Third Haftarah of Rebuke (Shabbat Hazon)

Devarim | Tishah Be'av By :  Jan Uhrbach Acting Dean of the Rabbinical and Cantorial Schools Posted On Jul 20, 2018 / 5778 | The Voice of the Prophet | Social Justice

In this third haftarah of calamity or rebuke, the opening chapter of Isaiah, the once noble society has sunk to the level of Sodom and Gomorrah. Strikingly, there is no dearth of external piety (indeed, God is over-satiated to the point of disgust with the people’s offerings and prayers), nor is there any charge of sexual impropriety or impurity. Rather, the suffering of the people is caused by injustice, indifference to the cries of the vulnerable, oppression, systemic greed, and selfish and self-serving leadership. The prophet warns that society can be healed, and his terrifying vision of complete destruction avoided, only by care and concern for the most vulnerable members of society.

Food for thought:

  • To what extent has religion become divorced from justice in contemporary society?
  • What “pieties” are being used to justify ignoring immorality, greed, and self-interest in our leaders?
  • Would we tolerate a message of rebuke such as this from the clergy of our own houses of worship?
  • How would Isaiah respond to the claim that religion should stay out of social policy and politics?

Listen to the haftarah brought to life as it is declaimed in English by renowned actor Ronald Guttman by subscribing to The Voice of the Prophet podcast.