Haftarah Parshat Mattot-Mase
(Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4; 4:1-2)
July 10, 2010
28 Tammuz 5770
(Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4; 4:1-2)
Generally even the dourest of haftarah readings ends with a note of hope. This explains why last week\’s haftarah \”borrowed\” the first few lines of the second chapter of Jeremiah which begin on a positive note, leaving this week\’s haftarah with only the chapter\’s stinging message. The second chapter of Jeremiah opened with an idyllic recollection of the relationship between God and the people when He led them out of Egypt during their desert sojourn. This picture contrasts dramatically with the inexplicable disloyalty of the children of Israel to God recounted immediately afterwards: \”Hear the word of the Lord, O House of Jacob, every clan of the house of Israel! Thus said the Lord: What wrong did your fathers find in Me that they abandoned Me and went after delusion and were deluded? They never ask themselves: \’Where is the Lord, who brought us up from the land of Egypt. Who led us through the wilderness, a land of deserts and pits, a land of drought and darkness, a land no man had traversed, where no human being had dwelt.\’\” (2:4-6)
As Professor A.J. Heschel pointed out, this verse expresses God\’s pain, disappointment and melancholy over being abandoned for no apparent reason. (The Prophets, pp. 109-10) The sages expressed similar bitterness over what they saw as an inexplicable abandonment of God and Torah: And the Sages say: \”Any sage who studied [Torah] and (then) withdrew [from the community of believing and observing Jews] has no share in the world to come, as it is said: \’Because he has despised the word of the Lord…that person shall be utterly cut off\’ (Numbers 15:31); it also says: \’What wrong did your fathers find in Me that they abandoned Me\’ (Jeremiah 2:5)\” (Avot d\’Rabbi Natan ver. 1, ch. 36, Schechter – Kister ed. p. 109)
Neither Jeremiah, speaking for God, nor the sages speaking for themselves, centuries later, could fathom that people might abandon something with substance like belief in God or Torah for something insubstantial like idolatry. This same problem seems to face the Jewish community in every generation. I suppose there is something difficult about being a member of a minority people with ways that differ from the way the majority does things or how others think about things. What everybody else is doing is not always more right. God\’s message continues to resonate for those who heed it.
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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