Jeremiah – Chapter 14

The Impending Drought

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

G-d spoke to Jeremiah about the droughts that were to come. The people of Judah will mourn because their cities will be desolate; the cry of Jerusalem will go up. Important people will send their servants to go find water, but they will find the pits dry and will return empty-handed. They will cover their heads in mourning over the lack of water and in shame for their inability to fulfill their task. The ground will be broken from the lack of rain; farmers will be ashamed. Deer in the fields will give birth, but have to leave their offspring unattended to search for grass. Donkeys will gasp for air, climbing hills to look for grass, unsuccessfully. (All this is written in the present tense in the text, even though Jeremiah was speaking of the future.)

If our sins testify against us, we ask G-d to act for the sake of His Name. Why should our Hope and Savior be a stranger to His people, like a traveler who goes someplace else to sleep? G-d is among us and we are called by His Name, so we pray that He will not abandon us. G-d says that the people love to stray. They did not hesitate to do so, so He turned His back on them. Now He will remember their sins and pay them back in kind.

Once again G-d tells Jeremiah not to pray for the people. He will not accept it if the people fast or offer sacrifices; He is going to destroy them with war, famine and disease. Jeremiah responds by quoting the “prophets” of the time, who tell the people that none of this will happen; instead, there will be peace. G-d responds that those “prophets” are lying. He did not send them – He didn’t even speak to them! The false prophets who deny the war and famine will be the first to die in the war and famine! The people who listened to them will find themselves cast into the streets with no one to bury them. (Why should they be punished for listening to prophets? How should they know the prophets are false? The prophets said things that were clearly against the Torah. The people allowed themselves to be deceived because the false prophets said what they wanted to hear.)

Jeremiah was instructed to tell the people that his eyes will run with tears day and night without stopping because of the impending exile. If he goes in the fields, he will see people killed by the sword. In the city, he will see people killed by the famine. Prophets and priests have gone to a land not their own.

Why has G-d rejected His nation, afflicting them and allowing no cure? We pray for healing and peace, but all we get is evil and terror. We know that we have repeated the sins of our ancestors against G-d and we ask that He not condemn us – not because we deserve it, but for His own sake. We ask that He remember the covenant with the Forefathers and keep it with us. None of the idols of the nations can make it rain; only G-d can do that. We pray to Him, for it is He Who shuts the Heavens, holding back the rain.

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