This week we begin a new section of the Torah, Vayikra/Leviticus; the reading is Leviticus 1:1 through 5:26. The portion deals with various offerings and how they are to be brought before the LORD. While much could be said concerning the sacrifices, their meaning then, and how we should understand them today, I would like to offer two words of encouragement from this week’s haftarah, Isaiah 43:21 – 44:23.
In the haftarah, the prophet Isaiah rebukes Judah for neglecting the required sacrifices as well as abandoning the Temple rituals. And it appears that this neglect and abandonment is rooted in Israel’s abandonment of Hashem in favor of idol worship. The two scriptures that jumped out to me as I read Isaiah’s words were specifically words of encouragement for Israel to return to Hashem, putting aside her idolatress ways. I believe these words can also be a source of encouragement for us today as across the globe we all have fallen prey to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first word of encouragement is, “Thus says ADONAI who made you, and formed you from the womb, who will help you: ‘Do not fear, Jacob My servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen,’” (Isaiah 44:2). While this verse contextually speaks directly to Israel, we can all take comfort in this promise. According to Genesis 1:27, Hashem created all of us in His image and the psalmist echoes this when he proclaimed, “Your hands have made me and formed me,” (Psalms 119:73). Earlier in Psalms it is written, “For He knows our frame. He remembers that we are but dust,” (Psalm 103:14). I do not know why we have fallen plague to this pandemic, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that as our Creator, Hashem knows our condition and situation, and just as He cared for Judah in her wayfaring condition, He cares for each one of us.
The second word is really a reiteration of the first, “Remember these things, Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant. I formed you, you are My servant. Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me,” (Isaiah 44:21)! In the repetition, Hashem stresses that he formed Israel and because of that Israel will not be forgotten. And just as He will not forget Israel, He will not forget us as well. Returning to the psalmist we read these words,
If I say: “My foot has slipped,” Your mercy, ADONAI, will hold me up. When my troubling thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations comfort my soul.Psalm 94:18-19
He will not forget us. Remember Yeshua’s words at the end of the ‘Great Commission,’ “And remember! I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). When the news of the pandemic situation threatens to overwhelm us, when isolation and confinement separates us from family and friends, especially those who have been inflicted with the virus – remember that (1) we will not be forgotten by Hashem and (2) His consolations will bring comfort to our souls.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.