This week in our review of Isaiah Decoded we’ll continue with chapter 4 - Jacob/Israel, Believers in a Creator-God. In this week’s look at Jacob, we’ll examine times in the last days when Jacob awakens. We see in the last days three primary times when Jacob comes out of a deep sleep. The topics we see covered in this week’s review include three times of awakening and gathering, the arrival of God’s Servant, and the selection of Endtime leadership.
Another pattern that we see in Isaiah’s Endtime events includes three times of awakening, three occurrences of gathering, the arrival of God’s Endtime Servant, and the selection of Endtime leadership. That sequence looks like this -
First Awakening and Gathering – Hebrew Roots Movement
The first awakening and gathering occurs when there is a spiritual awakening among Jacob during the last days who “renews its allegiance to God and prepares to return home at the end of the world” – P. 113. Today, we see this first awakening and gathering occurring with the Hebrew Roots Movement.
“A reawakening of peoples to their Hebrew roots in that day causes some to name themselves “Jacob” and others “Israel.” (Isaiah 44:5.)” - P. 113
(For me, this occurred when I accepted the Torah as still being relevant and took the Hebrew name of Isaiah (Yeshayahu) in 2016. I was named after my father and great grandfather who both share the name of Isaiah.)
The following video presentation by Rabbi Sacks examines one of the primary reasons believers are turning to Torah, that is, moving from creed to deed. Thinking believers are seeking a more definitive relationship with God through covenant and law.
Second Awakening and Gathering - Arrival of God’s Endtime Servant
The next awakening and gathering we see in Isaiah is with the arrival of God’s Servant – the return of Elijah – which will absorb the first gathering. This gathering occurs during the Servant’s three years of warning – P. 119.
“Just as signs and miracles accompanied Moses’ ministry to God’s people at the time of their exodus out of Egypt, so signs and miracles will accompany the servant’s ministry to the nations of the world.” – P. 110
“At the end of the world, the servant breaks the spell, waking the Virgin Daughter of Zion from the sleep of death.” – P. 120
“As mentioned, God’s servant fulfills several roles at the end of the world. God appoints him as “a witness to the nations, a prince and lawgiver of the peoples.” (Isaiah 55:4.) In these roles, he resembles Moses, except that the servant’s mission is to all the world, not just to Egypt and Israel. The servant releases them from spiritual blindness before releasing them from physical captivity.” – P. 121
“The servant’s ministry results in “the deaf hear[ing] the words of the book”—the Book of Isaiah and other sealed books—and “the eyes of the blind see[ing] out of gross darkness.” (Isaiah 29:18.) The servant’s job is to “open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from confinement and from prison those who sit in darkness”—to deliver those who still find themselves in a cursed condition. (Isaiah 42:7.) At that time will “they who erred in spirit gain understanding and they who murmured accept instruction.” (Isaiah 29:24.)” – P. 122,123
During the “morning” of this second gathering, we see the Servant select righteous ones to lead with him. These righteous ones Isaiah refers to as the (spiritual) kings and queens of the nations – Isaiah 49:22,23. Primarily, these righteous and holy ones are living God’s Law in the fullness of Messiah. This pattern is indicated with Moses and the Seventy Elders –
“Through his servant, and other servants who labor alongside him, God challenges Jacob/Israel to cease clinging to a false idea of him, to do more than merely believe that he exists.” – P. 110
“In Moses’ day, seventy elders of the congregation of Israel “went up” or “ascended” to that ministering level. They saw God on Mount Sinai and ate and drank in his presence. (Exodus 24:9–11.) Their physical ascent on the mountain symbolized their spiritual ascent that preceded it (see Figure 48). These seventy functioned as servants of God together with Moses. The spirit of prophecy rested on them as it did on Moses, giving them the power and wisdom to minister to God’s people. (Numbers 11:16–17, 24–25.) Isaiah predicts a new version of this type at the end of the world: God’s servant assisted by other servants.” – P. 117
“God sends his servant and others who assist him to bring people on the Jacob/Israel level up to Zion/Jerusalem. God appoints persons in higher categories to minister to those lower, to help lift them up.” – P. 116
“Similarly, God’s sons/servants, and also seraphs, perform saving roles to God’s people in Greater Babylon at the end of the world. By ministering to others, endeavoring to lift them higher, they prepare them for the journey to Zion or Jerusalem.” – P. 127
“In the endtime version of these events, many escape the burning of Greater Babylon for the sake of individuals on higher levels. God’s sons/servants, and beyond them, seraphs, directly influence this endtime “salvation.” Though Zion/Jerusalem qualifies for “deliverance” by keeping the terms of God’s covenant, God nevertheless intervenes to save his people for his servants’ sake.” – P. 127
These Endtime servants of God sweep the earth with God’s Law in the fullness of Messiah in the “afternoon” of the second gathering. These are the 144,000 High Priests/Davidic Kings who gather the House of Israel worldwide in the Endtime exodus out of Babylon.
Third Awakening and Gathering – God’s Day of Judgement
The third and final gathering occurs during the three years of judgement – P. 119.
“[this group ascends] to Zion/Jerusalem occurs during God’s Day of Judgment—between the time the first group leaves in the exodus and the end of the world. This group didn’t respond to the servant the first time, but reaches the same point through the school of hard knocks. The second group didn’t heed God’s warning and wake up in time to avoid the calamities.” – P. 128.
So then our summary table looks like this –
Transcript of Rabbi Sacks video teaching -
The parsha of Yitro records the revolutionary moment when God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, entered into a mutually-binding agreement with a nation, the Children of Israel, an agreement we call a brit, a covenant.
Now, this is not the first Divine covenant in the Torah. God had already made one with Noah, and through him all humanity, and another with Abraham, whose sign was circumcision. But those were not fully reciprocal. God did not ask for Noah’s agreement, nor did He wait for Abraham’s assent.
But Sinai was a different matter. For the first time, He wanted the covenant to be fully mutual, to be freely accepted. So we find that both before and after the revelation at Sinai, God commands Moses to make sure the people do actually agree.
The point is fundamental. God wants to rule by right, not might. The God who brought an enslaved people to liberty seeks the free worship of free human beings.
אין הקדוש ברוך הוא בא בטרוניא עם בריותיו
God does not act toward His creatures like a tyrant.
(Avodah Zarah 3a)
So at Sinai was born the principle that was, millennia later, described by Thomas Jefferson in the American Declaration of Independence, the idea that governors and governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” That is why the Sinai covenant was conditional on the people’s agreement.
Admittedly, the Talmud questions how free the Israelites actually were, and it uses an astonishing image. It says that God suspended the mountain above their heads and said, “If you agree, well and good. If you don’t, here will be your burial.” That is another topic for another time. Suffice it to say there is no indication of this in the plain sense of the text itself.
What is interesting is the exact wording in which the Israelites signal their consent. To repeat: they do so three times, first before the revelation, and then twice afterwards, in the parsha of Mishpatim.
Listen to the three verses. Before the revelation:
וַיַּעֲנוּ כָל הָעָם יַחְדָּו וַיֹּאמְרוּ כֹּל אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְקֹוָק נַעֲשֶׂה וַיָּשֶׁב מֹשֶׁה אֶת דִּבְרֵי הָעָם אֶל יְקֹוָק
All the people answered as one and said, ‘All that God has spoken, we will do.’
וַיָּבֹא מֹשֶׁה וַיְסַפֵּר לָעָם אֵת כָּל דִּבְרֵי יְקֹוָק וְאֵת כָּל הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים וַיַּעַן כָּל הָעָם קוֹל אֶחָד וַיֹּאמְרוּ כָּל הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְקֹוָק נַעֲשֶׂה
Moses came and told the people all of God’s words and all the laws. The people all responded with a single voice, ‘We will do every word that God has spoken.’
וַיִּקַּח סֵפֶר הַבְּרִית וַיִּקְרָא בְּאָזְנֵי הָעָם וַיֹּאמְרוּ כֹּל אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְקֹוָק נַעֲשֶׂה וְנִשְׁמָע
He took the book of the covenant and read it aloud to the people. They replied, ‘We will do and nishma all that God has declared.’
Note the subtle difference. In two cases the people say, all that God says, we will do. In the third, the double verb is used: naaseh ve-nishma. “We will do and we will hear, (or obey, or hearken, or understand).” The word shema means ‘to understand’, as we see in the story of the tower of Babel:
הָבָה נֵרְדָה וְנָבְלָה שָׁם שְׂפָתָם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִשְׁמְעוּ אִישׁ שְׂפַת רֵעֵהוּ
“Come, let us descend and confuse their speech, so that one person will not understand another’s speech.”
Now note that there is another difference. In the first two cases there is a clear emphasis on the unity of the people. Both phrases are very striking. The first says: all the people answered as one. The second says, The people all responded with a single voice. In a book that emphasises how fractious and fissiparous the people were, such declarations of unanimity are significant and rare. But the third verse, which mentions both doing and listening or understanding, contains no such statement. It simply says: They replied. There is no emphasis on unanimity or consensus.
What we have here is a biblical comment on one of the most striking features of all in Judaism: the difference between deed and creed, between asiyah and shemiyah, between doing and understanding.
Christians have theology. Jews have law. These are two very different approaches to the religious life. Judaism is about a community of action. It is about the way people interact in their dealings with one another. It is about bringing God into the shared spaces of our collective life. Just as we know God through what He does, so God asks us to bring Him into what we do. In the beginning, as Goethe put it, was the deed. That is why Judaism is a religion of law, because law is the architecture of behaviour.
When it comes, however, to belief, creed, doctrine, all the things that depend on shemiyah rather than asiyah, understanding rather than action: on this Judaism does not call for unanimity. Not because Judaism lacks beliefs. To the contrary, Judaism is what it is precisely because of our beliefs, most importantly the belief in monotheism, that there is, at least and at most, one God. The Torah tells us in Bereishit about Creation, in Shemot about redemption, and in this week’s parsha about revelation.
Judaism is a set of beliefs, but it is not a community based on unanimity about the way we understand and interpret those beliefs. It recognises that intellectually and temperamentally we are different. Judaism has had its rationalists and its mystics, its philosophers and its poets, its naturalists and its supernaturalists: Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Akiva, Judah Halevi and Maimonides, the Vilna Gaon and the Baal Shem Tov. We seek unanimity in halachah, not in aggadah. Na’aseh, we act in the same way, but nishma, we understand each in our own way. That is the difference between the way we serve God, collectively, and the way we understand God, individually.
What is fascinating is that this well-known feature of Judaism is already signalled in the Torah: in the difference between the way it speaks about na’aseh, “as one,” “with a single voice,” and nishma, with no special collective consensus.
Our acts, our naa’seh, are public. Our thoughts, our nishma, are private. That is how we come to serve God together, yet relate to Him individually, in the uniqueness of our being.