Isaiah 58

 

קְרָא בְגָרֹון אַל־תַּחְשֹׂךְ כַּשֹּׁופָר הָרֵם קֹולֶךָ וְהַגֵּד לְעַמִּי פִּשְׁעָם וּלְבֵית יַעֲקֹב חַטֹּאתָם׃   58:1

Isai. 58:1   “Proclaim loudly! You should not hold back.

                              Like a horn lift your voice

                    and declare to My people their transgression,

                              and to the house of Jacob their sins,

וְאֹותִי יֹומ יֹום יִדְרֹשׁוּן וְדַעַת דְּרָכַי יֶחְפָּצוּן כְּגֹוי אֲשֶׁר־צְדָקָה עָשָׂה וּמִשְׁפַּט אֱלֹהָיו לֹא עָזָב יִשְׁאָלוּנִי   58:2 מִשְׁפְּטֵי־צֶדֶק קִרְבַת אֱלֹהִים יֶחְפָּצוּן׃

Isai. 58:2   that they might seek Me every day,

                             and they would desire knowing My ways,

                   as a nation that does righteousness

                             and does not forsake the ordinance of its God,

                   would ask judgments of righteousness of Me,

                             would desire drawing near God.”

in projecting God’s words to the people, I believe that Isaiah has grasped the whole of what Judaism should be:  Loving, seeking, and approaching the One True God, desiring to know Him and do His bidding -- because we want to please Him as we would passionately want to please our lover.

לָמָּה צַּמְנוּ וְלֹא רָאִיתָ עִנִּינוּ נַפְשֵׁנוּ וְלֹא תֵדָע הֵן בְּיֹום צֹםְכֶם תִּמְצְאוּ־חֵפֶץ וְכָל־עַצְּבֵיכֶם תִּנְגֹּשׂוּ׃   58:3

Isai. 58:3   Why do we fast but You do not see,

                             afflict our soul and You will not know?

                    “Behold, on the day of your fast

                             you would attain to business

                    and press all your laborers.”

הֵן לְרִיב וּמַצָּה תָּצוּמוּ וּלְהַכֹּות בְּאֶגְרֹף רֶשַׁע לֹא־תָצוּמוּ כַיֹּום לְהַשְׁמִיעַ בַּמָּרֹום קֹולְכֶם׃   58:4

Isai. 58:4   “Behold, you would fast for strife and contention,

                             and to smite with a fist of wickedness.

                    You would not fast this day

                              to make your voice heard on high.”

הֲכָזֶה יִהְיֶה צֹום אֶבְחָרֵהוּ יֹום עַנֹּות אָדָם נַפְשֹׁו הֲלָכֹף כְּאַגְמֹן רֹאשֹׁו וְשַׂק וָאֵפֶר יַצִּיעַ הֲלָזֶה תִּקְרָא־   58:5 צֹום וְיֹום רָצֹון לַיהוָה׃

Isai. 58:5   “Would such be the fast I would choose,

                              a day of humankind afflicting its soul,

                     to bow its head down like a bulrush,

                              and make its bed sackcloth and ashes?

                     For this you would pronounce a fast

                              and a day acceptable to the Lord?”

In this verse and the next, there is a traditional and almost universal translation of their first lines.  The word I have translated as I would choose is indeed in the imperfect tense as I have shown, but the traditional translation projects it as being perfect.  It comes out something like “... the fast I have chosen?”  Now my illuminating this may not be of earth-shaking significance, but it lends insight into Isaiah’s (and the Lord’s?) “state of mind.”

Take the first line of this verse.  The traditional translation has something like “Is such the fast that I have chosen?”  It departs from the Hebrew grammar in two instances.  The word for that is missing in the Hebrew, and the verb is imperfect, not perfect. Why do I raise this point?   Well, when I read the traditional translation, I hear the Lord saying, “Do you believe this is My fast?”  But when I read my translation -- which is more faithful to the Hebrew -- I hear an incredulous, “Could you really believe this is My fast?”  In other words, my translation subtly conveys an astonishment at the apparent blind stupidity of the people that seems to be inherent in the Hebrew.

הֲלֹוא זֶה צֹום אֶבְחָרֵהוּ פַּתֵּחַ חַרְצֻבֹּות רֶשַׁע הַתֵּר אֲגֻדֹּות מֹוטָה וְשַׁלַּח רְצוּצִים חָפְשִׁים וְכָל־מֹוטָה   58:6 תְּנַתֵּקוּ׃

Isai. 58:6   “Is not this the fast I would choose,

                              loosening the bands of wickedness,

                    undoing the shackles of the yoke,

                             and letting the oppressed go free,

                    so every yoke you might lift off?”

הֲלֹוא פָרֹס לָרָעֵב לַחְמֶךָ וַעֲנִיִּים מְרוּדִים תָּבִיא בָיִת כִּי־תִרְאֶה עָרֹם וְכִסִּיתֹו וּמִבְּשָׂרְךָ לֹא תִתְעַלָּם׃   58:7

Isai. 58:7   “Is it not distributing your bread to the hungry,

                             and you would bring home the outcast poor;

                    when you would see one naked,

                              then you would cover him,

                    and you would not hide yourself from your own flesh?”

Another interesting insight:  From the third line in v. 58:3 up to v. 58:6, all the second-person pronouns (except for the one in the fifth line of v. 58:5) are plural.  So according to my theory, the Lord is speaking to each individual.  He is saying that no one is afflicting his soul appropriately.  Everyone is guilty.  Whether this is intended only for Yom Kippur or for any present and future days of fasting, I don’t know.  But it certainly applies to Yom Kippur.  Afflicting the soul does not seem to be described as a fast from food here.  I believe the Lord is saying we must fast from all our selfish desires.  That seems to be the fast He wants of us.  But this can’t be for only one day -- He must mean everyday!

Then in this and the remaining verses of this chapter, all the second-person pronouns are singular.  So the Lord and Isaiah are addressing the whole of the people.  These are all positive statements.  If you remember, I’ve theorized (see Levi. 23:3) that not everyone must do a positive action for the congregation to attain the desired consequence.  So while everyone must loosen the bands of wickedness, undo the shackles of the yoke, and lift off every yoke, the whole body of Jews is responsible for feeding the hungry, bringing home the poor, covering the naked, and not hiding itself from any Jew (or a blood relation --but aren’t all Jews blood relations?).

אָז יִבָּקַע כַּשַּׁחַר אֹורֶךָ וַאֲרֻכָתְךָ מְהֵרָה תִצְמָח וְהָלַךְ לְפָנֶיךָ צִדְקֶךָ כְּבֹוד יְהוָה יַאַסְפֶךָ׃   58:8

Isai. 58:8   Then your light would break forth like the morning,

                              and your soundness would quickly sprout,

                    and your righteousness would go before you,

                               the glory of the Lord would bring up your rear.

אָז תִּקְרָא וַיהוָה יַעֲנֶה תְּשַׁוַּע וְיֹאמַר הִנֵּנִי אִם־תָּסִיר מִתֹּוךְךָ מֹוטָה שְׁלַח אֶצְבַּע וְדַבֶּר־אָוֶן׃   58:9

Isai. 58:9   Then you could call and the Lord would answer,

                              you could cry and He would say, “Here I am.”

                    If you would remove the yoke from your midst,

                              the pointing of the finger, and speaking evil,

וְתָפֵק לָרָעֵב נַפְשֶׁךָ וְנֶפֶשׁ נַעֲנָה תַּשְׂבִּיעַ וְזָרַח בַּחֹשֶׁךְ אֹורֶךָ וַאֲפֵלָתְךָ כַּצָּהֳרָיִם׃   58:10

Isai. 58:10   and open up your soul to the poor,

                              and satisfy the afflicted soul,

                       then your light would radiate through the darkness,

                              and your darkness would be like the light of noon,

וְנָחֲךָ יְהוָה תָּמִיד וְהִשְׂבִּיעַ בְּצַחְצָחֹות נַפְשֶׁךָ וְעַצְמֹתֶיךָ יַחֲלִיץ וְהָיִיתָ כְּגַן רָוֶה וּכְמֹוצָא מַיִם אֲשֶׁר   58:11 לֹא־יְכַזְּבוּ מֵימָיו׃

Isai. 58:11   and the Lord would continually guide you,

                              and would fill in dry places of your soul,

                      and He would strengthen your bones,

                              and you would be like a watered garden

                      and like a source of water whose waters never fail,

וּבָנוּ מִמְּךָ חָרְבֹות עֹולָם מֹוסְדֵי דֹור־וָדֹור תְּקֹוםֵם וְקֹרָא לְךָ גֹּדֵר פֶּרֶץ מְשֹׁבֵב נְתִיבֹות לָשָׁבֶת׃   58:12

Isai. 58:12   and they who will come from you

                               could build up the desolate places of old;

                       the foundations of many generations,

                               you would establish them,

                       and Repairer of the Breach,

                               Restorer of Pathways to Inhabit

                       would be your name.

אִם־תָּשִׁיב מִשַּׁבָּת רַגְלֶךָ עֲשֹׂות חֲפָצֶיךָ בְּיֹום קָדְשִׁי וְקָרָאתָ לַשַּׁבָּת עֹנֶג לִקְדֹושׁ יְהוָה מְכֻבָּד   58:13  וְכִבַּדְתֹּו מֵעֲשֹׂות דְּרָכֶיךָ מִמְּצֹוא חֶפְצְךָ וְדַבֵּר דָּבָר׃

Isai. 58:13   “If, because of the Sabbath,

                                you would turn back your pursuit

                      of accomplishing your purpose on My holy day,

                                and call the Sabbath a delight,

                       the honorable sanctuary of the Lord,

                                and would honor it

                       more than attending to your own ways,

                                more than securing your own business

                       or speaking of the matter,

אָז תִּתְעַנַּג עַל־יְהוָה וְהִרְכַּבְתִּיךָ עַל־(בָּמֹותֵי) [בָּמֳתֵי] אָרֶץ וְהַאֲכַלְתִּיךָ נַחֲלַת יַעֲקֹב אָבִיךָ כִּי פִּי    58:14 יְהוָה דִּבֵּר׃

Isai. 58:14   then would you be delighted by the Lord.

                                Then I would make you ride

                      on the high places of the earth,

                                and nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father,

                      as the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

In these last two verses of the chapter, the Lord (through Isaiah) turns to our inattentive observance of the Sabbath, another responsibility we fail in.

Finally, the word in parentheses, translated as the high places of, is misspelled, having an extra unnecessary vav.  The correct spelling is in the brackets.

 

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