Devarim

Isaiah 1:1-27

This Haftarah is the final of the “Three of Affliction” (Aramaic: תלת דפורענותא), three Haftarot focusing on the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple. Because of this, the overall structure and content of the prophecy, and the use of the word “אֵיכָה֙” in verse 21, it is traditionally read in the tune of Megillat Eicha in Ashkenazi communities.[1]

According to R. Binyamin Lau[2], this a final prophecy of Isaiah, given in the aftermath of Sennacherib’s failed siege of Jerusalem in approximately 701 BCE. Encapsulating his main prophetic messages, Isaiah laments not only Judean society’s physical destruction by Assyria but the injustices rotting its moral foundation.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verse 1: Isaiah and His Time Period

Isaiah 1:1           ישעיהו א:א

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, [and] Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

חֲזוֹן֙ יְשַֽׁעְיָ֣הוּ בֶן־אָמ֔וֹץ אֲשֶׁ֣ר חָזָ֔ה עַל־יְהוּדָ֖ה וִירוּשָׁלִָ֑ם בִּימֵ֨י עֻזִּיָּ֧הוּ יוֹתָ֛ם אָחָ֥ז יְחִזְקִיָּ֖הוּ מַלְכֵ֥י יְהוּדָֽה׃

Verses 2-4: Judah doesn’t know what God really wants, and continues to sin…

Isaiah 1:3           ישעיהו א:ג

An ox knows its owner and a donkey its master's feeding trough; [yet] Israel does not know, my people do not consider.

יָדַ֥ע שׁוֹר֙ קֹנֵ֔הוּ וַחֲמ֖וֹר אֵב֣וּס בְּעָלָ֑יו יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לֹ֣א יָדַ֔ע עַמִּ֖י לֹ֥א הִתְבּוֹנָֽן׃

Verses 5-9: ...and therefore, God continues to punish them.

Isaiah 1:9           ישעיהו א:ט

Had not the Lord of Hosts left us a small remnant, we would be like Sodom; we would resemble Gomorrah.

לוּלֵי֙ ה' צְבָא֔וֹת הוֹתִ֥יר לָ֛נוּ שָׂרִ֖יד כִּמְעָ֑ט כִּסְדֹ֣ם הָיִ֔ינוּ לַעֲמֹרָ֖ה דָּמִֽינוּ׃

Verses 10-15: God hates hypocritical service of Him.

Isaiah 1:15         ישעיהו א:ט״ו

And when you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you, even when you multiply prayers, I do not hear; [for] your hands are full of blood.

וּבְפָרִשְׂכֶ֣ם כַּפֵּיכֶ֗ם אַעְלִ֤ים עֵינַי֙ מִכֶּ֔ם גַּ֛ם כִּֽי־תַרְבּ֥וּ תְפִלָּ֖ה אֵינֶ֣נִּי שֹׁמֵ֑עַ יְדֵיכֶ֖ם דָּמִ֥ים מָלֵֽאוּ׃

Verses 16-20: However, there is still a chance to repent, through repairing society.

Isaiah 1:17         ישעיהו א:י״ז

Learn to do good, seek justice, strengthen the robbed, perform justice for the orphan, plead the case of the widow.

לִמְד֥וּ הֵיטֵ֛ב דִּרְשׁ֥וּ מִשְׁפָּ֖ט אַשְּׁר֣וּ חָמ֑וֹץ שִׁפְט֣וּ יָת֔וֹם רִ֖יבוּ אַלְמָנָֽה׃

Verses 21-23: Isaiah laments the corruption of Jerusalem’s political, judicial, and commercial elites…

Isaiah 1:23         ישעיהו א:כ״ג

Your princes are rebellious and companions of thieves; everyone loves bribes and runs after payments; the orphan they do not judge, and the quarrel of the widow does not come to them.

שָׂרַ֣יִךְ סוֹרְרִ֗ים וְחַבְרֵי֙ גַּנָּבִ֔ים כֻּלּוֹ֙ אֹהֵ֣ב שֹׁ֔חַד וְרֹדֵ֖ף שַׁלְמֹנִ֑ים יָתוֹם֙ לֹ֣א יִשְׁפֹּ֔טוּ וְרִ֥יב אַלְמָנָ֖ה לֹֽא־יָב֥וֹא אֲלֵיהֶֽם׃

Verses 24-27: ...but God will destroy them, and make the city righteous once more.

Isaiah 1:26         ישעיהו א:כ״ו

And I will restore your judges as at first and your counselors as in the beginning; afterwards, you shall be called City of Righteousness, Faithful City.

וְאָשִׁ֤יבָה שֹׁפְטַ֙יִךְ֙ כְּבָרִ֣אשֹׁנָ֔ה וְיֹעֲצַ֖יִךְ כְּבַתְּחִלָּ֑ה אַחֲרֵי־כֵ֗ן יִקָּ֤רֵא לָךְ֙ עִ֣יר הַצֶּ֔דֶק קִרְיָ֖ה נֶאֱמָנָֽה׃

Important Themes

Sodom and Gomorrah: Isaiah compares Judah to the most infamous of Biblical cities, due to their corruption. See verses 9,11-15, and 21-24.

Societal Repair: God calls for Judah to repair its collapsing society, particularly by caring for its most vulnerable. See verses 15-20, and 23-27.

Other Connections

The Talmud uses verses 25-26 to order the Amidah’s blessings; v. 26 forms the basis of its 11th blessing’s wording.

Megillah 17b    מגילה י"ז עמוד ב

Why did the [Sages] see fit to institute [the Amidah’s 10th] blessing about the ingathering of the exiles after [its 9th, about the] blessing of the years? This accords with Scripture: “And you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to My people Israel; for they will soon be coming” (Ezekiel 36:8). [Hence the ingathering of the exiles will follow after the Land of Israel is blessed with bountiful produce.] Once the exiles have been gathered, judgment will be meted out to the wicked, as it is stated: “And I will turn my hand against you and purge away your dross as with lye” (Isaiah 1:25), [immediately after which it is written,] “And I will restore your judges as at first” (Isaiah 1:26). [Hence the Amidah’s 11th blessing about the restoration of judges follows the blessing about the ingathering of the exiles.]

מה ראו לומר קיבוץ גליות לאחר ברכת השנים דכתיב (יחזקאל לו, ח) ואתם הרי ישראל ענפכם תתנו ופריכם תשאו לעמי ישראל כי קרבו לבוא וכיון שנתקבצו גליות נעשה דין ברשעים שנאמר (ישעיהו א, כה) ואשיבה ידי עליך ואצרוף כבור סיגיך וכתיב (ישעיהו א, כו) ואשיבה שופטיך כבראשונה


1. Yemenite Jews traditionally read verses 1:21-31, which highlight the destruction and punishment coming to Jerusalem. Some communities repeat verse 27 in order to end on a positive prophetic note.

2. Lau, “Isaiah 1: An Overview” in Bin-Nun and Lau, “Isaiah: Prophet of Righteousness and Justice” (Maggid, 2019), pp 205-209.


With some emendations, biblical translations by Rabbi A. J. Rosenberg, and other translations from Sefaria.org.

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