Tonight and tomorrow is a special Shabbat called: “Shabbat Hazon” , the Shabbat in which we read the prophetic vision of Yesha’ayahu haNabi in which he rebuked the people of Israel, and particularly the citizens of Yerushalayim, for their crimes, their lack of integrity and their corruption. This text is found in Isaiah 1:1-27 and it is read for the Haftarah tomorrow morning. We read this Haftara because the sins recorded in it, are the sins for which haShem did not listen to our prayers and allowed His Bet haMiqdash (the First Bet haMiqdash) to be destroyed. By reading and remembering what our ancestors did wrong, we can reflect in our own behavior, change and improve our actions and merit to seeing our Bet haMiqdash built again.
Among the many points he raised, the prophet discussed religious hypocrisy.
He said to the people of Yerushalayim on behalf of haShem:
15. [Thus says God], when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will My eyes from you; even when you offer to Me many prayers, I will not be listening, [because] your hands are full of blood!
The people thought that they can murder, oppress the poor and steal and then, if they pray loud enough, haShem will listen to their prayers. But the prophet said that haShem will only pay attention to the prayer of the righteous.
For their prayers to be heard, they needed first to stop acting with dishonesty.
16. “Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight. Stop doing wrong.”
Then, they need to multiply their merits.
17. “Learn to do right. Seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the orphan. Plead the case of the widow.”
Then, HaShem will listen to our prayers.
The nigh of Tish’a beAb (Saturday night)
Once we come to the Synagogue for Arbit, we chant the prayers with a sad tune, starting with ‘al neharot babel (Tehilim 137), the Psalm of the mourners for the Bet haMiqdash. In many Sephardic communities the Shema Israel is said with a sad intonation, instead of the regular ta’amim .
Then, we read Megilat Ekha, the book of Lamentations written by the Prophet Yrmiyahu. This book describes the destruction of the First Temple (586 BCE), the desolation of Yerushalayim, the pain of the exiles to Babylon, the mockery of our enemies when seeing our misery, the impotence of the defeated Jewish, the deadly starvation, the horrors of sickness and death.
Then, we recite the Kinot. The Kinot are poems which describe different tragedies that we endured throughout our history.
At the end of the Kinot, sitting on the floor, with lights dimmed, we declare with sadness and tears: “Listen, oh our brothers of the house of Israel….today we count … 1948 years from the destruction of our Bet haMiqdash….” (According to the traditional Sephardic account, the second Bet haMiqdash was destroyed in the year 68 of the Common Era).
May we all have an easy and meaningful fast.
May this be the last year we mourn for our Bet haMiqdash! AMEN
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