Jeremiah – Chapter 3

Your Cheating Heart

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Jeremiah says that if a man divorces his wife and she marries another, he may not take her back again after that. But the Jews “cheated on” G-d with many idols and He is still willing to take them back! Look around – is there any place they didn’t cheat on G-d? They sat by the side of the road, eagerly waiting for idolators to come! They defiled the land and rain was withheld, but they refused to be corrected. Why don’t they turn back to G-d and call Him “Father” again? If they would only do that, His anger would pass. Instead, they squeeze in as much evil as they are able.

G-d said to Jeremiah during the reign of King Yoshiyahu, “Look at how the Jews have relapsed. They worship idols on every hill and under every tree. My prophets told them to repent, but so far they haven’t listened. The Kingdom of Judah saw the mistakes made by the northern Kingdom of Israel and they walked into the same trap! Because of their cheating, I sent Israel into exile, divorcing them. But now Judah is cheating on Me! They are contaminating the land with their idolatry! Israel was better than Judah – at least they didn’t have the benefit of someone else’s example as a warning!”

G-d then told Jeremiah to bring back exiles from the Ten Tribes (see Talmud Megilla 14b). Jeremiah told them to return and that G-d would not be angry forever. All they had to do was acknowledge their sins, for rebelling against G-d. Return, the prophet tells them, and G-d will accept them. He will give the people leaders who will direct them according to His will and who will feed them knowledge and understanding. When the people are once again prosperous in the land, they will no longer need to go to battle bearing the Ark of the Covenant as in the old days; war will be a thing of the past.

Jerusalem will be considered the throne of G-d by all nations, who will gather there to serve Him. Judah and Israel will be reunited into one nation again. G-d gave them a desirable land and He asks that they call Him their Father again and follow Him.

The nation betrayed G-d like a faithless wife. A voice will be heard – the Jews crying that they forgot G-d. Return, Jeremiah says, and G-d will cure them of their backsliding tendencies. (That’s how repentance works; if we start it, G-d helps us finish it.) The people will realize that they turned to idols in vain – only G-d can save them. The idolatry of generations has left its toll on the nation; they are totally disgraced because they sinned against G-d for so long.

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