Mel Alexenberg
Author of "Through a Bible Lens"

Realizing Isaiah’s Vision

My Times of Israel blog post last week “Future Holocaust Memorials: An Artist’s Appeal to Congress” was a call to all readers to lobby the US Congress to vote against the dangerous deal with Iran. Follow my blog

This week, I return to my weekly Torah portion post bridging the books of Deuteronomy “Realizing Isaiah’s Vision” and Numbers “Talking Trees” and “Moving On”.  This week’s Torah portion Devarim/Words is read in synagogues on Shabbat Hazon (the Sabbath of Vision) 25 July 2015/9 Av 5775.  Last week, we read two Torah portions Mattot/Tribes and Masei/Journeys on Shabbat, 18 July 2015/2 Av 5775.

This blog post is adapted from my new book PHOTOGRAPH GOD: CREATING A SPIRITUAL BLOG OF YOUR LIFE. See the book’s blog at


Photograph God: Realizing Isaiah’s Vision

Devarim/Words (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22) Shabbat Hazon/Vision

These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel….  “God our Lord spoke to us at Horeb, saying: ‘Enough of your dwelling by this mountain.  Turn yourselves around and journey’….  See! I have given the Land before you.  Come and possess the Land that God swore that He would give to your forefathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and to their descendants after them.”  (Deuteronomy 1:1, 6-8)

The vision of Isaiah.… Learn to do good, seek justice, relieve the oppressed, render justice to the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:1, 17)

Moses challenges Israelites to journey beyond theory heard at Horeb (Mt. Sinai) to its implementation in the Land they are about to enter.

On Shabbat Hazon (Vision), we link our reading Devorim in synagogue with Isaiah’s vision of doing good and seeking justice in our Land.

It is followed by the 9th of Av when we mourn our ruin and exile for our failure to implement Isaiah’s vision two millennia ago.

The Talmud teaches that mourning will turn to joy as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob regain sovereignty over the Land of Israel.

The mourners will merit an outburst of joy as they transform the theory of Horeb into practice and the vision of Isaiah into reality.

We saw those transformations at Achuzat Sara Children’s Home in Bnei Brak, a place that 130 children consider to be their home.

Headmaster Shmuel Ron told us that the aim of his work is to put smiles on the faces of orphaned, abandoned, neglected, and abused children.

Achuzat Sara helps its children gain self-esteem, develop emotionally and spiritually, and grow into responsible and productive adults.

The children are encouraged to cultivate their talents in areas ranging from art, music and theater to sports, computers and science.

The dismal picture of the past painted by Moses and Isaiah transformed into a vision of a bright future is what we see at Achuzat Sara.

Talking Trees & Moving On

Mattot/Tribes (Numbers 30:2-32:42)

None of the men over 20 years old who left Egypt will see the land that I swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob since they did not follow me wholeheartedly.  The only exceptions will be Calev son of Yefuneh, the independent one, and Joshua son of Nun. (Numbers 32:11-12)

God said, “The only exception will be My servant Calev, since he showed a different spirit and followed Me wholeheartedly.  I will bring him to the land that he explored, and his descendants will possess it.” (Numbers 14:24)

Calev’s different spirit and independent thought is sorely needed by Calev’s descendants who have resettled the Land of Israel in our day.

Calev envisioned that a peaceful future would be realized by settling in Judea and Samaria and defeating the enemies of Israel.

During the week we read Mattot, we remember on the 17th day of Tamuz the Roman siege of Jerusalem 1,941 years ago ending in ruin and exile.

As we mourn this loss, a face-to-face survey of Palestinian Arab adults revealed the depth of their hatred of Jews. (Conducted with the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion)

When given a quote from the Hamas charter of the need for Arab and Islamic battalions to defeat the Jews and annihilate Israel, 80% agreed.

73% agreed with the Hamas charter: “Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims…. Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him.”

92% would not agree to Jerusalem remaining the capital of Israel.  72% denied the thousands of years of Jewish history in Jerusalem.

Perhaps our Arab neighbors should study the Qur’an that teaches that the right of the Jews to the Land of Israel is the will of Allah:

“Remember when Moses said to his people: ‘O my people, call in remembrance the favor of God unto you, when he produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave to you what He had not given to any other among the nations.  O my people, enter the Holy Land which God has assigned unto you, and then turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin.’” (Qur’an, Sura 5:22-23)

Move On

Masei/Journeys (Numbers 33:1-36:13)

These are the journeys of the Israelites, who left Egypt in organized groups under the leadership of Moses and Aaron.  Moses recorded their stops along the way at God’s bidding. (Numbers 32:1-2)

Why “journeys” in plural? Only the 1st of the 42 journeys recorded was going out of Egypt (Mitzrayim in Hebrew, meaning narrowness).

The Talmud teaches that we should see ourselves each day as if we traveled out of Egypt, away from narrow-minded thinking.

From the narrow straits I called upon God; God answered me with expansiveness. (Psalm 118:5).

The Land through which we have passed to explore is a land that devours yoshveha (inhabitants who sit still)” (Numbers 13:32).

The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches: “The Jew was not created to stand still.  There is always a new journey before him.”

Our journey from New York to Ra’anana with our 3 children in 1969 has invited fresh journeys emerging daily from our creative life in Israel.

While Miriam was creating a new home for us, Mel was teaching creativity and interdisciplinary learning at Tel Aviv University.

We moved from Ra’anana to Haifa where we worked together to create an Experimental School at the University, the 1st open school in Israel.

We moved from Haifa to Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi where Mel realized his Catskill Mountains childhood dream of being a Jewish farmer.

We moved to Yeroham to create a regional college in the Negev. Mel headed the college and Miriam taught ceramics there.

Mel taught at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan while Miriam babysat for our granddaughter in Rishon Letzion.

Our 4th child was born in Beersheva in 1982 when we were already grandparents.

We moved to Petah Tikva 15 years ago. Mel taught at Ariel University and at Emuna College School of the Arts in Jerusalem.

In 2012, we moved to Ra’anana where we had lived in 1969 when we came on aliyah as a family.

We enjoy our grandchildren who live in Yeroham, Petah Tikva

About the Author
Mel Alexenberg is an artist, educator, writer, and blogger working at the interface between art, technology, Jewish thought, and living the Zionist miracle in Israel. He is the author of "Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media," "The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness," and "Dialogic Art in a Digital World: Judaism and Contemporary Art" in Hebrew. He was professor at Columbia, Bar-Ilan and Ariel universities and research fellow at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies. His artworks are in the collections of more than forty museums worldwide. He lives in Ra’anana, Israel, with his wife artist Miriam Benjamin.