Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
JEREMIAH CHAPTER 13
ALLEGORY OF THE BELT vv 1-11:
"V 1: "Go and buy for yourself a linen belt." - "The reason why Jeremiah was instructed to put the belt on his loins was so that it would become full of sweat and decay quickly" (Metzudas David).
V 4: ".and rise and go to the Euphrates." - "The River Euphrates was the boundary of the Land of Israel . This was an indication that when the people would go out of the Land of Israel to Babylon , their pride would be broken" (RaDaK).
V 11: "For just as the belt is fastened to the loins of a man, so I fastened to Myself the entire House of Israel and the entire House of Judah." The Midrash says: "Woe to the wicked and those attached to them! Happy are the Tzaddikim and those attached to them. In the generation of the flood, '.and He blotted out all existence from man to animals.' If the men sinned, why did the animals and birds have to suffer? Woe to the wicked and those attached to them, because the wicked bring down punishment on themselves and all connected to them [including even the animals and birds]. But see what is written of Hananniyah, Misha-el and Azariah when they came out of Nebuchadnezzar's furnace: '.their cloaks were UNCHANGED'! If the clothes that were attached to the Tzaddikim went into the fire but were not harmed, how much more so will Israel be saved from the judgment of hell, since they are attached to God, the 'Tzaddik of the Universe', Who is alive and enduring, as it is written, '.as the belt is fastened to the loins of a man etc.'" (Tanchuma).
ALLEGORY OF THE FLASK vv 12-14:
"The flask was to serve as an allegory for two things: (1) Just as "every flask is filled with wine", i.e. the flask itself is filled, and the wine is even absorbed into its earthenware walls, so the people would be filled with drunkenness on every side. Drunkenness is a metaphor for a multitude of troubles, because just as a drunkard is unconscious of what he does, so one afflicted by a succession of troubles is filled with consternation and does not know what he is doing. (2) When a person strikes one earthenware flask with another, the shards are scattered. Similarly, so there would be conflict among the people because of their many troubles to the point that even fathers and sons would be in conflict with each other, and they would be destroyed not only by their enemies but by their own selves" (RaDaK on v 12).
Vv 15-17 call the people to repent while there is still time.
V 17: "And if you do not heed this, My soul will cry in its hidden chambers." - "God has a certain place where He weeps, and it is called 'the hidden chambers'. But how can it be that God 'weeps' when Rav Papo said that sadness cannot be attributed to God since it says, 'Spendor and glory are before Him, strength and JOY in His place' (I Chron. 16:27)? There is no contradiction, because the tears are in the 'inner chambers' while the joy is in the 'outer chambers'. (Talmud Hagigah 5b). Without entering into the complex philosophical questions relating to whether and in what sense tears and joy can be attributed to God, our verse and the Talmudic comment in Hagigah do indicate that God somehow "grieves" over (and cares about) the suffering men bring upon themselves. And in order that earth should reflect heaven, up until recent times the inner circle of Tzaddikim of the "Heavenly Jerusalem" (Yerushalayim shel Ma'alah) had a secret chamber hewn into the rocks near the spring of Shiloah ("Silwan") with a door that could be locked, and they would go there individually at appointed times in order to weep "in the hidden chambers" over the exile of Israel.
On a positive note, the Midrash notes that verse 17 says that "the FLOCK of HaShem will be captured" using the singular. Prior to the exile, the priests, the Levites and the Israelites were separate castes or "flocks" but when they went into exile they became ONE flock - their suffering brought them to unity (Yalkut Shimoni).
Vv 18-21: Depiction of Judea suffering the throes of destruction:
V 18: "Say to the king and the queen mother, 'Humble yourselves, sit, for your dominions have collapsed.'" The king in this prophecy refers to King Jehoiachin, whom Nebuchadnezzar exiled to Babylon eighteen years before the destruction of the Temple .
V 21: ".you yourself have trained them as rulers over you" - "You sent envoys to the Chaldeans to bring back their idols from there in order to serve them, see Ezekiel 23:16" (Rashi).
Vv 22-27 explain the reason for the punishment and destruction awaiting Jerusalem .
Vv 1-6: Description of the coming drought and the cry of Jerusalem . The depiction of the plight of the hinds and the wild donkeys adds even greater pathos.
Vv 7-9: The prophet prays and begs for mercy on the people. "If our sins have testified against us." (v 7): This verse is incorporated into the additional supplicatory prayers (Tachanun) recited on Mondays and Thursdays.
V 8: God is called the "Hope (MIKVEH) of Israel ". "Rabbi Akiva said, Happy are you, O Israel: before Whom do you purify yourselves, and Who purifies you? Your father in Heaven, as it says, 'I shall sprinkle upon you pure waters and you will be purified' (Ezekiel 36:25), and it says 'God is the hope (MIKVEH) of Israel': just as the Mikveh pool purifies the impure, so the Holy One blessed be He purifies Israel" (Yoma 85b).
Vv 10-12: God tells the prophet not to pray for the people, and that he will not accept their fasting and offerings and other outer signs of repentance.
Vv 13-16: Jeremiah argues that the people are not to blame because they have been led astray by the deceptions of the false prophets. God affirms the falsehood of their soothing prophecies of peace and plenty and that they will suffer for their deceptions, but this will not save the people from their fate.
Vv 19-22: Jeremiah prays to God not to abandon Israel . Vv 19-21 are recited as part of the Midnight Lament over the destruction of the Temple (Tikkun Chatzos).
V 22: "Are there rainmakers among the follies of the nations (=the idols that the worship)?" Despite having been told not to pray for the people, Jeremiah argues that since none of the idols of the nations has any power to reverse the coming terrible drought, Israel has no other recourse except to hope in God for salvation.
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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