Cosmos Consolation (Isaiah 40)

heaven and earth

This week’s haftarah reading taken from Deutero-Isaiah in the synagogue for Shabbat builds upon a sense of a world. From Isaiah chapter 40, the vision of the cosmos is that of a big world, a vast world, full of rugged ground and ridges, all flattened out, the scan of the sky, the sky like gauze stretched out, a God, impossible to plumb, who sits upon the circle of that world compared to whom and to which human flesh and the life of the nations are like grass, grasshoppers, dried out and cleared off like stubble in a storm. Aesthetic, theological, and political all at once, its placement in the liturgical calendar is selected to follow upon the 9th of Av as a consolation. The prophet’s consoling vision is a strange one. Is this prophecy or wisdom? The perspectival shifting in the text reminds me of Job.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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