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Shabbat Parashat Matot Masei 5781

Parashat Hashavua: Yirmiyahu Comforts Too

Harav Yosef Carmel

Most of the p’sukim in the early sections of Sefer Yirmiyahu, which make up the first two haftarot of the Three Weeks, consist of rebuke and prophecies of doom. Yet, they also contain sections of nechama (consolation). “See, I have appointed you over the nations and kingdoms – to uproot and smash and destroy and ruin, to build and to plant” (Yirmiyahu 1:10). We also find: “Go and call out in the ears of Yerushalayim, saying: ‘So says Hashem: I remembered for you the kindness of your youth, the love of your nuptials, your going after Me in the desert, in a land that is not planted’” (ibid. 2:2).

The same type of language is used in Yirmiyahu 30-31. “…an eternal love I have loved you, therefore I have extended grace to you … You will still plant vineyards in the mountains of Samaria, planters plant …” (ibid. 31:1-4). “Just as I was diligent in their regard to uproot and smash and destroy and ruin and do bad, so will I be diligent in their regard to build and to plant” (ibid. 27).

There is an interesting development. In the opening prophecy, the builder and planter is Hashem. In the later ones, Hashem calls upon Bnei Yisrael to build the cities and plant the orchards of Eretz Yisrael. He also said: “You will still plant orchards … place for yourself road marks, put your heart on the road that you traveled, return O virgin of Israel to these cities of yours. How long will you avoid it, you wayward daughter? For Hashem has created something new, a female will encircle a male” (ibid. 4, 20-21).

For close to 2,000 years, Am Yisrael waited for a miracle from the Heavens, that a liberator would appear as a messenger from Above and bring redemption to Israel and the world. The approach of waiting was strengthened by the midrash of Chazal known as the three oaths, which opposed Israel taking decisive action to return to the Land of their own volition. The fear of the oaths and the expectation of an “awakening from Above” combined to hold us back from action. But Yirmiyahu took a stand, arguing that we should not be inactive, as we saw above: “How long will you avoid it, you wayward daughter?” That which it continues “For Hashem has created something new, a female will encircle a male” is based on the famous metaphor that in our relationship with Hashem (upon which Shir Hashirim is based), Hashem is the male, and we are the female. Here, then, Bnei Yisrael are expected to be active instead of passive. And indeed, the Gra called on his disciples to take action and move to Eretz Yisrael, which hundreds did, despite the enormous difficulties. On the other hand, the rest of Bnei Yisrael at that time was still “avoiding it.”

The push came more than a hundred years later, when Binyamin Zev Herzl (whose yahrtzeit is around now) succeeded in creating a national movement that changed the mindset of the nation and the world. Yirmiyahu’s call for road marks (tziyunim) took on a new meaning with the rise of Tziyonim who built the Land. Many members of the nation have flocked to the Land, and the ingathering is still in progress. May we merit to fulfill more and more of Yirmiyahu’s comforting and exciting prophecies of national renewal, after thousands of years in the painful exile about which Yirmiyahu is famous for prophesying.

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