Monday, July 20, 2015

Shabbat Chazon

Devarim, Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22

Rabbi Richard Hirsh for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

Shabbat Hazon

This week's Torah portion is Devarim, the opening section of the last book of the Torah known in English as Deuteronomy. This Shabbat, however, is known as Shabbat Hazon, after the opening words of the special Haftara reading: "Hazon Y'Shayahu", "[This is] the vision of [the prophet] Isaiah".

The origins of the tradition of the Haftara, the supplementary biblical reading associated with the weekly Torah portion, are obscure. Normally, the selection is tied to the content of the Torah portion, or to a key word or personality found in the Torah reading.

However, the rhythm of the Jewish calendar also helps to determine the Haftara reading, as is the case this week. This Shabbat comes just before the mid-summer fast day of Tisha B'Av on which we commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem (586 BCE and 70 CE). It is the last of three special Haftaras of "rebuke", in which the prophets of ancient Israel warn the people to repent lest their sins bring national ruin.

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