At this season of teshuva, Rabbi Gail Diamond examines the explanations of Radak and Ibn Ezra that serve to remind us that it is up to us to create the world that Isaiah promised.
The Haftarah for Parshat “Ki Tavo” is Isaiah 60:1-22. Near the end it contains the well-known verse:
And your people, all of them righteous, shall possess the land for all time; they are the shoot that I planted, my handiwork in which I glory.
As we seek to understand this verse, it is important to keep in mind that Isaiah is speaking about a future, messianic time, a time when, “Your sun shall set no more, your moon no more withdraw; For the Lord shall be a light to you forever, and your days of mourning shall be ended. (verse 20)” Sun and moon, and thus seasons and time, will no longer be as they have been – the world will be of a wholly different order.
Some beautiful explanations of verse 21 can help us consider the deeds to which we should aspire. On the words, “נצר מטעי – the shoot that I planted”, Radak comments,
That it will be seen by their actions that I am the one who planted them
Radak’s point is that the actions of the returning people will be so pure and good that it will be clear that they have returned to the land because of G-d’s intention that they be there. This notion of the way in which our deeds bring honor to G-d is found in the traditional notions of Kiddush Hashem and Hillul Hashem. We can be “G-d’s planting” only when we act in righteous ways. Radak moves the focus of our thinking about the verse – we are no longer passively planted. Rather we will only be considered G-d’s plantings when our actions are godly.
Ibn Ezra makes a similar point on the words “מעשי ידי להתפאר – my handiwork in which I glory”:
As a person who is happy with his deeds when they are correct
Children as an example
We can think here of children as an example – when our children behave or excel, we tend to feel good, and when they misbehave, we tend to feel badly. G-d is glorified, or happy, when it seems correct to have made us, that is, when we are righteous. And we can infer from this explanation that the Holy One will be glorified by us only when our deeds are correct, metukanim. While the verse speaks of us as the works of G-d’s hands, the explanation of Ibn Ezra, written for us not G-d, reminds us that we need to examine and evaluate our own works and deeds, to be sure that we are living our lives in ways that glorify G-d.
At this season of teshuva, the explanations of Radak and Ibn Ezra serve to remind us that it is up to us to create the world that Isaiah promised. We will be a righteous people pleasing to G-d only through our deeds. May all our deeds be such that they bring glory to G-d.
Rabbi Gail Diamond is a member of RHR