Hoshea the Prophet
Afterwards Shall the Children of Israel Return
The contrast in the title illustrates again the cycling of the Prophet Hoshea back and forth between comfort, especially with regard to the "Acharit HaYamim," the "End of Days," when the Jewish People will experience a miraculous Redemption based on their "Teshuvah," their "Return" to G-d, and the almost savage criticism of their behavior during his own generation, when they burst all boundaries in their terrible behavior. Hoshea was warning them that if they did not do "Teshuvah," Repentance, they would experience destruction and exile.
First, Some Statistics
The third chapter of the Book of Hoshea is the smallest chapter in that Book, as well as the shortest chapter in all of the "Trei Asar."
Here is a list of the number of "Perakim"/Chapters in each of the twelve Books:
"And the L-rd said to me, 'Go again' "
RADAK begins by referring to the phenomena that Hoshea is returning again to the reproof of his own generation, as that is the general style of the prophets, to fluctuate between comforting the People and criticizing them. As we saw earlier, a characteristic of the Prophecy of Hoshea is that it involves the prophet's marrying a woman, either literally or only in a prophetic vision, but either way, to serve as a symbol. Here, HaShem says "Go again" because this is the second symbolic marriage that Hoshea is instructed to enter.
The first marriage symbolized the tremendously gifted but equally arrogant and wicked King of "Mamlechet Yisrael," the Kingdom of Israel, Yeravam ben Nevat, and several of the Kings who followed him and followed in his footsteps. These Kings abandoned the "Beit HaMikdash" and worshipped calves set up by Yeravam in the territory of Ephrayim.
The second marriage, in which Hoshea is told to have a relationship described as "ahuvat rea," "true love," with his spouse, symbolizes the original relationship between HaShem and the Jewish People. At that time, He loved them as a beloved spouse, but Israel was nevertheless unfaithful to Him, and turned from the worship of the One True G-d to the worship of false gods.
" ve-ohavei ashishei anavim.", " and loved goblets of wine."
The question is, "What is the meaning of the term "ashishei?" The term does appear elsewhere in "TANAKH", in "Shir HaShirim," the "Song of Songs," recited on the Intermediate Shabbat of Pesach, describing in metaphorical terms, the love between a man and a woman, the love between HaShem and the People of Israel. There, in Shir HaShirim (2:5), we find "Samechuni ba'ashishot, ra'peduni ba-tapuchim, " "He supported me with 'ashishot,' and sustained me with apples, "
RASHI cites the view of the medieval Hebrew grammarian Menachem Ibn Seruk, to explain the unusual word "ashishot" as meaning "goblets."
Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra defines the term simply as "grapes," perhaps "clusters of grapes."
RADAK continues his explanation, that instead of loving the Torah and its commandments, which teach a person proper attitudes and behavior, Israel chose instead the love of physical pleasure, such as the drinking of wine, and became like the drunkards criticized by the Prophet Yeshayahu, "Woe to the 'Crown of Arrogance, the drunkards of Ephrayim" (Yeshayahu 28:3).
"And I bought her for Myself for fifteen pieces of silver and a 'chomer' of barley and a 'lesech' of barley."
RASHI, after translating the unusual word, "va-ekrehah" as "I bought her," proceeds to cite the "Targum," the combination translation and interpretation of Yonatan ben Uziel, who renders this verse as follows: "And I redeemed them at My command on the fifteenth day of the Month of Nisan, and I made shekalim of silver an atonement for their souls, and I decreed that they offer before Me an 'omer' from the barley harvest; that is to say, I didn't burden you with great difficulties."
The fifteenth of Nisan is an obvious reference to Pesach, the Holiday of the Exodus, and the connection of silver, "Kesef" to "Nisan," the name of the month in which the Exodus occurred, is made by the use of "Gematria."
"Gematria" is the device of comparing the sums of numerical equivalents of the letters that spell Hebrew words, to relate their meanings. The "Gematria" of Nisan (cheating just a little by removing the "Yud") and "Kesef," Hebrew for silver, are the same. The sum, for "Nisan" of 50 (for "Nun") and 60 (for "Samach") and another 50 (for the second "Nun") equals the sum for "Kesef" of 20 (for "Kof") and 60 (for "Samach") and 80 (for "Pey").
Silver was made an atonement for their souls in the census described in Shemot 30:12-13, "And each man would give the atonement for his soul this should be given by all who pass before the counters, a half-shekel of the holy shekel "
The word used in the verse is "chomer," but Yonatan ben Uziel interprets it as "omer" because sometimes the gutteral letters "chet" from "chomer" and "ayin" from "omer" are interchangeable.
Abarbanel and Metzudat David say that the number "fifteen" is a hint of the fifteen prophets who prophesied concerning the Redemption of the Jewish People at the "end of days." The fifteen are King David in the Book of "Tehilim," Yeshayahu, Yirmiyahu, Yechezkel, Hoshea, Yoel, Amos, Ovadiah, Michah, Chavakuk, Tzefaniah, Daniel, Chaggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
There seem to be some difficulties with the above idea. First of all, didn't Moshe himself, the "Adon of the Neviim," the greatest of the Prophets and his sister, Miriam, also a great Prophetess, sing the "Shirat HaYam," the Song of the Sea, which according to our Tradition was not focused on the event that had just transpired, the Splitting of the Sea, but actually on the Future of the People of Israel, specifically at the time of "Acharit HaYamim," the "End of Days?"
Going backwards in time, didn't HaShem reveal in prophetic visions to the "Avot" that "Eretz Yisrael" would belong to the Jewish People for all generations?
Perhaps another possibility is that the "fifteen" refer to the "Shophtim," the Judges. There were exactly fifteen Judges, who provided leadership for the Jewish People, temporal and spiritual, during the difficult transitional period when they first entered and conquered the Land of Israel. And the tie-in with "kessef," silver, a metal of significant value, but not the most precious metal, gold, is that while all of the fifteen Judges were equally valuable for the Jewish People, as per the expression "Yiphtach BDoro KiShmuel BDoro," "Yiphtach the Judge is considered as great in his generation as Shmuel in his generation," they were not as "precious," perhaps, as other leaders of the Jewish People, like the Prophets. After all, it was said of that period that during that time, " each person would do as he wished" (Shophtim 17:6).
Yiphtach was more-or-less "kicked out" of his family because he was the illegitimate son of his father. He became the leader of a group of bandits (reminiscent of "Resh Lakish," many centuries later). However, when the Jewish People was menaced by the nation of Amon, there was no other military leader available to the Jews, they approached Yiphtach to lead their forces. He accepted, but only on condition that they accept him as their leader. Victory followed and thus Yiphtach became the 9th Shophet.
In support of this idea is the reference to "barley," because Megilat Ruth, the Story of Naomi and Ruth that we recite on Shavuot, begins "And it came to pass in the days of the Shophtim ," and when Naomi and Ruth return to Beit Lechem, the verse reads, "And Naomi, together with Ruth her daughter-in-law, were returning from the fields of Moav, and they came to Beit Lechem at the beginning of the barley harvest."
"And a Chomer and a Lesech "
The "Chomer" is a measure equal to ten "ephahs," or thirty "seahs." The "Lesech" is equal to five "ephahs" or fifteen "seahs." The sum of the ten and five, corresponding to the "fifteen" mentioned in the verse, is explained by the RADAK as referring to the sum of the three "Avot" and the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
Alternatively, Rav Saadiah Gaon suggests that the "fifteen" refers to the three leaders of Israel Moshe, Aharon and Miriam plus the Twelve Tribes.
The sum of thirty and fifteen, forty-five, has to wait for an additional number coming from the next verse.
"And I said to her, For many days you should not play the harlot and not be with another man. And so will I be for you. "
RASHI explains the expression "yamim rabim," "many days," as representing the sum of the minimum of the plural of days, "two," plus the minimum of the term "rabim," "many," three, the sum equaling "five," to be added to the forty-five from the previous verse, to yield "fifty." That number refers to the number of days that passed between the Exodus from Egypt and the Giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.
And on that fiftieth day, says HaShem, "I offered her the Torah on Mt. Sinai, commanding her not to play the harlot ("There shall be no other gods for you besides Me (the True G-d)" (Shemot 20:3).
"And so shall I be unto you." RASHI says this is a "mashal," a metaphor, for "Anochi HaShem Elo-hecha," "I am the L-rd your G-d" that the Jewish People heard at Mt. Sinai.
RADAK elaborates the "mashal," "Because you were not faithful to me , your punishment will be that you will have to remain in the state of living widowhood for a long time. During that period, however, you shall continue to identify yourself as my wife, not committing adultery with many men, nor attaching yourself to any single man."
In literature, particularly in poetry, the metaphor and its cousin, the "simile," are powerful devices in the arsenal of the poet. They are both comparisons, but the metaphor is more of an identification of one element with the other; for example, "The moon is a ghostly galleon upon the shining sea." As opposed to a simile, that uses the word "like" or "as;" as for example, "I think that I shall never see, A poem lovely as a tree "
In the "Tefilot," the prayers of the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, we find several metaphors (specifically, similes, in this case) mentioned for human life, " it is like a broken piece of pottery, like a flower that withers, like a cloud that hovers, and like a dream that flies away."
"And so will I be for you."
Metzudat David explains the expression "And so will I be for you" as meaning that I will also wait for you until I marry you again.
RADAK explains that HaShem (through the "Navi," the Prophet) Himself elaborates the "mashal," the metaphor, and explains the "nimshal," the meaning of the metaphor.
The verse refers to the Period of Exile in which we currently find ourselves. We have "no King and no officer" because we are subordinate to foreign Kings and their officers. It is analogous to the expression that is used in the Pesach Haggadah, in the explanation of why, in our glorious Exile, we still say "hashata avdei," "we are still servants," because "Acati avdei Achashverosh anan," "We are still the servants of Achashverosh," or Bill Clinton, anyway.
"And there is no sacrifice and no monument "
RADAK explains that that this means "no sacrifice to HaShem and no monuments erected to foreign gods either." He seems to be saying that HaShem has "jumped up a level," so to speak, in His relationship with the human race - not only with the Jewish People, but also, amazingly, with the worshippers of the stars and the planets, whose faiths have a slight resemblance to the true faith, but are rendered impotent in this era of Divine partial withdrawal.
"And afterwards, the Jewish People will return, and seek the L-rd their G-d and David, their King, and they will come trembling to HaShem and to His Goodness, at the end of days."
RASHI explains this verse as follows:
"And afterwards" - That is, after the Exile, in the time of the Redemption.
" the Jewish People will return and seek the L-rd "
"It was taught in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, The Jewish People rejected three things at the time of Rechavam, the time of the split of the Jewish People into the Kingdom of Yehudah and the Kingdom of Israel: the Rule of Heaven, the Kingdom of David, and the Holy Temple. As it says (in "Melachim"/Kings 1, "Perek"/Chapter 12), "We have no share in David;" this is to be understood simply as stated. "To your tents ("ohalecha"), O Israel" means to your gods (elohecha) - go back to your idols. "Take care of your own House, David" refers to the rejection of the "Beit HaMikdash," the Holy Temple."
"Rabbi Shimon ben Menasya said, No good sign will be shown to the People of Israel until they repent and return to those three things that they had rejected. And afterwards, the Jewish People will return and seek the L-rd their G-d, this refers to the Rule of Heaven; and David their King, to be understood simply, and come trembling before HaShem and His Goodness, this refers to the Beit HaMikdash, as we say (Devarim 3), That Good Mountain. "
If in our time we reject the Temple Mount and turn it over to others, we will thereby be rejecting HaShem again, something that this "late in the game," after His Mercy in returning us to our Land, we probably dont want to do.
"Hear the word of HaShem, Children of Israel, for HaShem has an argument with those who live in the Land; for there is no truth and no kindness and no knowledge of the L-rd in the Land."
Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra explains "the land" as referring specifically to "Eretz Yisrael," the Land of Israel - the Land of G-d, the Holy Land.
"Hear the word of HaShem" - Once again the Prophet returns to the criticism of his own generation from the glowing portrait of "Acharit HaYamim," the End of Days, of the previous verse.
" with those who live in the Land " - "I have cause for a dispute with those who live in the Land of Israel, for I gave them the Land only on condition that they practice Righteousness and Justice. And it was with that same condition that I promised to observe and conduct the affairs of the Land from the beginning of the year till the end of the year. But since they have chosen to do the opposite (swearing falsely, etc., as detailed in the next "Passuk"), I too will do the opposite of what I promised, And I will hide My Face from them; And the Land will go into mourning, and all who live there will be cut off, for there is no Truth!
" And there is no kindness " - Of course there is no kindness! For "Chesed," Kindness, is an abundance of "Emmet," Truth. And if there is no Truth, how could there be Kindness? And so it is with the expression "it cannot be measured, nor can it be counted!" For it is obvious that in order to count the elements within an entity, one would have to be able at least to measure the entity!
"Swearing falsely, and murder and kidnapping and adultery - they have broken all boundaries! And one pool of blood has come into contact with another."
What a description of a society! The four behaviors correspond to the four prohibitions commanded in the "Aseret HaDibrot: "Lo Tirtzach! Lo Tinaf! Lo Tignov! Lo Taaneh BReacha Ed Shaker!" "You shall not murder! You shall not commit adultery! You shall not Kidnap! You shall not testify falsely against your neighbor!"
RASHI defines "alo vchachesh" as "swearing falsely."
He quotes Targum Yonatan on "VNaof" as "They beget children with their neighbors wives," and "pool of blood, etc." as meaning they "pile sin upon sin."
But RASHI says that the plain "Pshat," or the simple meaning is that there is so much murder that not even the NYC Police Dept. could control it, and the blood of one victim flows into the blood of another victim.
There is a similar expression to "ve-damim be-damim naga-u," "one pool of blood came into contact with another" in one of the "Kinot LTishah BAv," the sorrowful Prayers of Lamentation recited on the saddest day of the Hebrew Calendar, in which we see the "Midat HaDin," the Divine Attribute of Strict Justice operating in full "Midah Kneged Midah," "Measure for Measure" mode. That "Kinah," in particular, speaks of the seething blood of the murdered Prophet Zechariah. Nevuzaradan, the murderous Roman Commander tried to quiet the Prophets blood with the blood of innumerable Jewish victims until it was said that "their blood mingled and rose as high as the River of Egypt."
RADAK quotes Rav Saadiah Gaon that they entered into the Covenant of Curses; specifically, where the Torah says "Cursed be the man who makes an idol or an image, they answered Amen, but violated it anyway!
The words "Chesed," and "Paratzu," that appear in the "P'sukim"/Verses that we are studying this session, and the word "Kadosh" are examples of special words in Hebrew that mean one idea and its opposite!
Thus, the word "Chesed," that appears in Hoshea 4:1, in the expression " and there is no 'chesed' " means "kindness." However, in Vayikra 20:17, where the Torah is dealing with prohibited intimate relationships, we find, in connection with a man who has such a relationship with his sister, perhaps out of an "excess" of loving-kindness shown by each to the other, that the Torah says that they have committed a crime. On the other hand, the Midrash notes that Kayin married his sister, for who else was in the world for him to marry? The Midrash excuses, in fact commends, that behavior, based on the concept of "Olam chesed yi'baneh," "The world is built on kindness."
In a similar, but slightly different manner, the word "Paratzu," that appears in Hoshea 4:2 means that " they burst through the boundaries of proper behavior." In other contexts, the word has more positive connotations, such as Bereshit 38:29, where "Peretz," who indeed received his name based on this behavior, burst forth into the world before his twin brother "Zarach," whose hand had emerged first and was (Zarach was) therefore the "Bechor," the first-born. And in the expression adopted as almost a theme song by Lubavitch Chassidut, based on the blessing given by HaShem to Yaakov in Bereshit 28:14, in the expression, "U'faratzta yama va-kedma, tzafona, va-negba ," "And you will burst forth to the west, and to the east , to the north and to the south "
" together with the beasts of the field, the birds of the sky, and the fish of the sea "
RADAK explains that the verse describes the extent of the destruction that awaited the Jewish Kingdoms, insofar as extending to the Animal Kingdoms surrounding them, if they would not do "Teshuvah." He considers three possibilities:
That the destruction will affect only the domestic animals and birds, but not the wild, desert-inhabiting animals and birds, and not the fish
That the destruction will fall upon all the animals and birds, domestic and wild, but not the fish
That the destruction will befall all the animals and the birds, and the fish as well, because the spiritual and physical pollution of the Jewish People, at that time, extended into the natural world, even to the depths of the sea
The RADAK has referred numerous times to the length of the Exile in which the Jewish People now finds itself (and that was centuries ago, what shall we say now?). Distressingly, we find many of the symptoms that were prevalent in our People then, still within us even now. This is not a very comforting thought, to say the least. Ignorance of our tradition and self-hatred, denial of our uniqueness as a People and of the legitimacy of our claim to "Eretz Yisrael" abound!
But in that bleak picture, we also see expanding bright areas, representing the Return of significant numbers of our People to HaShem and His Torah. We pray that these bright areas expand and become dominant, changing the character of the picture from one of "afelah," thick darkness, to one of "ohr gadol," bright light, illuminating the path of the "Mashiach."