Devarim. "Low and High Alike!"
This Shabbat, in advance of Tisha B'Av, we read a powerful Haftarah from Isaiah ch.1. It doesn't, as we might expect, talk about the Temple's destruction. It depicts a Jerusalem that has become corrupt, like Sodom and Gomorrah (1:9-10):
How the faithful city has become a whore, she who was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers. … Your ministers are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow's cause does not come to them (1:21-23)
Jerusalem has become "a whore" because it is filled with corruption and bribery – its leaders sell themselves for money. Ministers attend to the wealthy instead of looking out for the vulnerable and disadvantaged. As a result, Jerusalem has replaced justice with exploitation and even murder (1:15,21).
In this snapshot of Jerusalem, the people sacrifice and pray (v.11-15), but they are unscrupulous, inconsiderate, cruel and immoral. God threatens to destroy Jerusalem, "smelting" the city, purging the dross of society, in order to purify the city of its negative elements and restore justice and honesty to its leaders, returning Jerusalem to itself:
I will turn My hand against you, And smelt out your dross…,
And remove all your impurities:
I will restore your magistrates as of old, And your counselors as before. After that you shall be called City of Righteousness, Faithful City.
Zion shall be redeemed by justice,
and those in her who repent, by righteousness”