In this penultimate haftora of comfort, Yeshaya speaks even more glowingly about our wonderful future. “Behold darkness may cover the earth and a thick cloud may cover the kingdoms but upon you, Hashem will shine and His glory will be seen upon you. (60:2). Never again will your sun set and your moon will not be withdrawn for Hashem will be to you an eternal light and the days of your mourning will be ended. Your people will be all righteous; they will inherit the land forever; a shoot of my planting, My handiwork in which I shall be glorified.” (60:20-21).
We are dumbstruck by such a prophecy. What more could we possibly hope for? The suffering of golus will pale into insignificance when we will enjoy eternal bliss. Just one question remains, which Yeshaya himself hints at in the next posuk. “The smallest (family) will increase a thousandfold and the youngest into a mighty nation. I am Hashem; in its time, I will hasten it.” When will this glorious era begin? “In its time, I will hasten it.” Some mefarshim understand this last phrase to mean that when the right time comes, Hashem will not delay. However Rashi sees a contradiction in these last words. “In its time” implies a set, predetermined time. “I will hasten it” implies that it could be earlier. And that is precisely how Rashi explains the posuk: if we merit it, Hashem will bring it earlier. If not, it will come at the right time. According to Rashi, then, if our behavior justified it, this most glorious era could begin already. It is a challenge and an opportunity but the problem is that Yeshaya doesn’t say which aspect of our behavior would trigger this early redemption. So we are left in the dark. Or are we?
The Rambam writes (Hilchos De’os 5:1) that just as a chochom is distinguished by his wisdom, he is also distinguished in his behavior. He does not overeat or eat voraciously. He is modest and respectful in his personal relationships. He doesn’t shout and speaks gently with others. He is the first to greet others. He judges people favorably and praises them. He loves and pursues peace. He walks with humility. He does not run wildly. His clothes are honorable and clean. His shoes are not torn. He honors his wife and children. His business dealings will be honest and will give others the benefit of the doubt. He pays immediately for what he buys. He prefers to be pursued than to be a pursuer, insulted rather than insult. About him, says the Rambam, is said the posuk, “Yisroel, in whom I shall be glorified.”
Interestingly these precise words are used by Yeshaya in today’s haftora. Could it possibly be that the examples of distinguished behavior mentioned by the Rambam are precisely the type of behavior which Yeshaya considered as the key to an early redemption? Why would this level of behavior be so crucial that it would earn us an early redemption?
In Matnas Chaim Reb Mattisyahu Salomon shlita discusses the halacha of putting our most valuable possessions on our Seder table. He says that the reason is to remind us of the time when we came out of Mitzrayim “birchush gadol – with great treasure.” What was the significance of leaving Mitzrayim with great treasure? We do not consider material possessions to be an important part of living full Jewish lives. They are a useful asset, but some of our greatest leaders have been poor. And as we always say, “You can’t take it with you.” Surely key to Jewish life is the observance of mitzvos which can be done whether we are rich or poor.
When Hashem offered the Torah to the Jewish People at Har Sinai, He said that they could be a mamleches kohanim vegoy kodosh – a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Rashi translates kohanim not as priests but sarim – men of status. To be a king over poor people who are totally dependent on him does not bring him much honor. For a crowd of helpless refugees to have accepted the Torah would not have proved much. What choice did they have? Hashem wanted them to have a rechush gadol – a great treasure so that they would be a strong and potentially independent people. If they still accepted the Torah, that would be a Kiddush Hashem and Kovod Malchus. That is why they had to be rich. Similarly it is important for us to put our most expensive and beautiful possessions on our Seder tables to remind us that we were not nebachs when we left Mitzrayim but wealthy people. We had the option of building our own future, yet we opted to be Hashem’s People. Through such people, Hashem is glorified.
This, says the Matnas Chaim, is the significance of the qualities of the Talmid Chochom as listed by the Rambam. He is honorable and refined. He may not be materially wealthy but he is an aristocrat. He fulfills the Jewish people’s mission to be a mamleches kohanim vegoy kodosh. And as the Rambam concludes, this is the type of person about whom Hashem says, ‘Yisroel through whom I will be glorified.’
Yeshaya, in this haftora speaks about our glorious future but he doesn’t tell us clearly when this glorious new era will begin. He does mention, however, that Hashem will be glorified through the Jews. Perhaps he is referring to the aristocratic qualities which Jews need to show, as listed by the Rambam, as a prerequisite to this new era. The material success which He will bless us with in the future was already mentioned. “In the place of copper I will bring gold, in the place of iron I will bring silver.” (60:17) But nobility of spirit, dignity and gracious behavior can be ours even now in galus, making us worthy of an early redemption.