Let him who is convinced that his views are true and right express them . . . at every opportunity . . . without considering how much support or how much opposition he will encounter. Only falsehood is in need of many supporters in order to win the day; falsehood must have the authority of numbers to make up for what it lacks in justification. Truth, by contrast, will always prevail, even if it takes time. Noble, courageous and pure, expressed with all the fiery zeal and conviction and with all clarity of sure awareness, stated again and again at every opportunity, truth will ultimately gain respect and admiration even of those who do not accept it. The only truth that can be lost beyond recall is that truth whose adherents no longer have the courage to speak up candidly on its behalf. Truth has never gone down in defeat as the result of opposition, it has done so only when its friends are too weak to defend it. - R' S.R. Hirsch

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Prophetic Gem

Isaiah 53:1-12  

Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the L-RD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by G-d, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the L-RD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.

And they made His grave with the wicked -- but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the L-RD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the L-RD shall prosper in His hand.

He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. 

Now, I understand that the Scriptures were not broken up into chapter and verse until much later, but  I don't doubt that G-d may very well have had a hand in how those chapters and verses were assigned.  Nonetheless, I find the structure outlined below to be interesting and suggestive:    

The "second half" of the book of Isaiah, which the rabbis called the wonderful book of consolations, comprises twenty-seven chapters arranged in three equal divisions of nine chapters each, all ending with a similar refrain: "There is no peace, says my G-d, to the wicked." 

The book is further subdivided into three sections or smaller 'books' of nine chapters each: (40-48; 49-57; 58-66).  The middle 'book' of the second half of Isaiah is chapters 49-57.  The middle section of the middle book is chapters 52, 53, and 54 and chapter 53 is the middle chapter of the middle section of the middle book.  The central verse of this central paragraph reads: He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement with a view to our peace was upon Him and with His stripes we are healed."  

This verse expresses quite clearly the central thought in this prophecy (that of substitution and vicarious atonement) and is, quite arguably, the main thrust of the message of comfort with which the prophet began in Isaiah 40 (the chapter which inaugurated the Book of Comfort) and resolves the problem of how our iniquity is finally pardoned, once and for all.

To be continued . . .

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