Sedra of the week: Devarim

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Sedra of the week: Devarim

Rabbi Jonny Roodyn looks ahead to this week's portion of the torah

Shabbat Chazon (the Shabbat of Vision) takes its name from the opening line of the Haftorah, usually read by the rabbi to the haunting tune of Eicha. Chazon details the vision of Isaiah, which concerns the fate of Judah and Jerusalem. 

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch introduces us to the book of Isaiah by explaining this prophecy took place some 150 years before the destruction of the Second Temple. 

The eyes of Isaiah’s contemporaries were completely closed to the state of the decay. They instead saw a perfect picture, Jerusalem full of Jews, its marketplaces full of abundant food, a functioning Temple, Kohanim, Leviim, korbanos, a fire on the altar, 10 open miracles on a daily basis. 

To the eye fixed on the externals, nothing was missing and everything seemed fine and dandy. 

Chazon is Hashem opening Isaiah’s eyes to the condition of the Jewish people. To the mind’s eye, the eye that rests in the chazeh (chest or heart), the disconnect between the people and the mission was palpable. 

The rabbis tells us that, like Hashem, the soul cannot be seen, but it has the ability to see. 

One who is able to ‘see’ with his soul, perceives the world for what it really is, rather than the obscured illusion of the material world.  

Chazon means to behold something in its fullest sense, rather than just view an object or a situation with a pair of eyes.

Isaiah, with his divinely-inspired ability to see through prophecy, perceives the Jewish people are on a collision course.

This catastrophe will take place well over a hundred years from his time, but he has to act now if anything is going to alter the course of Jewish history and destiny forever.

Chazon is the ability to see things for what they are, rather than what they appear to be. It is the long-term vision, one that doesn’t just see what is immediately in front of our faces, but one that invests in the Jewish future.  

Rabbi Jonny Roodyn is education director of Jewish Futures and serves Finchley Federation Synagogue 

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