Haftarah Parshat Bemidbar (Hosea 2:1-22) outside of Israel
June 11, 2016 / 5 Sivan 5776
Please note: in Israel we read Parshat Naso
Hosea’s opening prophecy oscillates between divine approval and disapproval. Its opening vignette describes Israel’s disloyalty to God and God’s consequent displeasure. God’s discontent is expressed in some painful name calling and God’s symbolic disavowal of His relationship with His people when He commands Hosea to name his son ‘lo ammi”: “And He (God) said: “Call his name ‘Lo-ammi’; for you are not My people and I will not be yours.’’ (1:9) This denunciation is immediately followed up by a prophecy expressing the opposite sentiment: “And it shall come to pass that, instead of that which was said to them: ‘You are not My people’, it shall be said to them: ‘You are the children of the living God.’” (2:1)
This contradiction did not go without notice since these ideas are expressed in a variety of places in the Tanakh (Bible). In the following Talmudic discussion this discrepancy forms the crux of a debate: [It was taught]: “‘You are sons of the Lord your God’; when you behave as sons you are called children; if you do not behave as children, you are not called children: this is Rabbi Yehudah’s view. Rabbi Meir said [disagrees]: In either case you are called children, for it is said: ‘they are foolish children’ (Jeremiah 4:22); and it is also said: ‘They are children who have no loyalty’ (Deut. 32:20); and it is also said: ‘a seed of evildoers, sons who deal corruptly’ (Isaiah 1:4); and it is said: ‘And it shall come to pass that, instead of that which was said to them: ‘You are not My people’, it shall be said to them: ‘You are the children of the living God.’ (Hosea 2:1) Why [was it necessary for Rabbi Meir to] give these additional quotations? For should you reply, only when foolish are they called children, but not when they are disloyal, then come and hear: [therefore] it is said: ‘They are children who have no loyalty’. And should you say, when they have no loyalty they are called children, but when they serve idols they are not called children, then come and hear: And it is said: ‘a seed of evil-doers, sons that deal corruptly.’ And should you say, they are indeed called ‘children who act corruptly’, but not ‘good sons’, then come and hear: And it is said: ‘And it shall come to pass that, instead of that which was said unto them: You are not My people, it shall be said to them: ‘You are the children of the living God.’” (Kiddushin 31a)
The debate between Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Meir is an interesting one. Rabbi Yehudah seemingly holds that divine love is dependent on behavior. Rabbi Meir, on the other hand, seemingly sides with God’s unconditional love. The sages sided with Rabbi Meir in this argument even though normally the law follows Rabbi Yehudah. One might assume that they drew this conclusion that there was always hope that the good found in all of us was reclaimable.
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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