The prophet Isaiah spoke of two messengers proclaiming the imminent redemption of Israel:
“Herald of Zion, ascend a lofty mountain! Herald of Jerusalem, lift up your voice with strength, do not be afraid!” [Is. 40:9]
Who are these two metaphorical messengers? Why was one commanded to scale the mountain, while the second was told to call out more loudly?
*Zion and Jerusalem*
Rav Kook explained that ‘Zion’ represents our aspirations for Jewish independence, while ‘Jerusalem’ is a symbol of our lofty visions for holiness and spiritual greatness.
The ‘herald of Zion’ is none other than the Zionist movement, demanding the restoration of 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 like all peoples. Its aspirations are no more elevated than those of any other nation.
The ‘herald of Jerusalem,’ on the other hand, speaks of our return to holiness, so that we may fulfill our national mission as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” She calls for the restoration of Jerusalem, our holy city, and the holy Temple. Unlike the herald of Zion, she stands on “a high mountain,” i.e., her appeal is made from a holy, elevated standpoint. But her voice is faint and her demand is not heard. The ‘herald of Jerusalem’seems to fear raising her voice too loudly.
The prophet found fault with both messengers.
To the herald of Zion, he said: 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 the Torah’s mission for the Jewish people, in the name of the prophetic visions of redemption for Israel and all of humanity!
The prophet then turned to the herald of Jerusalem, and told her: 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.”
[adapted from Mo’adei HaRe’iyah pp. 482-483]
http://ravkook.n3.net – Rav A.I. Kook on the Weekly Parasha