With yet another tragic murder of Jews sitting at a Shabbos table, celebrating a Shalom Zachor, and the recent unrest on the Temple Mount, our concerns only deepen about the situation in our Holy Land. Especially as we stand in the Nine Days, when we remember the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temples.
Mark Twain once asked: “What is the secret of Jewish immortality?”
An absorbing question really. And, there isn’t a more appropriate time to ask it than now, as we approach the 9th of Av, Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, when we fast from sundown to sundown to remember the destruction of our first and second Temple. What inspired us to rebuild our lives when our Temple was razed to the ground? What has kept us alive through the suffering and oppression of our exiles? What has been our secret?
Ironically, the mystery of Jewish immortality can be discovered in the heart of destruction. On this Shabbat before Tisha B’Av we find the answer, when we read one of the most poignant passages from the prophets – the Vision of Isaiah.
Isaiah lived in dark times. But while he prophesied how human sins would give birth to destruction, he also gave them a vision that would light their darkness.
I have a dream, he told them, and he urged them to dream too. He gave them hope and a promise of a brighter future to help them rise above their suffering – if only for a moment.
Isaiah’s vision – which echoed the vision of generations preceding and following him – accompanied our people through our darkest hours, and allowed them to have hope even then, as well as now as we face today’s challenges in Israel and around the world.
This sermon examines Jewish vision through history, beginning on a dark night some 3,700 years ago, using rich inspirational stories, and concludes by asking: “What is our vision today?”