(Torah Portion Devorim) Never Divorced
Each year on the Shabbos prior to Tisha B’Av – the fast day of the Ninth day of Av, we chant a Haftorah beginning with the words, “Chazone Yeshayahu – The vision of Isaiah…” The Shabbos is therefore referred to as, “Shabbos Chazone.”
In the Haftorah, the Prophet Isaiah shares his vision and expresses G-d’s disappointment and displeasure with the Jewish people for being unfaithful to His mandate. He also told them that they deserved to be exiled from the Land of Israel.
In Isaiah’s vision he offers hope to the Jewish people as well; that they would one day return faithfully to G-d and that He will restore Israel to its original glory. The Haftorah is chanted with same sad tune as the Book of Lamentations that is read on the night of Tisha B’Av.
In Chapter Fifty, Isaiah shares a prophecy of when G-d was willing to take the Jews back, yet He saw that the Jews were reluctant and stand offish. “So said G-d, where is the bill of divorce that indicates that I sent the Jewish people away? Or, where are My creditors to whom I sold you?”
One of the commentators explains that it is unfeasible for G-d to literally divorce the Jewish people because the law states that if a husband delivers a divorce to his wife by placing it in his own property, the divorce is invalid. It must reach her hand, her messenger or her own property.
Since the entire world belongs to G-d, any divorce document directed to the Jews would be invalid since it would wind up on G-d’s own property!
Therefore, G-d asks through the prophet, “Why are the Jews keeping a distance from Me? Did I ever divorce them?”
The first verse of the Book of Lamentations describes Jerusalem in its barren state, saying, “she is like a widow.’ Rashi explains that Jeremiah the Prophet said “she is like a widow’ but not an actual widow, because G-d’s separation from Jerusalem is only like a husband who went off to a faraway place, leaving his wife as if in a widowed state, until he returns. So too, G-d’s presence will come back to His beloved City of Jerusalem.
Although the verse in Isaiah states that G-d did not divorce the Jewish people, a verse in Jeremiah (3:8) contradicts this stating clearly that G-d gave the Jews a document of divorce.
We can answer with a verse in the Book of Song of Songs that describes G-d watching over the Jewish people in two ways; either through an open window or through a crack in the wall.
Rabbainu Saadia Goan explains there are two ways which G-d acts towards the Jewish people. When the Jews are on an exalted high spiritual level, G-d watches over them through an open window protecting them from all harm, with His presence and protection evident.
Another way G-d relates to us is when we have gone astray. Then, we are ruled by the nations of the world and it appears as if G-d has abandoned us. However, G-d in His infinite compassion and love towards us still watches us through a crack in the wall. Although He is not felt, He is there, eagerly awaiting our return.
While the Temple in Jerusalem was in existence, G-d’s relationship with the Jews was as an open window. After the destruction, G-d distanced Himself from us, sending us a bill of divorce as the prophet states. However the divorce had no legal consequence since wherever the document was placed it remained in G-d’s possession. It was only sent to shock, shake and wake up the Jews to repent.
When the Prophet implored the Jews to repent he stated that in truth, G-d never gave us a valid divorce, challenging anyone to bring forth such a document.
The reason G-d allowed the Temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed is because Jews weren’t getting along with other Jews.
Consider this: No matter how unfaithful and disrespectful the Jews have been towards G-d, He never gave up on us; He is forgiving and eagerly waiting to renew our relationship.
Since every Jew should and could emulate the ways of G-d, we all have the capability to mend, repair and restore strained and challenging relationships with our fellow. Capitalizing on this will undoubtedly generate our long awaited Redemption.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks