Today I was sitting with my studies in my dining room when my neighbor knocked on the door. He was insistent: “You must come and look!”
Behind my home sits one of G-ds masterpieces. The beautiful green Judean hills go on for miles toward Jerusalem and Hebron. One can stare for hours at their beauty as the sun rises and sets and the clouds cast their shadows on the mountains. Today they were on fire. Apparently the combination of weeks of dry heat and perhaps a careless cigarette smoker caused flames out my window that touched the skies above them. The hills were on fire.
While watching the splendor burn I couldn’t help but think about how it must have been almost two thousand years ago when we were forced to flee a burning Jerusalem as the Romans set it’s forests and the Holy Temple on fire.
The “nine days” are a time of calamity for our people. At least this calamity fell on “the trees and on the stones”. The sight brought home the message.
The Piasetzner Rebbe wrote the Eish Kodesh while living in the Warsaw Ghetto.
The Rebbe explained that actually living in the ghetto taught everyone that the distances between hearing, seeing and experiencing are far greater than anyone can imagine. In the years before the war, “when we studied the passages about the great sufferings of the Destruction, [as described] in the words of the Prophets and the Rabbis, we thought that we had some concept of what had transpired at the time, and on occasion we even cried. But now we understand that to hear about sufferings and tragedies is quite a distance away from seeing them and certainly from personally experiencing and suffering them.”
“Chazon Yeshayahu. A vision of Yeshayahu!” Isaiah saw.
The Medrash [Shir Hashirim Rabbah Ch. 3] taught that there are ten levels of prophecy. Sometimes prophecy comes in a dream, sometimes as a feeling and sometimes as a voice. Which kind of prophecy was the harshest? Rabbi Eliezer says that a ‘chazon’ prophecy, a vision, is the harshest of all. In such a prophecy, the prophet not only heard the message; it was shown to him. There is no comparison between hearing and seeing.
Yeshayahu saw a vision of the Churban, he saw the long suffering of golus and he saw the pain of Yerushalayim. There is nothing like a ‘chazon’ to shake us to the core.
There were times in history when we heard about churban, and there were times when we saw churban. People that went through concentration camps, ghettos and persecution during the Shoah saw destruction. My generation only heard about the suffering and pain.
The Piasetzner explains that “Isaiah received a vision because the Jewish people lost their vision! We lost the vision of our true goals in life, and we lost our sight of the truth. We lost our sight of the suffering we were causing one another and we no longer heard each other’s cries. We did not hear G-d crying. We did not hear the cries of the orphans and the widows. We did not hear our souls crying.” (quoted and translated by Rabbi Shalom Brodt).
Again today we are having a very painful “chazon”, We are seeing a loss of the ethical standard that was once the hallmark of the Jew. We are seeing violence from a people that were incapable of violence and we are seeing arrogance and racism from within in Israel at a time that we need each other more than ever. We are watching massive assimilation take place in the greater community, and we experience one spiritual crisis after another within our own community.
Why the chazon? Why so harsh? We are receiving a vision because we lost a vision.
How do we get back what we lost? What should our vision be?
Education should be with warmth and love for every child. Every child should be considered a gem, period. There should be a desperate sense of importance given to unity. We should think a hundred times before doing or saying something which is divisive. We should all be counted on for our honesty and integrity. Israel should be the center of our lives – every other existence should be considered temporary. Whenever we lose these basic visions we experience a painful chazon.
May G-d grant us a new vision of Israel and the Jewish people at peace.