Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
JEREMIAH CHAPTER 1
JEREMIAH SON OF HILKIYAH
Verse 1: Jeremiah was born in the town of Anathot in the territory of Benjamin north of Jerusalem to a family of priests whose line went back to Eviathar and Ahimelech who were banished to Anathot by King Solomon (Kings I, 2:27). Although from a family of priests, it appears that Jeremiah may not have served in the Temple sacrificial rituals, although Targum Yonathan (Jer. 1:1) describes him as being "from the heads of the guard of the priests from among the AMARKALAYA that were in Jerusalem ". In the Temple , the AMARKALIM were officers no less than seven in number who held the keys to the Temple Courtyard (AZARA; Rambam, Laws of the Temple Vessels 4:17). RaDaK on Jer. 1:1 states that Jeremiah's father Hilkiyah is the same as Hilkiyah the son of Shafan who found the Sefer Torah in the Temple in the time of King Josiah (II Kings 22:8).
Vv 2-3: Jeremiah received Torah from the prophet Tzepahniah (Rambam, Intro. to Mishneh Torah), and his outstanding student was Baruch ben Neriyah, who was the teacher of Ezra. Jeremiah prophesied during the stormy final years of the First Temple, from the thirteenth year of the reign of the great revivalist King Josiah in the year 3298 = 462 B.C.E., through the eleven years of Jehoyakim and the eleven years of Tzedekiah, the last king of Judah, who was exiled with the destruction of the Holy Temple in 3338 = 422 B.C.E. Thus Jeremiah prophesied for 40 years. He wrote the work called by his name and also the Book of Kings and Eichah (Lamentations). It is said that the wise Ben Sira ("Ecclesiasticus") was Jeremiah's son (SIRA has the same gematria as YIRMIYAHU).
THE RELUCTANT PROPHET
V 5: "Before I formed you in the belly." - God showed Adam each of the generations that were to come and their prophets" (Rashi). The soul of Jeremiah was fore-destined for the awesome and terrible task of rebuking a people that would not listen and who were heading for destruction. ".a prophet to the NATIONS" - "to Israel , who are conducting themselves like the nations" (Rashi). God told Moses He would establish a prophet like him over Israel : this was Jeremiah, who like Moses rebuked Israel and likewise prophesied for forty years (Rashi). While Jeremiah traced his lineage to Aaron the Priest, he was also descended from Rahab the Convert.
V 6: "And I said, AHAH, O Lord God" - "this is an expression of YELALAH" (Rashi), howling and mourning. ".behold I do not know to speak, for I am a lad" - "I am not fit to rebuke them. When Moses rebuked them, it was near to his death and he was already noteworthy in their eyes because of the many miracles he had wrought for them.. But I am at the beginning of my mission - must I come to rebuke them?" (Rashi).
Vv 7-8: God fortifies Jeremiah, telling him not to fear the people. God puts forth His "hand" and puts prophesy into the mouth of Jeremiah. It is said that Jeremiah was born on 9 Av, the date of the destruction of the Temple . The name YIRMI-YAHU means "God elevates". In Jeremiah's time, God raised up the Attribute of Din, Judgment, and an enemy arose who raised his hand against Jerusalem (Psikta Rabah).
Jeremiah began his prophecy in the town of Anathot , rebuking the people over their bad behavior and idolatry. However they mocked and abused him and his detractors included members of his own family.
Vv 11-12: The almond rod. Almond in Hebrew is SHAKED, which means to be quick, because the almond tree takes only 21 days to bring its fruits from their initial formation to ripeness (Rashi) - symbolizing the speed with which the judgment was to come.
Vv 14-16: The boiling pot heading from the north was a symbol of the coming invasion by the Babylonians, who would bring all the families and kingdoms of the north to sit at the gates of Jerusalem and carry out God's judgment.
V 18: Jeremiah's mission was to rebuke the entire people, "the kings of Judah , its officers, its priests and the people of the land". He spared no one. He reproved them over the idolatry that was rampant side by side with the outward observance of the Temple rituals and feasts, over the robbery and oppression practiced by the mighty and powerful, over the corruption of the priests and those who spoke in the name of the Torah, and over the false prophets who were soothing the people into complacency with rosy promises of peace and glory.
We may ask how the targets of Jeremiah's rebuke relate to ourselves and the world around us. The idolatry that he castigated was far more sophisticated than being merely a matter of bowing to wood and stone images. People worshiped the work of their own hands, putting their entire trust and effort into intermediaries. Our technological, money-based, pleasure loving, corruption-ridden world has become little different: it is just that the idolatry is so hard to isolate and define, not least because it surrounds us on all sides. Just as in Jeremiah's time, Israel and Jerusalem are today faced with existential threats that are also a threat to the future of Jews throughout the Diaspora. The lesson of Jeremiah is that if we will repent and return to the true Torah of Moses, God will remove these threats and bring about our redemption. The generation of Jeremiah closed their ears to his rebuke and continued on their path to destruction. The question is whether we will do differently and listen to the message of Jeremiah and have the courage to come back to God in complete TESHUVAH.
Vv 1-3: After the harsh rebukes of the previous chapter, the prophet's beautiful call for reconciliation in these verses, recalling Israel 's going after God into the wilderness, makes a fitting climax of consolation to the Haftara of the first Shabbos of the Three Weeks.
Vv 4ff: The rebuke intensifies in the following passage, Haftara of the second Shabbos of the Three Weeks. What did Israel find wrong with God after all His goodness and miracles since the Exodus from Egypt ?
V 8: Jeremiah spares no one. The highly respectable priests were not asking where is HaShem. The very experts and teachers of the Torah did not know God. The popular prophet-pundits speak in the name of idols and go after vanity.
Vv 10ff: The KITHEE'IM are the peoples in the lands of the west, specifically the Romans (Metzudas David). KEDAR refers to the Arabs (Targum Yonasan). With these identifications in mind today we might ask why it is that while the Christians and the Muslims have in most cases not exchanged their faiths for Torah, why is it that so many Jews today take little or no pride in their own ancestral heritage, which is the source of all truth and wisdom.
V 13: The evil is twofold: (1) Abandoning God, the source of living waters; (2) Hewing out broken pits - idols - that cannot contain water. The people of Jeremiah's time had elaborate astrology-based religions, worshiping the stars and planets. But these merely transfer the SHEFA ("influence") sent into the world by God. Why worship the conduit instead of going to the source? (cf. Metzudas David).
V 18: The people of Jeremiah's time calculated that they could protect themselves against the Babylonians by allying with Egypt and Assyria . Likewise the "leaders" of contemporary Israel continue to play out the diplomatic game on the international chessboard, searching for "peace" as if this is possible without repentance and return to the Torah.
Vv 20-21: The prophet contrasts God's beneficence to Israel with their infidelity. "And I have planted you as a noble vine (SOREK), wholly a seed of truth (EMES)". The Hebrew word SOREK has the numerical value of 606. Together with the 7 Commandments of the Children of Noah, the total is 613, alluding to the 613 Commandments of the Torah (Rashi).
V 22: An interesting feature of contemporary civilization is its obsession with bodily cleanliness combined with a widespread disregard for spiritual and moral cleanliness.
V 24: Israel has the stubbornness of a wild ass. But those that seek her will find her "in her month" - an allusion to the period of mourning of the Three Weeks culminating in the first nine days of the month of Av, time of the Destruction of the Temple (Rashi).
V 25: The people could save themselves the travails of exile through repentance, but they feel they cannot repent because they are too far gone on their path of idolatry and temporal alliances.
V 31: "O generation, SEE the word of HaShem." It is said that Jeremiah took the flask of Manna out from the Temple Holy of Holies and displayed it to the people to show them that the Word of God could change everything and even provide physical sustenance (Rashi).
V 32: Even in his rebuke, Jeremiah uses terms of endearment, seeking to remind Israel of her true role as God's pure virgin bride in order to encourage and revive her.
LET US RETURN TO GOD WITH ALL OUR HEARTS AND OPEN OURSELVES TO THE LIGHT OF HIS GOODNESS.
* * * The passage in Jeremiah 2:4-28 with 3:4 and, according to the Sefardic custom, 4:1-2, is read as the Haftara of reproof on the second Shabbos of the Three Weeks * * *
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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