Jeremiah 2:4– 28; 3:4; 4:1-2
Jeremiah (prophet) c. 655 BCE -.586 BCE.
Haftarat Masei is called “The Second Haftarah of Rebuke” and is read during the “Three Weeks of Mourning. (17th of Tammuz to the 9th of Av). I will discuss a number of aspects of admonition, Jeremiah the prophet, and parallels between the parsha and the haftarah.
The parsha begins with a description of the route the Israelites took as they were led through the desert by Moses and Aharon. The first 49 psoukim list all the places where they camped. The next chapter of the parsha (perek 34) delineates the boundaries of the land of Canaan being awarded to B’nei Yisrael. It’s fascinating to see the mapping in the parsha and to read how accurately each encampment and each border is listed.
In the haftarah the prophet Jeremiah reminds B’nei Yisrael “how God led His people “out of the land of Egypt, through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and pits, through a land of drought and of the shadow of death…. And into a land of fruitful fields…” (ch.2: 6,7). So, I used a map of the route mentioned in both the parsha and the haftarah for this week’s painting. However, reproach is the real message of the haftarah.
Jeremiah was a prophet who lived through a tumultuous time in Jewish history. His life spanned the reign of 5 kings- Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. It was a time of idolatry and war. Jeremiah warned B’nei Yisrael that they were going to be punished for their idol worship, using very direct and damning language. At the end of his life, in 586 BCE, Judah was destroyed and Jerusalem was sacked by Nebuchadnezzar. The majority of Jews were exiled to Babylon. Jeremiah, who never married and was reviled for his messages, escaped to Egypt. He continued his prophecies from Egypt and died there.
In this haftarah he begins by reminding B’nei Israel how God brought them to Canaan. Then Jeremiah describes a litany of B’nei Israel’s sins. At the very end of the haftarah Jeremiah mitigates the message slightly by telling the people that if they return to God “in sincerity, justice and righteousness nations will bless themselves by you and praise themselves by you.”
The haftarah begins with the word “Shim-u”- “Listen” or “Hear” the word of God. The rabbis remind us that these words remind us of “na’asei v’nishma” –we will do and we will hear- the words B’nei Yisrael used at Sinai to affirm their covenant with God. Another word of note in the haftarah is “Eich”- How? “Eich” is used twice in the haftarah asking how Israel can have changed so much, turning to sinning and base behaviour. This reminds us of the word “Eicha”- the name of the book we read on Tisha B’Av.
In the midst of such negativity and sadness the image of the trek through the desert to the Promised Land is one of hope and the realization of God’s commitment to us.
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