Light from the Sidra

Re'eh ('See')

Torah: Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17. Haftarah: Isaiah 54:11-55:5

A new redemption

Religious Jews believe that in addition to the written Torah, God gave to Moses the Oral Torah, which is recorded in the Mishnah. But how on earth could the Jewish people be expected to obey the Oral Torah when subsequent Israelite history reveals they were unable to keep the words of the written Torah?

The Parasha this week carries instructions about how God is to be worshipped and how the Israelites were to punish false prophets; how they were to treat their fellow Israelites and how to keep the festivals.

In the Haftarah, Isaiah writes prophetically to the nation in exile; a nation suffering because they worshipped false gods, tolerated false prophets and mistreated their fellow Jews. Nevertheless, Isaiah’s message is one of hope. YHWH their God is comforting them with the announcement that another redemption is going to take place; an even exodus than the one from Egypt is going to happen.

When YHWH redeemed Israel from Egypt he entered into a covenant with them, of which Deuteronomy is the covenant document. In Isaiah he promises to make an everlasting covenant with Israel (Is 55:3) that will not be like the covenant [he] made with their fathers, when [he] took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, so that [he] rejected them by exiling them to Babylon (Jer 41:31f. Tanakh – The Holy Scriptures, The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text, ©1985).

There would be a return to Zion, a new exodus with a new, everlasting, unbreakable covenant that would bring Israel into the enduring loyalty promised to David (Is 54:3): ‘Your house and your kingship shall ever be secure before you; your throne shall be established forever’ (2 Sam 7:16).

Although Israel was in exile because she had broken the Sinai covenant, God’s covenant with David was unconditional and remained intact. Furthermore, Isaiah reveals to the people that the covenant with David will actually be expanded. God promises to give David world rule and an enduring throne. His throne will not be over Israel alone; God will make David ‘a leader of peoples’ [not just the people of Israel], ‘a prince and a commander of peoples’ (2 Sam 7:4).

But by the time Isaiah wrote the Haftarah portion, David had been long dead. How would the enduring loyalty promised to David manifest itself? The Soncino Chumash interprets the verse as a Messianic promise. ‘David’ here is a reference to the Messiah, Israel’s supreme representative.

How is Israel to enter into the enduring loyalty promised to David? The answer is in the preceding verses: ‘Ho, all who are thirsty; come for water, even if you have no money; come, buy food and eat; buy food without money, wine and milk without cost…’ (Is. 55:1)

The blessings of Messiah’s new covenant are free to all. The only condition for entry into its benefits is that you are spiritually thirsty, hungry and penniless.

Around the world there are Jews and Gentiles who acknowledge a descendant of David as their Leader, Prince and Commander and enjoy the blessings of the Messianic new covenant. They have taken at face value the invitation to buy water, food, wine and milk without money. This is a fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy and the invitation to partake of the enduring loyalty promised to David remains open.

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