The prophet Isaiah (Yeshaya) speaks: learn how to listen
Isaiah is – and always has been – a crucial part of authentic Torah Judaism. It’s just that his voice has lately become a bit harder to hear. The essays in this book are meant to inspire you to listen for the faint echoes of that voice; faint stirrings of a much safer and happier Jewish world than the one we now inhabit. A world whose citizens are themselves inspired by Isaiah’s lofty moral vision.
Consider a Jew who has carefully and deliberately integrated Isaiah’s world view into his regular decision making. Could he fail to shrink in horror before needlessly causing harm to anyone or anything? Would he not aggressively stand up to oppression and crime and passionately defend the undefended? Would he unthinkingly and wastefully chase after the empty folly of shifting social trends? Would the mature, intelligent values absorbed during his children’s formative years at home and school not draw them instinctively to healthy behavior and associations?
Sure. It’s hard work. It’s “good for us” in a medicine-we-don’t-particularly-like-taking kind of way. It’s a curriculum that must remain only one element of a full and rounded Torah life. It’s the kind of study that, if one isn’t careful, carries the risk of misinterpretation. But not trying at all will surely leave us a whole lot poorer.
The material that’s already on this page represents my attempt to come to grips with the size, complexity and ambiguity of the prophet Yeshaya. In an effort to approach the problem systematically, I first summarized the entire book, chapter by chapter. Realizing that the chapter divisions we commonly use do not always reflect the work’s actual thematic units, I identified the various transition points within each chapter, briefly describing the contents of each unit. This summary can be seen here.
However, as is readily apparent to any attentive student of Yeshaya, a single passage seldom represents all of the prophet’s thoughts on a matter. To this end, I’ve also compiled this thematic index through which I intend to focus on particular moral themes in their full context.
Yeshaya and the Messianic Era: Perhaps there is no other single subject that receives so much of Isaiah’s attention as Israel’s final Redemption. What does he see happening and how?
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