Haftorah: "Herald of Zion" and "Herald of Yerushalayim"

Haftorah: "Herald of Zion" and "Herald of Yerushalayim"

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By: Rav Avraham Rivlin

Parshat Va'etchanan

Haftorah: "Herald of Zion" and "Herald of Yerushalayim"

Rav Avraham Rivlin shlita

In the famous prophecy: "Comfort, comfort my people," G-d turns to His prophets and tells them to call upon a third party to herald the consolation of Yerushalayim: "Ascend upon a high mountain, O herald (of) Zion (mevasseret Zion); raise your voice with strength, O herald (of) Yerushalayim (mevasseret Yerushalayim)." (Yeshaya 40:9)

Who are mevasseret Zion and mevasseret Yerushalayim; are Zion and Yerushalayim the heralds themselves or the ones being heralded? Are Zion and Yerushalayim one and the same, or are they separate? If they are separate, why is mevasseret Zion supposed to ascend a high mountain, whereas mevasseret Yerushalayim is to raise her voice?

Targum Yonatan, and other commentators following him, explains that the call in the pasuk is directed to the prophets, who are commanded to herald Zion and Yerushalayim about their redemption: "Ascend upon a high mountain the prophets who herald Zion." (Rashi quotes the Targum verbatim, while Metzudat David adds: "...the prophets who herald Zion of the redemption.") Why are the prophets referred to in feminine form, "mevasseret," and not mevaserei, as in the pasuk, "How pleasant are the footsteps of the herald (mevasser) ... announcing peace, heralding good tidings." (Yeshaya 52:7) Ibn Ezra writes: "The meaning [of the feminine form] is the community (edah – which is a feminine word), and not an actual woman." He can be understood based on Metzudat David, who adds a word in his interpretation, and answers that the call is directed to the "community (edah) of prophets," and this community is called by the prophet, "mevasseret Zion."

Da'at Mikra writes:

You – the woman who is appointed to herald to the inhabitants of Zion who is coming to her (i.e., G-d)...The prophecy uses the metaphor of a human king who returns to his country at the head of his army after he was victorious in his battles, and he send before him heralds to announce to the people of his city that he is coming shortly. They would send women to announce because the women do not go out to battle ... or perhaps because women's voices are generally louder than men's. (He cites there other references to female heralds.)

Rashi, who cites the pasuk from ch. 52, answers: "If they merit – it will be quick like a male; if they do not merit – it will be weak like a female, and he will delay his footsteps until the destined time." Rashi alludes here to the pasuk in Bamidbar (11:15), "If this is how You (at) deal with me," and to the Sifrei that he cites there: "Moshe's strength was weakened like a female when G-d showed him the punishment that he was going to bring upon them." [Therefore Moshe spoke to G-d in the feminine form.] The terms mevasseret Zion and mevasseret Yerushalayim come to allude to the well-known idea that the redemption and its circumstances depend on Israel's spiritual level: "I am Hashem, in its time I will hasten it." (Yeshaya 60:22) As Chazal comment: "If they do not merit – in its time; if they merit – I will hasten it." (Sanhedrin 98a) [See what I wrote about this based on the principle of "fluid prophecy," in my sefer, "Yonah: Prophecy and Rebuke, p. 230. Note Rav Dessler's comment there on p. 130 that "merit" and "do not merit" depend on the purity and zakkut of Bnei Yisrael, and not on some random decree from above.]

However, there is another group of commentators who explain that Yerushalayim and Zion are the heralds themselves. Radak writes: "Since Yerushalayim is the primary element of Eretz Yisrael, and so, too, Zion, since they are both one city, therefore they are depicted in the prophecy as if they are heralding the other cities." The Malbim similarly writes: "He depicts as if Zion itself will be the herald, and so, too, Yerushalayim." According to this explanation, the continuation of the pasuk is very well understood. Yeshaya turns to Yerushalayim and to Zion to announce to the other cities of Yehuda, "Behold, your G-d [has come]!" (According to the earlier explanations, the heralds of Zion and Yerushalayim are to say that G-d is coming to Yerushalayim itself and not to the other cities of Yehuda.) This call is an inevitable result of the very fact that Yerushalayim itself is redeemed.

We can now explain the pasuk based on the difference between Zion and Yerushalayim. The famous source for the two names is in Yeshaya's vision of the end of days: "For from Zion the Torah will come forth, and the word of Hashem from Yerushalayim." (Yeshaya 2:3) The Malbim writes about this:

"From Zion" – where the seat of the Sanhedrin was, and of the high priest and the Davidic dynasty; "the Torah will come forth" – to the entire world, as it says, "If a matter of judgment is hidden from you ... you shall rise up and ascend to the place that Hashem ... shall choose." This was only in Zion."and the word of Hashem" – that is prophecy; "(will come forth) from Yerushalayim" – because that is where the prophets would gather, drawing the Divine spirit from the entire city, because the prophets would not sit in the lishkat hagazit.

Based on this he explains our pasuk, as well:

Zion – the seat of the king and the Sanhedrin and the place of the Temple was there; Yerushalayim – the common people sat there. Zion will announce that He returned His Presence to Zion, as well as the kingdom and the priesthood, and therefore, the metaphor is used, "Ascend upon a high mountain" (since we are talking of high and lofty things). Yerushalayim will announce the ingathering of the exiles, and therefore he uses the metaphor, "raise your voice with strength," so that the dispersed will hear and gather from the four corners of the earth."

Here the redemption takes a more common nature. One the one hand, it belongs to the nation as a whole, yet, on the other hand, it is not as outstanding and elevating as the renewal of the kingdom, the Temple and the priesthood. Therefore, it is not necessary to ascend a mountain, but it is necessary to raise voice with great strength.

Rav Kook writes: "The two goals that crown Knesset Yisrael are 'a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' The character of the kingdom is expressed through Zion ... although the sanctly dwelling is in Yerushalayim." (Olat Re'Iyah II p. 87) In a different formulation, he is quoted that "Zion symbolizes the kingdom in Israel, and Yerushalayim the sanctity in Israel." (Cited by Rav M.Z. Neriyah, Moadei Re'Iyah, p. 602. Also cited in "Degel Yerushalayim," in Ma'amarei Re'Iyah p. 333.)

Based on this Rav Kook explains that mevasseret Zion, which aspires to the return of the kingdom to Israel, must ascend a high mountain and not suffice with requests for a national homeland like all the other nations, since Am Yisrael is not like all the other nations. (Cf. Yaakov Herzog, "Am Levadad Yishkon," p. 59: "Political Zionism maintains that the concept, "A nation that dwells by itself," is an abnormal concept, while, in truth, is the natural state of Beit Yisrael.") Our nationalistic aspirations are not the same as those of any other nation, for a State and independence, but rather a sacred matter that affects the entire world. (Cf. Rav Kook, Orot p. 112 and on.) On the other hand, mevasseret Yerushalayim, which talks of the return of sanctity to Israel, is already standing on a high mountain and speaks on behalf of G-d, but its voice is weak, and therefore it must raise its voice and to speak unhesitatingly to the nation as a whole and to the other nations.

Either way, from Zion and Yerushalayim will come forth a loud voice to all the cities of Yehuda: "Behold, your G-d [has come]!"

Shiur ID: 3848

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