“The ox knows its master,
the donkey its owner’s manager,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.” — Isaiah 1:3
At sundown Aug. 10, Jews around the world 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 nine devotions from the timeless teachings of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein exploring how we can find comfort in the depths of tragedy and transform darkness into light. To learn more about Tisha B’Av, download a copy of our complimentary Bible Study.
Our Scripture today is tied to a very difficult time for the Jewish people. We are in the midst of a three-week mourning period that precedes the ninth of the Hebrew month Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. On that day, we fast and mourn the loss of the Temple in Jerusalem and every other tragedy that has befallen the Jewish people on this fateful day.
Our verse today focuses on God’s general charge against His people and why they were going to be exiled. Through the prophet Isaiah, God said, “The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”
What’s God telling us? An ox knows who its master is and so obeys his every order. A donkey doesn’t know its owner but knows where his food comes from and visits his trough several times a day. “But Israel doesn’t know,” said God. Israel was compared to being lower than an ox and a donkey at this point in history. God called them “my people,” but they acted as though they did not know to whom they belonged. Unlike the donkey, they didn’t even recognize where their provisions came from. They had completely removed God from their lives, and that is why, ultimately, God sent them away.
If not for the grace of God and His unconditional love for Israel, He would have completely annihilated them like Sodom and Gomorrah. But He didn’t, thankfully, and that is why we are here today.
Today’s challenge is to rectify the sins of our predecessors. We need to know to whom we belong. We must remember that we are children of the Most High God. We have the privilege of being His, but that privilege comes with a responsibility. We must obey Him. We must recognize that He alone is the source of all we have – our livelihood, our health, even our family. We must act with gratitude, obedience, and faith.
Yet, even beyond the basic knowing of who we belong to, God wants to have a relationship with us. Not like that of a master and an ox or a donkey, but one that is compared to a bride and groom, husband and wife, parent and child. In the Song of Solomon 6:3, we read “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Let’s reinstate our loving relationship with God. Know to whom you belong and then consequently, God will “belong” to us, too.