Shabbos Chazon

In this week’s haftarah, Yeshayah exclaims (verse 1:21): “O how has the faithful city become a harlot? She had been filled with justice, righteousness would lodge within her, but now murderers!” Yeshayah is asking: Given Yerushalayim’s position as a center of spiritual loftiness, how could the people of Yerushalayim come to sin so egregiously that their sinning caused the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash? Yeshayah then continues (verse 1:22): “Your silver has been impregnated with impurities, your strong wine mixed with water.” The Maggid interprets this verse not as a further description of the extent of Yerushalayim’s descent, but rather as an explanation of the reason for the descent – Yeshayah is saying that the people had adulterated their service of Hashem with false practices.
There are two forms of idolatry against which the Torah warns us.  One form is idolatry in the literal sense – worshipping other gods. The Torah exhorts us against this form of idolatry in the Second Commandment (Shemos 20:3): “You shall not recognize other gods in My presence.” Even if a person observes all the mitzvos, if he does so with the intent of serving a false god, he repudiates the entire Jewish faith. The other form of idolatry consists of serving God in fabricated ways that were not mandated by God Himself, but rather concocted by some misguided fantasizer. The Torah exhorts against this form of idolatry in the following verse (Bamidbar 15:39): “You shall not pursue the leanings of your heart or the sights of your eyes, after which you go astray” – our Sages say that the warning not to pursue the leanings of the heart is a warning against false religious theories and practices, while the phrase “after which you go astray” alludes to idolatrous musings (Sifrei, Bamidbar 115 on Bamidbar 15:39; Berachos 12b).
Sefer Devarim, which we begin reading this week, presents Moshe Rabbeinu’s final series of speeches to the Jewish People. A key segment in these speeches is Moshe Rabbeinu’s review of the golden calf episode. The Kuzari, in Part I, par. 97, explains that the sin of the golden calf was not an act of literal idol worship, but rather an attempt to serve Hashem in a way that He had not commanded. In Moshe’s indictment of the people for this sin, he declares (Devarim 9:7): “You acted rebelliously with Hashem (ממרים הייתם עם ה').” The Maggid notes that Moshe deliberately chose this specific phrasing rather than saying, “You rebelled against the word of Hashem (מריתם את פי ה').” Moshe was acknowledging that, in truth, the people had done what they had done for the sake of God’s great Name [i.e., they were “with Hashem”], while at the same time pointing out that they had acted rebelliously by following a course that Hashem had not commanded. The people had acted with good intent, but nonetheless they had sinned grievously.
Shlomo HaMelech declares (Mishlei 1:7): “Fear of Hashem is the origin of knowledge.” The Maggid explains this statement as saying that if a person does not rely on the Torah tradition, but instead follows his own reason alone, whatever wisdom and moral sense he has will not flourish – on the contrary, they will come to disgrace. In Mishlei 2:16-2:19, Shlomo warns us of the wiles of the alien woman, who, as Rashi explains, represents the lure of heresy. Shlomo declares (Mishlei 2:19): “All who come to her shall not return.” The Maggid explains the idea behind this statement as follows. If a person sins simply to gratify his desires, and knows he has done wrong, there is hope that he will rise from the abyss. When punishment comes upon him, he probably will realize that he is suffering because of his sins, and he will thus repent and reconcile himself with Hashem. But one who believes he is serving Hashem through his actions is beyond hope. Punishments will not cause him to abandon his ways. On the contrary, they will only spur him to greater devotion to his misguided service. This is how Yerushalayim fell so low. May we all have the wisdom to serve Hashem in the manner He prescribed.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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