Jeremiah is Commanded Not to Do His LaundryBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
G-d told Jeremiah to go buy a linen belt and to wrap it around his loins (imagine the way a modern athletic supporter is worn). Jeremiah was not to wash it. The prophet did as he was instructed. G-d then told Jeremiah to take that sweaty garment to a place called Peras (possibly on the banks of the Euphrates, as Peras is also the name of that river) and to hide the belt in a small cave there. Again the prophet did as instructed. Finally, Jeremiah was directed to retrieve the belt. When he did, the prophet discovered that it had rotted and was worthless. At this time, G-d decided to reveal the meaning behind these strange commands. G-d said that just as the linen belt was destroyed, this is how He would destroy the arrogance of the nation of Judah and the ego of the residents of Jerusalem. These people, who continue to follow their desires, rather than G-d’s word, and who serve idols, will be like the belt: no good for anything. And just as the belt is wrapped around the loins, this is how G-d caused the nation to cling to Him, but they rebelled.
G-d instructed Jeremiah to say the following in His Name: Every jug will be filled with wine. When the people say “We know that every jug is filled with wine,” Jeremiah will reply that the jugs are a metaphor; all the people, the kings, the priests and prophets will be full of drunkenness. G-d will smash them against one another, breaking them like jugs.
The people were encouraged to repent before it was too late. If they do not listen, Jeremiah will cry because their arrogance has caused G-d’s people to be exiled. Tell King Yehoyachin and his royal mother to sit on the ground like mourners, for their greatness has been brought low. The cities are sealed in fear of Nebuchadnezzar; the nation has been exiled peacefully (meaning either surrender or acceptance of the exile as payment for their sins).
Look north; where is the exiled flock? What can you say when G-d comes, after you welcomed foreign idols? Won’t you feel pains like a woman in labor? If you think, “Why did this happen?” know that it’s because of the magnitude of the nation’s sins. Can a person change the color of his skin, or a leopard its spots? (This is where the saying comes from, folks!) That’s how likely it is that this sinful nation will change their ways! They will be scattered like straw in the wind. This is payback, says G-d, for overlooking Him in favor of idols. G-d shames the nation by metaphorically “lifting the hem of their garment over their face.” (The metaphor is apt because the cheating nation is compared to an adulterous spouse and this would have been a way of shaming a promiscuous woman.) G-d has seen their cheating on every hill and they will not be purified from it.