Haftarah: "Who Inspired from the East?"
הרב אברהם ריבלין, המשגיח הרוחני לשעבר
After a number of opening verses that bear consolation for Am Yisrael, Yeshaya summons the nations for judgment before Hashem. He asks, "Who inspired [the one] from the east, at whose footstep righteousness attended? [Who] delivered nations to him, and subdued kings [before him]?" (Yeshaya 41:2) The answer is found in verse 4: "Who brought about and accomplished [this]? He Who proclaimed the generations from the beginning. I, Hashem, am the first and I am He Who will be with the last [generations]." (41:4) Yeshaya's answer to his question: "Who inspired [the one] from the east," is clear – Hashem. However, the person being talked about is very unclear. Who is the person from the east that was inspired? Who is that person that righteousness attends his footstep, that the nations are delivered to him, and he subdues them? And, who are those nations?
We will cite three interpretations that relate to the past, the present, and the future of Am Yisrael.
Yonatan b. Uziel, followed by Rashi, Abarbanel, Radak, and others, explains that we are dealing with Avraham. "Who inspired Avraham to bring him from Aram, which is in the east? The righteousness that he did, attended his footsteps everywhere that he walked." (Rashi) Thus, the nations mentioned in the verse are the four kings against whom Avraham fought and was victorious. [However, Chazal taught: "Who is the One who inspired the hearts of easterners to come and fall before Avraham? 'At whose footstep righteousness attended' – the Eternal one who illuminated for him everywhere that he went." (Bereishit Rabbah 43:4) Thus, the easterners are the four kings, and not Avraham.] The advantage of this first interpretation is the connection to the remainder of the Haftarah, which mentions Avraham: "offspring of Avraham who loved me" (41:8) In this way, this verse serves as a link that connects the Haftarah to one of the central topics of the parsha – Avraham's battle against the four kings.
Another interpretation attributes the passage not to the distant past of Am Yisrael, but rather to the present era of the prophet. Mahari Kra, Ibn Ezra, and the Radak's father explain that the man who is inspired from the east is Cyrus. "Who inspired the spirit of Cyrus from the east to come and besiege Bavel? Because of the just victory to destroy Bavel ... and to build Yerushalayim and establish the Sanctuary." (Mahari Kra) Ibn Ezra adds: "This alludes to Cyrus, as the entire passage has one theme [– i.e., Cyrus's victory]. Similarly, it says, 'I have summoned the vulture from the east' (46:11), and in the entire passage there the name of Cyrus from the east is explicit, as Elam is northeast of Bavel."
Malbim explains the prophecy as a vision for the end of days, so that the verse refers to the Messiah king. The verse notes that, in contrast to current circumstances, when the reason for war "is the love of domination and honor, or jealousy, vengeance, victory or the desire of property" – the wars of the Messiah king are fundamentally different. 'Who inspired from the east" – What is the motive of the Messiah who comes from the east? "At whose footstep righteousness attended" – "on account of justice he will capture nations." The "weak" point of the Malbim's explanation is the significance of the direction "mizrach." According to the first two interpretations, east is the direction from which the inspired power comes and rises. Avraham reached the Land of Canaan from the east, and Cyrus attacked Bavel from that direction. But what is the connection to the Messiah, and where do we find that the Messiah comes from the east?
In the continuation of our chapter (41:25) it says: "I have inspired [someone] from the north and he has come, he calls out in My name from where the sun rises." Most of the commentators explain this verse as referring to Cyrus, who came from a northeastern direction to Israel. The Malbim, however, consistent with his interpretation, explains this also about the Messiah: "I have inspired from the north and he has come from the east – the Messiah king who will call in My name." It is worthwhile to note that in the Midrash, as well, Chazal explain the verse about the Messiah. However, there the direction is north: "The Messianic king, who is placed in the north, will come and build the Temple, which is placed in the south. This is what it says, 'I have inspired from the north, and he has come from the east.'"
In many of the verses that allude to the Messiah, there is a mention of the sun that rises from the east: "They will fear You as long as the sun and the moon endure, generation after generation." (Tehillim 72:5; cf. Radak) "From the west [people] will fear the name of Hashem, and from the rising of the sun His glory." (Yeshaya 59:19) It is possible that for this reason the Malbim explained, "For the redeemer will appear from the east." It is possible that the appearance of the Messiah from the east is connected to Edom, which is east of Israel, and who is identified with Esav, the grandfather of Amalek. "Saviors will ascend Mount Zion to judge the Mountain of Esav, and the kingdom will be Hashem's." (Ovadiah 1:21) If so, the Messiah destroys the evil on the eastern side, and from there comes to Israel to build the kingdom of Hashem.
The answer to the question, "Who inspired from the east," is, " I, Hashem, am the first and I am He Who will be with the last." The eastern side expresses this idea in its Biblical name – kedem. Kedem is both first and also last, beginning and end together. "The days of kedem," "as years kadmoniyot," and "splendor of kedumim," are expressions that express the distant past, whereas kadima and lehitkadem indicate the future. This is because the day begins with the rising of the sun in the east, in kedem, and nothing comes before it, but from here on we stride forward only towards the future! From Avraham, the first, to the Messiach, the last, "from the rising of the sun till its setting" – "I, Hashem, am the first and I am He Who will be with the last [generations]."
קוד השיעור: 3568