Haftarah Parshat Bo
January 8, 2011
3 Shevat 5771
Until the last two lines of the haftarah, its message is aimed exclusively at Egypt. As in last week\’s haftarah, which contained a similar message, this one warns the Egyptian nation from the generation of the destruction of the Temple of its impending doom at the hands of the Babylonians. This Egypt was an undependable ally to the Judean nation and as a result, according to Jeremiah, deserved its doom.
The Jewish nation, during this time period, existed as the bridge between these two great powers and as a consequence was always caught between them in their battle for preeminence. This explains why this haftarah ends with a note of encouragement for this beleaguered nation: \”But you, have no fear, My servant Jacob, Be not dismayed O Israel! I will deliver you from far away, you folk from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall again have calm and quiet, with none to trouble him. But you, have no fear, My servant Jacob, declares the Lord, for I am with you. I will make an end (calah) of all the nations among which I have banished you, but I will not make an end of you! I will leave you unpunished, but I will chastise you in measure.\” (Jeremiah 46:17-18)
This, of course, was not the only time that the Jewish nation found itself in such calamitous circumstances. After the Babylonians came the Persians and after the Persians came the Greeks and after the Greeks came the Romans and so on. The message of these last two verses seemed perennially relevant. Threats to the Jewish people, its way of life and its beliefs were not always physical; many times Jews were spiritually vanquished by other nations as well.
The Hasidic tradition is well known for its psychological/spiritual reinterpretations of biblical passages. Rabbi Zadok from Lublin, a Polish master of the beginning of the last century understands Jeremiah\’s message in just such terms: \”\’But you, have no fear, My servant Jacob, be not dismayed O Israel! I will deliver you from far away\’ – For Jacob feared that some of his seed would go astray and regarding this, God said: \’Behold, I will save those from far away\’ – those who become distant from God.\” (Pri Tzadik Parshat Bo 11)
It was Reb Zadok\’s hope that just as God has given us the strength and fortitude to outlast our physical enemies, He will also help those who have gone astray to see the light to return and again find their home in God with their people.
This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
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