Tonight begins Shabbat Chazon (Shabbat of Vision), a reference to the prophet Isaiah’s vision described in the Haftorah read during this Shabbat. In the Haftorah, Isaiah foretells the destruction of the Temple and recounts the misdeeds of the Israelites. This week’s parsha, Devarim, is always read on the Shabbat before Tisha B’Av. In Devarim, Moses recounts the errant behavior committed by the Hebrews during their journey through the desert. As it often does Chasidic thought provides us with a slightly different and more positive perspective on the subject. Although the Haftorah centers around rebuking the Jewish people and the imminent destruction of the Second Temple, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev saw this week’s Haftorah as a distant vision of the Third Temple of the Messianic age. This is why, says Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, this Shabbat is known as the Shabbat of Vision. The ‘vision’ is one of the future age of redemption.
There is a connection between Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev’s interpretation of the Haftorah and our parsha. In Parshas Devarim, Moses begins to recount everything the Israelites went through in the desert. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that Moses had to do this because the generation to whom he was speaking was not made up of those who had ‘seen’ G-d speak on Mount Sinai. They were already a generation removed from the event and preoccupied with preparing for the earthly responsibility of having to conquer and settle the land of Israel. Therefore they needed to hear his message about self-sacrifice and his stern warnings against going away from the path of G-d. These messages would not have been appropriate for their forebears who had lived in the desert surrounded by miracles and who acutely felt G-d’s presence.
However, this generation that was going to enter the land was poised to reach greater spiritual achievements than their predecessors. After all entering the land was the goal that G-d had in mind and they were going to be the ones to fulfill it. Not only that, but this new generation was going to be the one to descend into material concerns. This means that they would be the ones to translate G-d’s will into practical action. They were going to bring theory into practice. This generation was to begin fulfilling the purpose of Creation by bringing G-d into the mundane, everyday circumstances of living in this physical world. Parshas Devarim teaches us that we are able to achieve more spiritually in the physical rather than spiritual realms.
During this sad period on the Jewish calendar known as the 9 days we are prohibited from certain enjoyments. An exception is made for this Shabbat – Shabbat Chazon. On this Shabbat which is so closely associated with exile we are encouraged to rejoice even more than usual so as to make sure the heaviness of this period of mourning does not interfere with the joy of the Shabbat.. The exile of the Jewish people has been long and full of pain and suffering. However, its enormous length and darkness will be converted into even greater joy in the Messianic Age. The days of exile will seem to have been no more than a bad dream. As Parshas Devarim shows, a descent is often followed by an even greater ascent. This Shabbat is a foretaste of the future redemption of the World. May the bitter tears of sadness we have shed for over two thousand ears turn to ones of happiness. May this Shabbat Chazon not only provide a foretaste of the Redemption, but usher in the Redemption itself.