Crime or Sin?

כ וּבָ֤א לְצִיּוֹן֙ גּוֹאֵ֔ל וּלְשָׁבֵ֥י פֶ֖שַׁע בְּיַֽעֲקֹ֑ב נְאֻ֖ם יְהֹוָֽה: — ישעיה נט, כ

To Tzion comes a redeemer. Repent from crime, Jacob, is G!d’s Word. (Isaiah 59:20)

Jacob is a poetic description of Israel’s kingdom, and our prophetic storyteller is unhappy with Jacob. Isaiah has said that a redeemer will emerge, not that the redeemer will. This makes a pun: a redeemer (go’él) will emerge — or profanity will pollute (go’ahl).

It is not clear, whether in standard interpretation or mine, to whom a redeemer will come. Most interpretations suggest “to those in Jacob who turn from transgression”, to paraphrase (and modernise) the old Jewish Publication Society translation. I’m less definite: “Repent from crime, Jacob”. It’s not clear to me that Jacob will be redeemed: perhaps it is those affected by Jacob’s go’ahl.

What is clear to me, though, is that the choice is Jacob’s only until such time as it is G!d’s.


A chaplain, spiritual director, and educator, Arié Chark (“Reb Arie”) is Rector at The Metivta of Ottawa. A strong sense of personal mission has led Reb Arie to convene various civil society projects under the auspices of The Metivta of Ottawa, including the Ottawa Roundtable and the Abrahamic Chaplaincy Board.

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