|July 10, 2010
Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4
The authorship of the book of Lamentations, which is chanted on the Ninth of Av, is attributed to the Prophet Jeremiah. It is most probably the reason why last week's and this week's haftarot were selected to be chanted. This week's haftarah reflects the historical reality of Jeremiah's time. What is the good of your going to Egypt? What is the good of your going to Assyria? (v.18). that is to say, what good is it that you seek foreign alliances to protect yourselves against the Babylonian empire when all you should be doing is having faith in Me and living just, ethical and moral lives.
The prophet laments that all of Israel is no longer asking, where is the God who brought us up from the land of Egypt in order to enjoy the fruit and bounty of the land. He mourns that the priests have become assimilated and corrupted and are not asking themselves where is the Lord? He grieves that the scholars and rulers and prophets have forgotten Him.
In the midst of his agony, the prophet compares the children of Israel to a reclining whore whose activities are so corrupt that they have transmuted noble vines into base alien ones. If being a prostitute is not sufficient then we are likened to a nation and to a people of hedonists who behave like a lustful she-camel run amok with all of its emotions unchecked and whose passion cannot be restrained. Wow! What a metaphor!
Just think about it a people, a country of hedonists, of men and women who are only concerned with immediate gratification, equating objects and items purchased in stores with satisfaction. Who would have thunk it! And I had difficulty in Las Vegas? People more concerned with filling their mouths, stuffing their bellies, than feeding their souls. You are correct; this haftarah lacks any relevance to our world.
An ancient Midrash written thousands of years ago explained that God experimented and created different worlds before ours. The first attempt was a world solely based on the attribute of love. It must have been a wonderful world but it wasn't successful because progress never took place and the world's inhabitants became totally involved with satisfying their physical and sensual needs. The second attempt was a world based solely on law. But progress ground to a halt because a world governed just by law was too complicated and to inhuman. The third attempt was our world one created with a balance of Justice and mercy, of law and of love.
One week and a few days before a national fast designed to help us recall the destruction of our nation, the haftarah reminds us that the destiny and course that a nation chooses is directly related to the manner that its people choose to live.
This week's Haftarah commentary was written by
Rabbi Charles Simon,
Executive Director of the FJMC and author of
"Building A Successful Volunteer Culture: Finding Meaning in Service in the Jewish"
Jewish Lights Publishing.
Translation of the Haftarah may be found here: http://www.jtsa.edu/PreBuilt/ParashahArchives/jpstext/
The FJMC weekly haftarah commentary is one of the few haftarah commentaries available on line. The USCJ through its Fuchsberg Center in Jerusalem has also been posting a weekly haftarah commentary for a number of years. We highly recommend it. If you are interested you can find a link on the left side of our weekly commentary and click through.
In 2003 the FJMC commissioned a Sefer Haftarah, a scroll consisting of all the Haftarot which follows the Haftarah order that appears in the USCJ and Rabbinical Assembly Torah translation and commentary Etz Hayim. The FJMC Sefer Haftarah visits a different synagogue in North America every week.This scroll contains vowels and cantillation and allows the haftarah reader to experience the Haftarah in a more personal way. FJMC also produces individual personalized Haftarot for those who wish to recognize a special occasion. Scrolls of Haftarot have been in use since the early middle ages.