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07/22/2022 11:15:31 AM


In the period of the 3 weeks, which began last Sunday, we read special haftarot. This week, the first of the 3 special haftarot, is from the beginning of the Book of Jeremiah. HaShem appoints Jeremiah to be a prophet, telling him that he is predestined for this task.

Yet, Jeremiah hesitates. He feels he is not worthy of the task. According to a midrash, in the back of Jeremiah’s mind, he recalled the problems previous prophets had encountered. He must have recalled (1) how Moses was concerned that he would be stoned by the people; (2) how they mocked Elijah, calling him “the hairy one;” (3) how the people kept insulting Elisha, who was Elijah’s successor, calling him the “bald headed one.”

Of course, it’s hard to argue with HaShem, and Jeremiah accepted the task.

And Jeremiah did endure difficulties. In chapter 15, he complains that everyone is fighting him; in chapter 18, he complains that people are conspiring against him; in chapter 20, he is beaten and put in a torture chamber by an official in the Temple (!,) and so he states “I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone makes fun of me…my friends are waiting to take revenge against me.”

In chapter 26, we read how the priests (!) and the false prophets put Jeremiah on trial, demanding that he be put to death for sedition. In chapter 28, a false prophet named Hananiah destroyed a symbolic item that Jeremiah had been wearing. In chapter 38, he is thrown into the dungeon, on charges that could carry the death penalty.

And yet, despite all of this, Jeremiah comes across as a messenger of hope.

In chapter 31, he declares that “the One who scattered Israel will gather them up,” and “again you will plant vineyards in the mountains of Samaria, and Hashem will gather us from the corners of the world,” and he said those three words that, over 2500 years later, the late Shlomo Carlebach would put to music and turn into an anthem of hope: ve-shavu vanim ligvulam,  the time will come when the children of Israel will return to their land.

And we pray that the period of the three weeks will be turned from sadness to happiness.

Rabbi White

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Sun, April 2 2023 11 Nisan 5783