Isaiah 53’s Secret Message of Unity and Blessing

The final two portions of the Torah, Haazinu and Vezos Haberacha (Deuteronomy 32:1-34:12), contains a song and a blessing from Moses.

In the song, Moses urges the Jewish people to reflect on their past and remember that God provides their needs. Moses’ blessing is directed to each tribe according to their unique responsibilities and strengths.

Spiritually a song represents unity because it is sung in unison. As it says, “Burst out, sing in unison” (Isaiah 52:9). Jewish unity can elicit God’s blessings.

The Torah contains many allusions of the unity of the Jewish people. For example, "You are My witnesses, says the Lord, and My servant, whom I have chosen" (Isaiah 43:10). Note that in this verse, the Jewish people are first referred to in the plural as God’s “witnesses” and then in the singular as God’s “servant.”

The Jewish scriptures are replete with examples of the Jewish people referred to as a single individual. As is says, “And the people gathered as one man” (Nehemiah 8:1).

The final portions of the Torah use an unusual Hebrew word to refer to the Jewish people in the plural. The Hebrew word “lamow” is used more than 50 times in the Jewish scriptures and has a plural meaning of “them” or “they.”

The word “lamow is found twice (Deuteronomy 32:32 and 32:35) in the portion of Haazinu. In the portion of Vezos Haberach this word also appears twice. One verse describes God as coming “forth from Sinai and having shone forth to them from Seir” (Deut. 33:1). Another verse says, “with his right hand he presented the fiery Torah to them (Deut. 33:1).

Since “lamow” is biblical Hebrew, many Israelis who speak modern Hebrew are unfamiliar with it.

Because of several mistranslations, missionaries often incorrectly quote Isaiah 53 to claim that a single individual will suffer for our sins.

The most blatant mistranslation is the verse “he was wounded for our sins.” The Hebrew prefix “mem” before the word “sin” means “from” and not “for.” The correct translation should be “he was wounded from or sins” (Isaiah 53:5).

There is an essential difference between saying that someone suffered “for” (vicariously) you, or “from” (because and as a result) of you.

Although Isaiah 53 is written in the singular it is referring to the Jewish people as a one man who suffered from the evil perpetrated to them by the nations of the world.

Remarkably, the word “lamow” is found in Isaiah 53:8 which when correctly translated say, “for the transgression of my people (the nations) they (the Jewish people) were stricken."

Most, but not all, Christian translations mistranslate “lamow’ in this verse in the singular to intentionally avoid proof that Isaiah is speaking about the Jewish nation.

May this Shabbat bring unity and blessing to you and the Jewish people.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz