Haftaras Devarim – Chazon

In this week’s haftarah, Hashem exhorts us (Yeshayah 1:15): “Cleanse yourselves, purify yourselves – remove the evil of your deeds from before My eyes, cease turning to evil.” The Maggid links this verse to the following passage in Megillas Eichah (verses 3:39-40):
Why should a living man lament, a stalwart man over his sins? Let us search and examine our ways, and return to Hashem.
He presents an analogy to bring out the message that Yeshayah and Yirmiyah are conveying. A person who makes his living through a good occupation can handle a loss due to an incidental misfortune; he can take steps to avoid the specific circumstances that led to this misfortune, and continue securely in his business. By contrast, a person who makes his living through a bad occupation should not worry about individual losses; instead, he should abandon his occupation entirely and find a better one. The same idea applies on the moral plane. If a person is on the path of good, but occasionally falls into sin, he should lament these sins and take steps to avoid them. But if a person is on the path of evil, it is pointless for him to lament specific sins; instead, he should search and examine his ways, and move to the path of good.
Dovid HaMelech declares (Tehillim 14:7, 53:7): “Would that Yisrael’s salvation come forth from Zion! When Hashem returns the captivity of His people, Yaakov shall jubilate and Yisrael shall rejoice.” Homiletically, we can interpret this declaration as saying that if Hashem would release us from the bondage of the evil inclination and set us upon a well-paved path toward an honorable livelihood and a life of sanctity, we would jubilate and rejoice. But, before Hashem extends His help, we have to take the first step by forming within our hearts a desire to abandon evil.
The Midrash relates (Vayikra Rabbah 3:3):
It is written (Yeshayah 55:7): “Let the wicked man abandon his way, and the crooked man his thoughts.” Rav Bibi son of Abaye said: “How should a person confess on erev Yom Kippur? He should say, ‘I acknowledge that, in all the evil I did before You, I was positioned on the path of evil. And I shall no longer commit deeds like all these.’”
The Maggid explains this Midrash as follows. We can often trace a wide variety of sins to an underlying evil character trait embedded in a person’s soul. For example, if a person’s heart is stricken with a lust for money, he will be led to rob, steal, use false weights, encroach on other people’s businesses, and commit other similar misdeeds. When a person is caught up in a pattern of sinning of this sort, it will not help for him to repent specific sins on an individual basis. Before he manages to correct one type of misdeed, he will start committing other types. Time will come to an end, but his sins will not. Instead, he must search and examine his ways to identify the evil character trait that lies at the root of his sinning, and then eradicate it.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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