A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the LORD;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.” — Isaiah 40:3–4
At sundown, July 21, Jews around the world will commemorate Tisha B’Av, a time of mourning that marks the many tragedies that befell the Jewish people throughout history on this particular date. Yet from this time of sorrow comes a ray of hope. This is one of 12 devotions exploring the depths of tragedy, and what we can do to transform darkness into light. To learn more about Tisha B’Av, download a copy of our free Bible Study.
Immediately after Tisha B’Av, in synagogue, we begin a series of Torah readings known as “The Seven Weeks of Consolation.” As we have learned, Tisha B’Av recounts all the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people and to ourselves as individuals, and these seven readings from the book of Isaiah urge us to move forward, repent, and heal. With some of the most well-known words of the Bible, the reading begins: “Comfort, comfort, my people . . .” (Isaiah 40:1).
Two verses later we read: “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’”
The Jewish sages ask: Whose voice is calling? And what is the message?
One opinion suggests it is the soft, still voice within us that urges us to come closer to God. In Judaism, the desert often symbolizes a place devoid of godliness. On the other hand, the Bible (God’s Word) is compared to water – waters that give life and bring about fruition. A desert results when God’s life-giving waters are not present. Any time we turn away from God or act in sinful ways, we are walking into a spiritual desert.
However, God loves us too much to let us go without a word. It’s as if He calls out to us, “Don’t shut me out! Make space for Me in your life!” Specifically, God says: “prepare the way” and “make straight . . . a highway.” If we want God in our lives, we have to make a way for Him to enter.
When we want to create a physical path, it requires us to move obstacles out of the way. We have to clear any impediments that block the path. The same is true when we want to get closer to God. We have to get rid of anything that stands in the way. We need to weed out damaging behaviors and roll away inappropriate thoughts.
If we want to turn that path into a highway – one that can be traveled easily and quickly – we need to straighten it out so that we aren’t slowed down by the twists and turns in the road. Bridges are built over valleys and tunnels are bored through mountains to allow roads to advance smoothly.
Similarly, when we want to have the ease of access to our God, we need to straighten out our paths. Where do we stray? Where do we navigate down roads we shouldn’t travel? We need to straighten out how we live so that God can work miracles in our lives.
Today, let’s make our paths a little straighter. Clear the way for God, and He will make a way for you.
Learn more about the darkest day on the Jewish calendar in this free issue of our Bible study series, Limmud (“study” in Hebrew), “Tisha B’Av: A Time to Weep.”
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President