The 40th chapter of Deutero-Isaiah is for Jews both comforting and promising. The first verse in the Hebrew begins “Nachamu nachamu ami yomar Elohaichem…” be comforted, be comforted my people, says your God. The word “nachamu” is repetitive to give emphasis upon God’s promise to his people.
Verse three is a Divine call: “Kol Korai”, a voice is calling out, and continues with “ba-midbar pinu derech Adonai…” in the wilderness, clear the path of God.
It is a promise of return from exile between Babylon and Judah and is a reminder of the wilderness which the Children of Israel experienced on their way out of Egypt en route to the land of God’s promise.
For Christians, the verses refer to John the Baptist who purifies Jesus in the waters of the Jordan River.
It came to my mind today by way of a letter from a cousin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was his response to a letter I had sent to him earlier. In it, I expressed my deep pain and sorrow at the loss of my beloved wife three years ago and I questioned what is the purpose of my life. Why do I still remain upon the earth?
In his reply he quoted an unknown source from rabbinic writing which stated “on the day you were born, God called upon you to be a messenger unto His people”. Therefore, he wrote, “you have a mission directed by God to be one of His partners in perfecting the world”.
And how do I help in such a perfection? His answer was “by preaching and teaching and reaching, by writing to reach hearts and minds of those who hear and who read your words”.
I am reminded of the words of the prophet Amos which he spoke to Amatzia the priest. “Lo navi anochi v’gam lo ben navi”… I am not a prophet and neither the son of a prophet.
Our ancient Hebrew prophets spoke only the words which God had put into their mouths.
Because I am unworthy I realize that God has not put words into my mouth and I very much doubt that He had called me to be one of his messengers on the day I was born in March 86 years ago.
For so many of those years I have wandered in a wilderness of my own creation not knowing to turn left or right, to go north or south, east or west.
But as I stood under the chuppah with my beautiful bride in Tel-Aviv in January 1960, I’m certain that I could hear a voice whispering “a job well done”.
It was only then that I was able to find my way out of the wilderness, my voice crying out, until I arrived in a blissful paradise which lasted for 56 happy years.
If I could be a prophet I would lift up my voice and join with thousands of other voices in disappointment and condemnation of the despicable political situation which we face now in Israel. Former terrorists have been invited to join our government. Former, because they no longer murder or slay their hated enemies, yet they still breathe that hatred and racist-fascist ideology.
Kol korai… a voice IS calling… in the present tense. Not a message of old, from the past, but a needed message for our times. Are you listening? Can you hear that voice…. An inner voice?
We have come out of the wilderness. We have created a path, a highway for our God. That road is called Medinat Yisrael… the State of Israel, God’s promise and blessing to us fulfilled.
Our land is no longer a wilderness. Our chalutzim (pioneers) drained the swamps and tilled the soil to turn a wilderness into a paradise.
That is a physical metamorphosis. But it is not yet a spiritual one. To find that one, we have a long way to go.
We must preserve our Jewish religious and democratic principles and ideals by eliminating all racism from our midst. The dismal path which our Likud party has taken, encouraged by its corrupt leader, will only lead to the demise of those principles and values.
Let us walk together in search of that spiritual paradise… one of love, friendship, companionship and hope.