Almond Branches and Boiling CauldronsBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
These are the words of rebuke from Jeremiah (Yirmiyahu) who was a Kohein (priest) and who was descended from Joshua and Rachav (see Talmud Megilla 14b). G-d appeared to Jeremiah in the days of King Yoshiyahu (Josiah) of Judah and he prophesied through the reign of King Tzidkiyahu, until the Jews were exiled in the month of Av.
G-d said to Jeremiah, “I knew you even before you were formed in your mother’s womb; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Rashi refers to the Seder Olam, which says that G-d showed Adam every generation and its prophets.) Jeremiah balked. “”I don’t know how to speak – I’m only a youth!” (Jeremiah is frequently associated with Moses; this is one way in which they were similar, as Moses had a similar hesitation.) G-d replied, “Don’t say that you’re just a youth. Go where I send you and say what I tell you; don’t fear because I will protect you.”
G-d reached out and placed His words in Jeremiah’s mouth. He said, “Behold, I have appointed you over nations, to destroy and to build.” G-d then showed Jeremiah a vision. He asked Jeremiah what he saw; it was the branch of an almond tree. G-d said, “Just as the almond branch blossoms quickly, I will quickly perform the things I tell you.” Next, G-d showed Jeremiah the vision of a bubbling pot facing north. G-d said, “The troubles to befall the nation will come from the north,” meaning Babylonia, which was north of Israel. “They will attack Jerusalem and all the cities of Judah and I will judge the people for their evil, since they turned away and worshipped idols.”
Jeremiah was instructed to gird himself, like a warrior, and to speak to the people. He was not to let the people discourage him. G-d made Jeremiah like an invincible fortress, with iron pillars and copper walls, against the kings of Judah, the officers and the people. “They will fight against you,” G-d said, “but they will not defeat you because I am on your side.”