Haftarat Bereshit: Spiritual Blindness


[Ashekanzim: Yeshayahu 42:5-43:10

Sefardim: Yeshayahu 42:5-42:21

Yemenite Jews: Yeshayahu 42:1-42:16]


In our Haftarah, Yeshayahu is full of anger.

"Listen, deaf ones; look, blind ones, so that you can see" (18).


There is so much to see, so many miracles which Hashem performs for His Nation.  One must open one’s eyes and see the natural fulfillment of the messianic prophesies that have led to the establishment of the State of Israel.  We are not discussing pseudo-prophesy or retroactive prophesy, as those who ascribe to Biblical criticism explain, but the promises of Yeshayahu materializing before our very eyes.  "The earlier ones have come about" – the earlier prophesies were already fulfilled – "And I relate new ones, I will let you hear them before they spring forth" (9).


To our distress, there are avowed blind people - people who recognize these prophesies but refuse to register in their minds this shining reality.  Who are these blind people?  "Who is blind but My servant and who is deaf as My messenger whom I sent?  Who is blind as the perfect one and blind as Hashem's servant" (19).


To be "Hashem's servant" or "Hashem's messenger" is one of the highest levels of involvement, requiring a special ability to integrate sterling character traits, righteousness, purity, and holiness.  This obviously includes observing, out of unlimited love, Shabbat, kashrut, and all of the other mitzvoth.  A person such as this is willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of Torah and we are full of respect and admiration for him.


To our dismay, however, despite his extremely high level of commitment, this religiously and spiritually righteous person is capable of being afflicted with historical blindness.  He is capable of passing through powerful revolutions which occur to the Nation of Israel without noticing: "Seeing much but not observing, opening the ears but not hearing" (20).


The day will arrive, though, when "Hashem desires for the sake of its righteousness that the Torah will be magnified and made glorious" (21), for the sake of the Nation of Israel.  The same Nation, which was free from guilt during the thousands of years of Exile, yet suffered terrible afflictions, pogroms, expulsions, and finally the horrors of the Holocaust – is now free.  "But it is a looted, downtrodden Nation, all of whose people are trapped in holes and hidden away in prisons.  They are robbed with no one to rescue them, oppressed with no one to say: ‘Make restitution’ (22)


Now everything has changed completely.  Certain people – whether religious or not – worry in vain about the future of our State.  "But now, so says Hashem, your Creator, O Yaakov; the One who formed you, O Yisrael: 'Do not fear for I have redeemed you.  I have called you by name, you are Mine" (43:1).  Tzahal – the Israel Defense Force – will stand strong.  "When you pass through water, I will be with you; and through rivers, they will not flood you; when you walk through fire, you will not be burned and a flame will not burn within you" (2).


"Do not fear, for I am with you" (5).  Don't we have enough proofs in order to be completely convinced that Hashem has decided to redeem us?


"I will bring your seed from the east" – these are Sefardic Jews, "and gather you from the west" – these are Ashkenazic Jews, "I will say to the north: 'Give back'" – these are Russian Jews, "and to the south: 'Do not withhold'" – these are Yemenite Jews.  "Bring My sons from far and my daughters from the ends of the earth" (5-6) – these are Ethiopian Jews and the other lost Tribes of Israel who will be found anew.


What horrible distress is suffered by stubborn Jews who do not see this wondrous chain of miracles.  "Bring forth the blind people who have eyes and the deaf who have ears" (8).  But do not despair.  "Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped" (35:5).  "You are My witnesses, says Hashem" (43:10).  For this purpose, every one of us is called upon today to be an active witness of our Nation's history.