Updated: Oct 19, 2022
Few biblical personalities lived lives as radically and in as turbulent times as the Prophet Yeshaya son of Amos. Considered one of the greatest prophets of the First Temple (Midrash Rabbah – Devarim 2:4), Yeshaya is one outstanding example of the self-sacrifice a Tzadik can display for the Jewish People.Besides adjuring the Jewish People to mend its ways in a stern manner, his career spanned 4 Judean kings, a civil war between the Israeli and Judean empires, the decay of society through King Menashe, and the salvation from Sancheriv’s advancing army.
Many passages of the book of Yeshaya, the longest in the Prophets and Scriptures, are read as Haftarot.They depict the vision of the future redemption when everlasting peace will permeate the entire world. Yet, there are valuable lessons we can derive from his life and book.
Kabbalistic insights from Yeshaya
The Sages in the Talmud (Chagigah 13b) characterize Yeshaya as a citizen who’s used to seeing the king and his entourage around the city. His prophecy and narration are mostly solemn and don’tdisplay much excitement since he’s used to is. His message however is incredibly positive and speaks about the future redemption. In contrast, Yechezkel’sbook is full of excitement over the thing he sees and the sages equate him to a man living in a faraway town who seldom sees the king. When he does, his description is rich and very detailed as he’s very surprised at what he experiences.
The Arizal explains that this is because Yeshaya’s prophecy comes from the exalted world of Beriyah(just below Atzilut), while Yechezkel’s come from the world of Yetzirah (one world below Beriyah). This gives credence to the fact that Yeshaya was comparable to Moshe Rabbenu in many regards. Both sternly criticized the Jewish People (out of love), had impaired speech, and according to some sources, Yeshaya also lived to 120 years and also had a part of the soul of Moshe Rabbenu.
This shouldn’t be surprising as it’s common for people who live the same amount of years to share the same soul root.
The ultimate test of Emunah
In his later years, Yeshaya was an advisor to the righteous King Chizkiyahu. Many know the story that when the king failed to fulfil the commandment to procreate because he saw through Ruach HaKodesh(Divine Spirit) that his offspring would be wicked, he became deathly sick.
What perhaps fewer people are aware of is that during the wars of the evil Assyrian king Sancheriv, huge swaths of Jewish territory were conquered and subjugated. Jerusalem remained steadfast, but this wouldn’t last for long as the enemy army would soon lay siege to it. Despite the imminent catastrophe and pervading fear, the Prophet Yeshaya reassured that Hashem would protect Jerusalem.
In a rather funny moment, King Chizkiyahu prayed to Hashem and went to sleep, expecting salvation. True to his prediction, Hashem sent the angel Gavriel (the angel of Gevurah, “strength”) and annihilated the army, killing as many as 185 thousand soldiers in that one night. The only ones left were Sancheriv and his two sons, who later killed their father as he was worshipping his idol Nisroch in his temple.
This teaches us an incredibly important lesson in Emunah. Hashem expects us to do every possible effort in saving ourselves. We can’t simply abandon things and leave them to be “taken care of” as this is not why we are here for. This goes for our divine service, our family, our work and every possible endeavor we can think of. We are here to serve Hashem, not hire Him out to do our jobs for us.
However, sometimes the challenges are in fact beyond what we can handle. And we need to know that when this happens, it’s a direct invitation to put our full trust in Hashem and let Him take care of it.
This is actually what happened to Chizkiyahu, when he realized there was no way the Jews could win a war against Sancheriv’s massive army. It was only placing himself in Hashem’s hands that he could overcome the danger as nothing he could do would be enough effort to bring the salvation. This is reminiscing of what happened to Yosef the Tzaddik when he was in prison and also was completely powerless. However, here, Yosef made the mistake of doing the “little effort” of asking Pharos’s cupbearer to “remember him”, instead of realizing nothing (except Hashem) would get him out of prison.
Although Prophet Yeshaya doesn’t have a marked grave and no one knows exactly his place of death (since he was put to death by King Chizkiyahu’swicked son Menashe), his message and inspiration lives forever. Hashem’s mercy and compassion isavailable to us even though we might think we don’t deserve it!
May Prophet Yeshaya’s memory and life be for a blessing!
This article was written in the zechut of
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