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.

An illustration of the prophet Isaiah from the 14th century. Wikipedia.

An illustration of the prophet Isaiah from the 14th century. Wikipedia.

Atar Hadari
Observation
July 18 2018
About the author

Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.


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.”

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More about: Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, Isaiah, Religion & Holidays