," leading up to the fast day that commemorates the destruction of the Temples and the loss of Jewish sovereignty. It is comprised of the opening 27 verses of the book of Isaiah, which begins with the words, "Hazon Yishayahu."

"Hazon" means vision, or prophecy, and the vision that Isaiah presents to us here is bleak. Describing the citizens of Jerusalem in the 8th century BCE, Isaiah calls us a "…sinful nation! People laden with iniquity! Brood of evil doers! Depraved children." And that’s just in verse four. Continuing on, he strikes the familiar theme of God’s loathing of our hypocrisy, our offering sacrifices and raising our hands in prayer, though our hand are stained with crime.

However, in spare, deceivingly simple phrases, Isaiah suggests that profound change is possible: "Learn to do good. /Devote yourselves to justice; /Aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan; /Defend the cause of the widow."

When a Haftarah is chosen because of its thematic connection to the calendar (in this case, its proximity to Tisha B’Av ), we would not expect to find a correlation between the Haftarah and the weekly Torah portion. And yet, with a single word, an expression of heartache, a profound connection is made. In parshat Devarim, Moses, reflecting on some of the difficulties of the past 40 years, cries out "Eicha essa l’vadi… How can I bear alone the burden of this people?" That cry of lamentation, "Eicha,” is repeated in our Haftarah by Isaiah, who cries out, "Eicha haytah l’zonah… How she has become a harlot, the faithful city that was filled with justice…!" The same anguished cry will be heard uttered yet again, on the 9th of Av itself. It is the first word of the book of Lamentations (Eicha) in which Jeremiah chronicles the despair of the citizenry of Jerusalem after its fall to the Babylonians:

"Eicha Yashvah Badad – How lonely sits the city/ once great with people!/ She that was great among the nations/ Is become like a widow ( Lamentations 1:1)."

Strengthening the connection between text and context even further, it is a tradition to chant the Haftarah on Shabbat Hazon with the same trop (melody pattern) with which we will soon chant the book of Eicha on Tisha B’Av.

Although Jerusalem was spared during Isaiah’s time, it did eventually fall in 586 BCE. Hearing his words on a leisurely summer Shabbat morning, we are asked to wake up to the truth of our lives, to consider both our failings and our potential to change, before the hour becomes urgent.

This week's Haftarah commentary was written by Rabbi Dan Liben. Rabbi Liben was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and has served as the Rabbi of Temple Israel of Natick for 21 years. He loves Israeli Dancing and teaches mindfulness meditation.

New Publications

Leadership - Innovation - Community
Understanding the Haftarot:
An Everyperson's Guide

In this stimulating and unusual book Rabbi Charles Simon, Executive Director of FJMC, provides the reader with the context to understand how the haftarot were organized, why they might have been selected and suggests reasons for finding meaning and value.
You can purchase it a number of ways.
Intermarriage: Concepts & Strategies for Families and Synagogue Leaders
If family members and community leaders wish to become engaged in the process of Keruv they often need to ask, "Does Keruv have an ideology and theology? And if so what is it?" Then they need to learn how to respond to intermarriage from the perspective of both gender and religion. This publication reflects the most current thinking about intermarriage to date and attempts to provide family members and community leaders with the needed understanding to effectively work with intermarrieds or potential intermarrieds.
You can purchase it a number of ways:
It's time for Build-A-Pair
The best way to teach about tefillin!

HeneniThe "Build a Pair" Program is a comprehensive and fun learning program to introduce 5th, 6th or 7th graders to the joy and mitzvah of Tefillin in Jewish life. Multiple components interplay to explore the religious significance, the construction of, and the practice of "laying" Tefillin. A comprehensive education program with videos helps the religious school teach students the meaning of Tefillin in Jewish life and practice. Students practice writing their Hebrew/Jewish names and the SHEMA (first line) to insert into pre-made wooden Tefillin boxes. Students decorate the boxes in any creative way they wish, allowing for personal expression. Students either compete or cooperate in writing a "wRAP" song to sing at a Big Event. The Big Event can be the World Wide Wrap (WWW), sponsored by the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs (FJMC), held annually on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. The WWW program is designed to introduce and re-introduce Jewish men [and women] to the significance of "laying" Tefillin. The "Build a Pair" student program attracts the parents to see their children in their model Tefillin sing the "wRap" songs, allowing two generations (or more!) to join in the mitzvah together, and to let the students' sing their "wRAP" song for an appreciative audience.

World Wide Wrap is Sunday, February 3, 2013
The Bar Mitzvah Wrap!

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