This letter is dedicated to all the Children of Noah who are striving to follow the universal moral code within the Torah. They pray to Hashem without an intermediary, and they accept the Torah principle, “Hashem is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4). They are also loyal friends of our people; moreover, they recognize that the Torah and its interpretations were given to our people at Mount Sinai. They therefore accept our understanding of the Torah.
The haftorah that we chanted on this past Shabbos reveals the following comforting message regarding the universal renewal in Zion: At the dawn of the messianic age, a call will go out from Zion to all human beings who are spiritually thirsty and spiritually hungry. In the description of this call, the Prophet Isaiah refers to water, wine, and milk as metaphors for the nurturing and free Divine Teaching:
“Ho, everyone who is thirsty, go to the water, even one with no money; go buy and eat; go and buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1)
The classical commentator, Ibn Ezra writes: “These are the words of Hashem to the nations of the world in those days to whoever will want to study Torah.” A similar explanation is given by another classical commentator, Radak, who explains that this call will go out in the messianic age when peoples will say, “Come, let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem, to the Temple of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths” (Isaiah 2:3).
Radak then offers the following explanation as to why the prophecy uses “water” as a metaphor for the Divine Wisdom of Torah: Just as the world cannot exist without water, so too, it cannot exist without Torah; moreover, just as the thirsty person yearns for water, so too, the wise soul yearns for Torah. As an example, Radak cites the prophecy of Amos:
“Behold days are coming – the word of the Master of All, Hashem/Elohim – when I will send hunger into the land; not a hunger for bread or a thirst for water, but to hear the words of Hashem.” (Amos 8:11)
Radak then offers the following explanation as to why the above prophecy of Isaiah also refers to Torah as “wine”: Just as wine rejoices the heart, as it is written, “And wine that gladdens a person’s heart” (Psalm 104:15), so too, Torah rejoices the heart, as it is written, “The mandates of Hashem are upright, gladdening the heart” (Psalm 19:9).
In addition, Radak offers the following explanation as to why this prophecy uses “milk” as another metaphor for Torah: Just as milk sustains the suckling and causes it to grow, so too, the study of Torah sustains the soul and elevates it from one level to the next.
At the dawn of the messianic age, we, the people of the Torah, will serve as a spiritual example that will inspire the nations of the earth; thus, the haftorah concludes with the following prophecy:
“Behold, you will call a nation you had not known, and a nation that had not known you will run to you, for the sake of Hashem, your God, the Holy One of Israel, Who has glorified you.” (Isaiah 55:5)
As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains in his commentary on the above prophecy, Israel and every individual within Israel will attract nations that previously did not know Israel, because of their “silent example of living an exemplary moral life, and by the blessing of God resting everywhere on such pure human lives.”
The New Moon will soon appear; thus, the new month of Ellul will begin on Monday evening, August 9th. With the approach of the New Moon, we yearn for the fulfillment of the following Divine promise regarding the dawn of the messianic age:
“And it shall be that at every New Moon and on every Sabbath all flesh shall come to bow before Me, said Hashem.” (Isaiah 66:23)
Shalom, and have a Chodesh Tov – a Good Month!
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
A Related Teaching:
Tanna D'vei Eliyahu is an ancient midrashic work which contains teachings from Elijah the Prophet which were revealed to Rabbi Anan. It compares Torah to a “mikveh” – a body of natural, purifying waters (18:77).
The waters of the sea are also a mikveh. This awareness can give us a deeper understanding of the messianic prophecy which compares Torah – the purifying knowledge of the Compassionate and Life-Giving One – to the purifying waters of the sea:
“For the earth will be filled with knowledge of Hashem as water covering the sea bed” (Isaiah 11:9).
Maimonides discusses this universal prophecy in his Mishneh Torah, and he states, “The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know Hashem” (The Laws of Kings 12:5). All humankind will be immersed in the “sea” of Torah – the purifying Divine knowledge.