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The Keys to the Heavens (Perek 22)
In this perek, Yeshayahu describes a most unusual image. It talks of the priests on the rooftop of the temple. Here are Yeshayahu's words: Yeshayahu 22:1
מַשָּׂא, גֵּיא חִזָּיוֹן: מַה-לָּךְ אֵפוֹא, כִּי-עָלִית כֻּלָּךְ לַגַּגּוֹת
The “Valley of Vision” Pronouncement. What can have happened to you That you have gone, all of you, up on the roofs
What are the people doing up on the rooftops exactly? It is unclear. Chazal give us the subtext in a most stunning idea to be found in Talmud Bavli, Taanis 29b
תנו רבנן משחרב הבית בראשונה נתקבצו כיתות כיתות של פרחי כהונה ומפתחות ההיכל בידן ועלו לג ההיכל ואמרו לפניו רבונו של עולם הואיל ולא זכינו להיות גזברין נאמנים יהיו מפתחות מסורות לך וזרקום כלפי מעלה ויצתה כעין פיסת יד וקיבלתן מהם והם קפצו ונפלו לתוך האור
ועליהן קונן ישעיהו הנביא (ישעיהו כב, א) משא גיא חזיון מה לך איפוא כי עלית כולך לגגות תשואות מלאה עיר הומיה קריה עליזה חלליך לא חללי חרב ולא מתי מלחמה אף בהקב"ה נאמר (ישעיהו כב, ה) מקרקר קיר ושוע אל ההר:
The Sages taught: When the Temple was destroyed for the first time, many groups of young priests gathered together with the Temple keys in their hands. And they ascended to the roof of the Sanctuary and said before God: Master of the Universe, since we did not merit to be faithful treasurers, and the Temple is being destroyed, let the Temple keys be handed to You. And they threw them upward, and a kind of palm of a hand emerged and received the keys from them. And the young priests jumpedfrom the roof and fell into the fire of the burning Temple.
And the prophet Isaiah lamented over them: “The burden of the Valley of Vision. What ails you now that you have all gone up to the roofs? You that were full of uproar, a tumultuous city, a joyous town, your slain are not slain with the sword, nor dead in battle” (Isaiah 22:1–2). This is referring to the young priests who died by throwing themselves off the roof into the fire.
That fateful day of the destruction of the Mikdash does have a silver lining. The keys of access to the Mikdash were not left in human hands. Although the hosts of the enemy callously trampled every inch of it, they did not have the keys to access the spiritual epicenter of the Mikdash. They were lacking the keys.
The City of Tyre (Perek 23)
In this chapter, the concluding chapter relating to the nations of the world, Yeshayahu focusses on Tzor or Tyre. Interestingly enough, he spends less time describing Tyre than the impact its fall will have on the entire Mediterranean Sea trade. Yeshayahu 23:1
מַשָּׂא, צֹר: הֵילִילוּ אֳנִיּוֹת תַּרְשִׁישׁ, כִּי-שֻׁדַּד מִבַּיִת מִבּוֹא, מֵאֶרֶץ כִּתִּים, נִגְלָה-לָמוֹ
The “Tyre” Pronouncement. Howl, you ships of Tarshish! For havoc has been wrought, not a house is left; As they came from the land of Kittim, This was revealed to them.
To really appreciate this, one needs to be somewhat familiar with the Mediterranean Sea trade routes and the important port cities of the time.
Today, Tyre is still one of the port cities in Lebanon, albeit less of a center than Beirut.