Rav Kook Torah

Jerusalem Day: The Two Messengers


The prophet Isaiah used a metaphor of two messengers, the Herald of Zion and the Herald of Jerusalem, who together proclaim the imminent redemption of Israel:

“עַל הַר-גָּבֹהַּ עֲלִי-לָךְ, מְבַשֶּׂרֶת צִיּוֹן. הָרִימִי בַכֹּחַ קוֹלֵךְ, מְבַשֶּׂרֶת יְרוּשָׁלִָם. הָרִימִי, אַל-תִּירָאִי. אִמְרִי לְעָרֵי יְהוּדָה, הִנֵּה אֱ-לֹהֵיכֶם.”

“Herald of Zion, ascend a lofty mountain! Herald of Jerusalem, lift up your voice with strength, be not afraid!” (Isaiah 40:9)

Who are these two messengers? Why was one commanded to scale the mountain, while the second messenger was instructed to raise her voice?

Zion and Jerusalem

We must first analyze the difference between the names “Zion” and “Jerusalem.”

“Zion” represents our national aspirations for autonomy and independence, while “Jerusalem” symbolizes our lofty visions for holiness and spiritual greatness. The Herald of Zion is none other than the Zionist movement, demanding the restoration of independence and sovereignty for the Jewish people in their own land. This call is heard clearly around the world; there is no need to further raise its voice.

However, secular Zionism is only concerned with our legitimate rights to self-rule. Its aspirations are the same as those of every other nation.

The Herald of Jerusalem, on the other hand, speaks of our return to holiness, so that we may fulfill our national destiny as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exod. 19:6). This messenger of redemption calls for the restoration of Jerusalem, our holy city, and the holy Temple. Unlike the Herald of Zion, she stands on “a high mountain” — her vision comes from a high and lofty standpoint. But her voice is faint and her demand is not heard clearly. The Herald of Jerusalem seems to fear raising her voice too loudly.

The prophet found fault with both messengers. He reproved the Herald of Zion: Why are you standing down below, together with all the other nations? Why do you only speak of the commonplace goals of the gentile nations? “Ascend a lofty mountain!” Speak in the Name of God, in the name of Israel’s holy mission, in the name of the prophetic visions of redemption for the Jewish people and all of humanity.

The prophet then turned to the Herald of Jerusalem: You who call for the return to the city of holiness, you are speaking from the right place, demanding our lofty ideals. But your voice is not heard. You need to learn from the Herald of Zion and “Lift up your voice in strength, be not afraid!

(Silver from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Mo'adei HaRe’iyah, pp. 482-483)

Illustration image: ‘Reconstruction of the Temple of Herod’ (James Tissot)