Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

Dvarim – Chazon


Rabbi Berel Wein

אב תשס"ט
There are visions and there are nightmares. This week’s parsha and haftorah provides us with a little of both. As Moshe begins his final great oration to his beloved people he warns of the dangerous future and reminds the people of the tragic and costly errors of the past. Moshe is the person of vision. He is shown the entire story of the Jewish people throughout all of the ages. His vision even includes so to speak seeing the knot of God’s head tefilin "on His back." But Moshe also sees the tragedies, defeats, mistakes and failings that lie ahead in the Jewish story. He also views the vision of Jewish resilience and eventual triumph, peace, prosperity, and security. Thus the entire gamut of chazon - vision of the future, its problems, defeats and victories is reflected in this week’s parsha. There is a great responsibility that rests upon the shoulders of one that possesses the gift of vision. How does one translate that vision into reality is the problem of all visionaries. Moshe faces it with the fortification of the Divine Torah that he himself brought down to Israel from Sinai. He forecasts the difficulties that lie before the people that is charged to be a light unto the nations. Yet he does not gloss over the sad parts of the vision. An honest leader tells the people the truth no matter how difficult and painful it is. Chazon - vision - therefore always has an element of sadness attached to it for it describes the reality and difficulties of life.

The haftorah is the vision of the great prophet Yeshayahu. It also minces no words in describing the impending tragedy of the Temple’s destruction and of the sins of Israel that contributed and led to this destruction. In reading the words of the haftorah, one cannot help but sense the overwhelming feeling of frustration that envelops the prophet. He is the doctor who has diagnosed the disease correctly and has the proper medicines and cures to heal the patient but the patient ignores the disease and its cure. Yeshayahu complains about the thickheadedness of Israel in not understanding and realizing its true condition and its tragic result. It is Israel’s refusal to see things clearly, to ignore the long range disaster that looms over it and instead look only for short range comfort that drives the prophet to understandable distraction. His vision is real and stark, disturbing and tragic. There is a willful blindness in Israel regarding its future that strikes Yeshayahu, as a man of vision himself, as being utterly not understandable. Israel is more blind to its future and therefore necessarily as well to its past then is the donkey or the ox that recognize their sources of food and safety. But all prophecies regarding the Jewish people, no matter how sad and doomed they seem, always end on a note of hope and optimism. The eternal people will right itself and yet achieve its physical and spiritual goals and be redeemed in the cause of justice and righteousness.
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