Bereishit: The Creation of History
Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10: As would be expected of the Haftarah selected for the portion of creation, the sages found many of the major ideas in Jewish philosophy alluded to in this prophecy: God the Constant Creator (TBBerachot 52b, Zohar, Volume 1 205b),
God the Ultimate Creator (Bereishit Rabbah 12:12), God the Sustainer (Tanna D’Bei Eliyahu Rabbah 18), Resurrection of the Dead (TBKetubot 111a), World to Come (Midrash Otiot D’Rabbi Akiva 1 #9), God’s Forbearance (Devarim Rabbah 5:14), Our Relationship with God (Kohelet Rabbah 7:41), Reincarnation (Zohar, Volume 2 94b), even Man’s responsibility to the environment (Tanna D’Bei Eliyahu Zuta, Chapter 3).
The simple text addresses Redemption, and the Ingathering of the Exiles (43:1-8), and God’s fury with idols and their worshippers (42:14-17). It is the text that concerns us. It is difficult to imagine that this prophecy, no matter when and how delivered, was accompanied by a source book and references. We must understand to whom Isaiah was speaking and what was on the minds of the listeners.
This selection follows a challenge by God to the people who have turned to false prophets and their gods searching for answers. There are storms brewing in the north. The Assyrians and the Babylonians have emerged as the new super powers. Israel’s prime is over. The people are vulnerable. They are searching for answers that will appease them. They do not want to hear Isaiah remind them that he and his predecessors have been warning them of the consequences of turning away from God. “Bring your quarrel forward,” says Hashem. “Present your accusations. Let them bring forth their prophets and let them tell us what will happen, what primeval events signified. Tell us the signs that will come in later times, and then we will know that you are gods and that you can do good or evil; together we will discuss and decide.” ” (Isaiah 41:21-23) The people have been challenged. Only the Creator can answer all their questions. Only the Creator has the power to be the Guider of History. Isaiah takes the people back to the beginning of time. He reconnects them with the Creator. He tells them that He, only He, can provide answers.
Everything we believe begins from this point. It is insufficient to read the creation story as we did when children. We must study and apply it as did Isaiah. We must reflect on all the ramifications of Creation and God’s Power.
Isaiah understood the fluctuations of history as new stages in the creation of the world. Israel’s displacement by Assyria and Babylon will change the interaction between God and His people. The same Force and Will that brought everything into existence continues to be expressed in powerful ways.( 42:18-25, 43:1-8) Israel’s job is to remind the world to see that Force and that Will in every stage of history.( 43:9-10) When we read the Creation story, we are not reading a story of the past, but rather, the story of the present and the future. (42:10-13)