The haftarah (prophetic reading) for this Sabbath is the first chapter of the vast book of prophecies attributed to Isaiah son of Amotz, who lived in the 8th century BCE and whose career overlapped with the desuetude and destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrian empire, and the deportation of much of its populace. No doubt the chapter is placed first in the book not because it is the earliest of Isaiah’s prophecies but because, in its blend of consolatory sweetness and acrid, stinging light, it is the most representative. Indeed, the Sabbath on which it is read each year—namely, the Sabbath preceding the fast of the Ninth of Av, which commemorates the destruction of both temples—is known (after the book’s opening words) as shabbat ḥazon, the Sabbath of “Isaiah’s vision.”
The Prophet Whose Glorious Words Permeate Jewish Consciousness
Isaiah’s unforgettable language serves much the same role in spoken Hebrew that Shakespeare’s does in English.