Avraham ben Yaakov
JEREMIAH CHAPTER 9
At the end of the previous chapter, having despaired of finding "medicine" to heal his people, the distraught yet unfailingly eloquent Jeremiah poured out his tears and grief over the casualties of the coming calamity.
Now, in Ch 9 v 1, he wishes he could go far away from his people into the wilderness, because they are all adulterers - an assembly of traitors.
This introduces his analysis of the evils of the people. Because of their lies and lack of awareness and knowledge of God, the social fabric has deteriorated to the point where nobody can trust his own brother.
V 3: "For every brother ACTS SUBTLEY. (Heb. = AKOV YA'AKOV)". The intended wisdom of Jacob and his descendants has turned into craftiness and treachery.
Vv 6-8: There is no way except for God to requite their sins.
Vv 9ff: Jeremiah is already weeping in advance over the devastation that he can foresee coming to Judea and Jerusalem .
Vv 11-13: What is the essential flaw that has brought about such deterioration to the point that the land will be destroyed? The answer is given in Verse 12: "And HaShem said, Because they have abandoned My Torah that I put before them." Earlier in this chapter, God said, ".and Me they have not known" (v 2), yet this was not what caused the destruction. Nor was it the people's idolatry, bloodshed and adultery. It was their abandonment of the Torah, ceasing to study constantly. "Would that they would have abandoned Me but continued to observe My Torah, for if they had been occupied in the Torah it would certainly have brought them back to Me" (Midrash).
Vv 16ff: A terrible new element would now enter the national life of Israel and leave its stamp on the people and their religious culture until today: dirges and mourning. These were not a constant part of the spiritual life of Israel in the times when they still were faithful to God, but from the time of the destruction of the Temple and the exile until today, KINOS ("lamentations", "dirges") have become part of the regular prayer rituals because of the many disasters the people have suffered and the continuing threats we face.
Vv 22-23: There is a natural tendency for people to be particularly proud of three main endowments that God gives: (1) wisdom and intelligence; (2) strength and power; (3) wealth. Yet for those who possess them, there is truly is nothing to be proud about since they are all gifts of God, and in any case, they are all worthless in the end without the pursuit of the knowledge of God and the concomitant practice of kindness, justice and charity that this entails. Verse 23 concludes the Tisha B'Av Haftara, which began in Ch 8 v 13.
Vv 24-25: The coming punishments will strike "all who are circumcised yet with the foreskin". If a person is technically circumcised yet he "pulls the foreskin back on" because his HEART is uncircumcised and he acts accordingly, his physical circumcision will not help. All the uncircumcised nations will also suffer. The nations listed in V 25 were all "neighbors of the Land of Israel and suffered in its wake soon afterwards, as written in Ezekiel ch 29 and as detailed in Seder Olam" (Rashi on v 25).
Vv 1-10: The prophet calls on Israel to cease their imitation of the nations and their practice of divination through astrology - which makes it seem as if everything is determined by the stars and that there is therefore no place for man to repent and take his destiny in his own hands of his own free will. Jeremiah mocks the idols of gold and silver which the people make, that have no power to either help them or harm them. None is remotely comparable to HaShem, who rules over all the nations. Verses 6-7 are recited in the Synagogue as part of the introduction to SELICHOS (the supplicatory prayers recited during the period of repentance from the beginning of Elul until Yom Kippur and at other junctures).
V 11 in the original, the text here breaks into the Aramaic language. Rashi (ad loc.) explains that this verse is a message that Jeremiah sent to Yechoniah king of Judah and the other exiles from Jerusalem who had already been taken to Babylon 18 years before the destruction of the Temple (cf. Esther 2:6), explaining to them how to reply to the KASDIM (Chaldeans) in their own language when they would tell them to worship idols.
Vv 12-16: Compared to the supreme power of God, the idols of the nations are mere vanity, and they are not part of the portion of Israel , who are God's inherited tribe.
V 17: It is because of God's very greatness that the people's sins are such a grave affront, and thus the prophet advises them to gather in their wares from outside the city and prepare for the inevitable siege.
V 18ff: God is going to sling the people out of their land. The prophet cannot stand the prospect of the coming calamity, but he knows it is inevitable since the people and their leaders stubbornly refuse to repent and seek out God.
Vv 23ff: The prophet knows that whatever is to happen is in the hands of God, and he knows that punishment is inevitable. He prays that it should be measured with restraint and not carried out in anger so as not to "diminish" and destroy the entire people.
Instead, Jeremiah prays to God to pour out his wrath on the heathen nations, who have never wanted to know Him or call upon His name, and who have repeatedly persecuted the descendants of Jacob (see Metzudas David on v 25). On the Pesach Seder Night following the recital of the main part of the Haggadah and the festive meal, it is customary in every home to open the front door and solemnly recite verse 25.
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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