Haftarah of Parshat Masei - 5760
DePuranita" - Second Haftarah of Punishment
Sin of Idol-Worship
This week, Ashkenazim
and Sefardim both
read, for the Second Haftarah of Punishment
from the Book of Yirmiyahu,
beginning with the Chapter 2, Verse 4, through Chapter 2, Verse 28.
For appendices, the Ashkenazim use Yirmiyahu 3:4 and the Sefardim
use Yirmiyahu 4:1-2.
the word of the L-rd, O House of Jacob,
Yirmiyahu makes it clear that the security of the People of Israel lies in
the family unit; therefore, he stresses "House,"
"Family," House;" "No man is an island."
they have gone after 'nothingness,' and have become 'nothing.' "
uses an idea developed by Shelomo
HaMelech in "Megilat Kohelet,"
Ecclesiastes (perhaps the translation is not very helpful), in
which he discusses how many of the aspects of life that appeal to human
beings are really "havel havalim; hakol havel;" "sheer
nothingness; of absolutely no value." This applies to idols
that are constructed by human beings and then worshipped.
did not say,
G-d, Who brought us up
Out of the
Land of Egypt;
That led us
through the wilderness,
This is in
stark contrast to the loving memory that HaShem
has of them at the beginning of their relationship, that was included at
the end of last week's Haftarah, "I remember the affection of your
how you followed Me into the wilderness,
brought them into a well-planted Land,
Priests did not ask, 'Where is G-d?' the Torah Scholars didn't know me,
leadership was corrupt on all levels: the religious and the secular.
I will continue to dispute with you,
There may be
a positive hint here, though, that all is not lost. For if, even in the eventuality of a "Churban,"
that in fact occurred, the Prophet could speak of grandchildren, this is a
strong hint of Jewish survival.
the Islands of the Kittites and observe,
There are a
number of explanations for the Kittites and the Dwellers of Kedar:
One is that
the Kittites worship the water, and the Dwellers of Kedar worship fire.
Even though the Dwellers of Kedar know that their god is not
all-powerful because water extinguishes fire, they have not exchanged
their god for another.
explains that both those nations were tent-dwellers and shepherds, and
when they would move from place to place they would carry all their
possessions, including their so-called gods.
By contrast, HaShem says that He carried, as it were, the
Children of Israel through the desert for forty years until he planted
them in their homeland. And
yet He was exchanged for false gods!
120, King David complains about his neighbors, the tent-dwellers of Kedar:
rescue my soul from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue
Woe unto me
dwelt with those who inhabit the tents of Kedar.
Long have I dwelt with those who hate peace.
I am for peace! But
when I speak, they are for war."
claim to fame of those people was their lying and deceitfulness, and yet
even they remained faithful to their gods.
today, when the People of Israel attempt to deal with the descendants of
these People, the descendants of Yishmael, they cling fiercely to their
religion, which calls for hatred of the Jews.
astonished O you Heavens,
used for Storm, Sa-Aru, corresponds
(except for the common exchange of the letter Sin for the
letter Samach), to the word used in
Yeshayahu (54:11), So-Arah, Storm-Tossed, when the Prophets
report to HaShem that Israel, the storm-tossed one, refuses to be
comforted until and unless
HaShem Himself comfort her.
People has committed two wrongs -
They left a
Source of flowing waters, perhaps because they could not see the
Source, in favor of a visible cistern to hold water, because they could at
least see the cisterns, even though they were broken and could not retain
Israel a servant?
were a slave, there might be reason for him to think that he was cut off
from the "Hashgacha Pratit," the Personal Care and Supervision
of HaShem, and the events of his life were merely chance occurrences.
But this is surely not the case!
On the contrary, Israel is the "Chosen People," the
"First-Born Son," as it were, of HaShem, the nation that has
never left His direct and constant supervision!
young lions have roared against him,
reference is to the Kingdom of Israel (Metzudat David), that had already
been destroyed, or perhaps not necessarily, because often the Prophet
speaks of future events as if they had already occurred, and if so, he may
have been speaking of the Kingdom of Yehudah.
Tachpanches were leading cities of Egypt, the nation upon which the Jewish
People had relied for support and defense.
hardly a chance occurrence! It
was rather a direct result of Israel's abandonment of HaShem, and their
abandonment of their uniqueness.
now, what are you doing in Egypt,
Israel, why are you drinking the black waters of the Nile, the river in
which its nation tried to
drown you, and why have you had to drink from the polluted waters of the
Euphrates, about which you would complain and lament that "you sat
and wept when you remembered Zion" ("Tehilim"/Psalms 137).
own evil will give you 'Mussar,' Reproof,
would worship only that which you can see, "Know this and See this
bitter lesson," that it was your abandonment of belief in the
Invisible G-d that got you into this terrible trouble.
ancient times it was I Who broke your yoke,
remember in the Ten Commandments, the very first one was "I am the
L-rd your G-d Who took you out of Egypt, the House of Bondage," and
you said you believed it. But
from the Golden Calf till your latest exploit, you have worshipped false
planted you as a noble vine,
two interpretations of "Sorek," the "noble vine:"
First, that you are the descendants of "Avot,"
Founding Fathers who were straight and righteous.
interpretation based on the "gematria" (sum of numerical
equivalents of the letters) of the word "Sorek:" (Letter
"Sin" = 300, Letter "Vav" = 6, Letter "Resh"
= 200, Letter "Kuf" = 100; Total = 606).
HaShem says, He gave the Jewish People 606 more Commandments, or
in the 613 Commandments of the Torah, than he gave to the rest of the
world, in the 7 Mitzvot
that apply to the Sons of Noach.
though you wash yourself with nitre,
explains this frightening verse as relating to the Sin of the Golden Calf,
about which it is said that
every punishment that is meted out to the Jewish People over the
course of its history, contained and contains an element of
"Righteous Indignation," as it were, tracing back to the Golden
because that act of disloyalty took place so close to the event of "Matan
Torah," the "Giving of the Torah," the event pictured as
the "Wedding of the Holy One Blessed be He to the People of
Israel." In which the
Torah was the Ring, the "Kessef Kiddushin," the Object of Value
given by the "Chatan," HaShem the Groom, to the "Kallah,
" the People of Israel, the Bride, on the basis of which she
dedicated herself to Him, exclusively.
try to deny your sin,
So it is
with the People of Israel, who cannot control their desire for
yourself from walking barefoot
still a possibility for you to ward off the punishment of Exile from your
is with the shame of the thief,
Yirmiyahu declares the bankruptcy of the Leadership of Israel - no one has
the strength to turn the People around, not even, he admits with despair
at his own failure, the Prophets!
says) "For they call the wood, 'My Father,'
are your gods that you made?
Appendix of the Ashkenazim
never too late!
Appendix of the Sefardim
is never too late, People of Israel,' says HaShem;
People of Israel could not summon the spiritual resources at that time,
facing the Babylonians, nor at the next, facing the Romans. Let us try to do better, with the help of G-d, this time, as
we face our enemies.
It says in
the Talmud that HaShem had to "abolish the desire for idol-worship
from humanity," for it was too great a stumbling block for people to
overcome on their own. Not
being subject any longer to that temptation, it is difficult for us to put
ourselves in the place of our ancestors, who struggled unsuccessfully with
that great sin.
was simply too difficult to believe, as I hinted at a couple of times in
the above essay, in an invisible G-d, no matter how many miracles He
performed. It was perhaps
easier to believe in a visible god, even one of our own construction, no
matter how lifeless and incapable it seemed.
for us, it may be that at the same time that the temptation for idol
worship was removed, so was the ability of human beings to experience the
same intensity about Religion. In
our new sophistication, Religion may have become only a matter of the
intellect. May HaShem restore
to us the intensity of that "Old-Time" Religion, so that we may
continue to serve Him with a "pure heart," but also "with
all our hearts, all our souls and all our might" (based on "Kriat
Shema," Devarim 6:5).
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU