"HaShem is my Strength"
still before the Destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C.E., is trying
desperately to avert the Tragedy, to shake the Jewish People out of its
sinful ways. They are
extremely resistant to all of his calls for "Teshuvah,"
Repentance, and the Destruction seems more and more imminent.
Haftarah, Yirmiyahu mentions specifically the following three sins:
"Hashem is My Strength"
begins with the declaration by Yirmiyahu, "Hashem
is my strength and my fortress and my refuge." (Yirmiyahu 16:19)
The commentators understand this to mean that, with the help of
HaShem, the Prophet will stand strong against the sometimes violent
opposition that has arisen against him and his message among the People
and in the Palace.
Return of the Nations
contrasts the future behavior of the nations of the world in Messianic
Times with the behavior of the Jewish People.
"To You the nations will come from the distant parts of the
land" and they will confess the worthlessness of their fathers' gods.
"Can a man make a god? The man not being a god?"
Jewish People will continue to present an obstinate refusal to give up
their idolatry, even in the face of the "Teshuvah" of the
The Jews Cleave to their Idols
cling to their false gods, perhaps re-defined as their music, their
immodest styles of clothing and their improper language with an intensity
such that "The sin of the Kingdom of Yehudah is written with an iron
pen and with a stylus made from 'Shamir.' "(Yirmiyahu, 17:1)
The word "shamir" means "hard rock," but it
also means the miraculous creature used by King Solomon to cut the stones
for the First Temple, without the aid of iron implements, that Temple
which is soon to be destroyed, because
of the refusal of the People of Yehudah to give up their idolatry.
It is an
abnormal relationship, that the Jews have with the objects of their
idolatry; "With as much pride and joy as parents usually discuss
their children, the Judeans talk about their altars
17:2) Perhaps this is an allusion to the possible fact that the
Jewish People were refraining from having children at that time as at the
The Commandment of Shemittah is Abandoned
reason for the punishment-to-come is the fact that the Jewish People have
abandoned the Commandment of Shemittah,
that calls for the refraining of the Jewish farmer from working his land
during the seventh year.
will be forced to observe the Shemittah in the Land of your inheritance
because you will no longer be there
I will cause you to labor for your
enemy in a land that is strange to you
" (Yirmiyahu 17:4)
you have kindled a fire in my nostrils, so-to-speak, that will last 'forever.' " (Yirmiyahu 17:4)
interpret "forever" in the above verse non-literally, because
the "Galut," the Exile
that occurred after the destruction of the First Temple was
"only" seventy years, a relatively
short period of time historically, and especially when compared to our
current Exile, but nevertheless, a "lifetime" from the
perspective of a man.
"Cursed be the Man
be the man who trusts in man, and considers 'human flesh' his strength -
and from HaShem, he turns away his heart."
This curse falls upon someone who commits two sins: He trusts man, mere flesh-and-blood, too much, and trusts G-d too little.
man too much, despite the fact that David says in Tehilim "every man
is untruthful" ("Tehilim"/Psalms 116:11), or, perhaps more
accurately, when one looks at a whole person, there is inevitably some
falsehood in the total picture.
with regard to HaShem, His Seal is Truth.
This sin of
trusting HaShem too little is not unrelated to the sin of abandoning the
commandment of Shemittah. Because
over and above the fact that letting the earth lie uncultivated for one
year in seven may be good for the land from an agricultural point of view,
HaShem has made a greater promise to the Jewish People; in particular, to
the Jewish farmer.
"Yovel," the Jubilee, or Fiftieth Year, the Land is also
supposed to be treated as it is in the Shemittah Year.
Thus, in the sixth year of that final seven years, there would have
to be a truly phenomenal harvest, able to provide the needs of the People
for three years - the sixth,
seventh and eighth!
But that is
exactly what HaShem promises in Parshat Behar (Vayikra 25:21), "I
will command my blessing for you in the sixth year, and it will yield
produce sufficient for three years!"
To farm in that manner is quite a bit beyond normal practice and
requires a high level of trust in the "One Who makes the wind blow
and the rain fall" (Daily Shemoneh
Esray; introduction to the Second Blessing).
"Blessed is the Man
If a person
chooses to be faithful to HaShem, the "Navi,"
borrows an image from King David in Tehilim (1:3) "And he shall be
like a tree planted by streams of water, that bring forth fruit in its
season, and whose leaf does not wither
," except that he replaces
"whose leaf does not wither" with the word "raanan,"
luxuriant, in parallel and contra-point
to its use in Yirmiyahu (17:2) in reference to the Ashtarot, the
luxuriant tree used prominently in idolatry.
I am HaShem Who Examines the Heart
"The human heart is complicated; no
one can understand it!" (Yirmiyahu 17:9)
answers, "I am HaShem, Who examines the heart, and the kidneys
(thought to be associated in some way with feelings or plans), and I pay each person according to his ways, and according to the fruit
of his deeds." (Yirmiyahu 17:10)
"Reward and Punishment" is a concept in "Yahadut"
both on the national level and on the level of the individual.
this is because the Throne of HaShem in Heaven is exactly opposite the
Holy Temple, and therefore He is, as it were, with us and within us, and
able to know all our thoughts and deeds." (RADAK in the name of
Shmuel Ibn Tibbon on Yirmiyahu 17:12)
is the Hope of Israel," and those who leave him deserve to perish,
because they have abandoned the "source of living waters, HaShem."
"Heal me, Hashem, and I will be healed; Save me, and I will be saved,
because You are the Only One worthy of praise" (Yirmiyahu 17:14);
therefore, perhaps, Heal and
save all of my People - let me represent and embody them
(though they don't deserve it), for You are the Only One Who is called the
"One Who dwells in Praise," the One
Who can do impossible things.
Connections to the Parshah
Having endured the curse of Exile for some 2,000 years, and seen perhaps the beginning of the lifting of the curse in our time, may we hope now for the full implementation of the blessing?
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU