Tag Archives: Jeremiah

Jeremiah’s Story

A Contract of Sale by Laya Crust

This week we read two parshas- Behar and B’Hukkotai. Each parsha has a haftarah from the Book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah lived in Judea, prophesying from 626 BCE until the fall of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem in 587 BCE. He lived in difficult times which spanned the reigns of five kings and ended his life in Egypt.

Jeremiah - Wikipedia
Jeremiah by Michaelangelo, Sistine Chapel painting

The haftarah for Behar took place during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem. When Jeremiah advised King Zedekiah to surrender to the Babylonians the king threw him into prison. While Jeremiah was in prison Gd told him that Jeremiah’s cousin would come and ask him to buy their family’s parcel of land. Although the country was under siege Jeremiah was to buy the property.

As foretold, his cousin Hanamel asked Jeremiah to buy his land. Jeremiah went to great efforts to make the transaction legal and formalized by witnesses. He weighed out the silver, wrote two bills of sale – one sealed and one unsealed, and carried out the sale in the prison courtyard. The documents were then stored in an earthenware jar for safekeeping. The sale was a symbol that the siege of Jerusalem would end and land would become valuable once more.

Jeremiah said, “For so said Gd, Master of Legions, Gd of Israel, ‘Houses, fields, and vineyards will yet be bought in this land.'” (Jeremiah 32:13)

A Tree by the Water by Laya Crust

Jeremiah constantly reminded the Jews to follow Gd’s laws and ethics. Buying a parcel of land when the country was under siege was an inspiring and selfless act, but he was still disliked by the population because of his constant warnings and negative messages. In the next haftarah, B’Hukkotai, Jeremiah told the nation that a person who is good will flourish. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose trust the Lord is. He will be like a tree planted by the waters… Its foliage will be lush and will not be anxious in the year of drought. And it will not cease from yielding fruit.”   (Jeremiah 17: 7,8)   

Jeremiah’s message ring true today. The world is in terrible disarray. There is a pandemic, economic crises, war, and natural disasters. Yet there is good being done, acts of kindness, and progress throughout the world (as well as the disasters). Let’s keep that in mind and do our little bit to improve the world around us.

Shabbat Shalom,

Laya

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Shabbat Shira – it’s music

Halleluhu by Laya Crust

Parshat B’Shalach                        Haftarah: Judges 4: 4 – 5: 31

Music is magical. We can’t see it, touch it, smell it or taste it. We can hear it and magically it can transform our mood and take us to other places in our imagination. We all know about love songs (a billion), break-up songs (2 billion), songs of tribute (“Starry Night” about Vincent Van Gogh) and patriotic songs (“La Marseillaise”and “HaTikvah”). All our secrets can be unearthed (“Killing Me Softly”) and raw emotion can be exposed (Stravinsky’s compositions).

Music is a beautiful union of art, science, math, and imagination. I remember a friend of mine- a physicist- being amazed and unbelieving when I told him I loved music. “How is that possible? ” he asked. “You’re an artsy.” I was really surprised by that comment because I had always thought that music was art and emotion. That was when I found out that there is a close relationship between science and music.

Miriam’s Song by Laya Crust

Music is an integral part of joyous Judaism. In the Torah portion B’Shalach we read “The Song of the Sea”.  It is Moses’ song of praise to God that was sung after the Israelites safely crossed the Red (or Reed) Sea, and were saved from the angry Egyptian army. The women, led by the prophet Miriam, sang and danced and made music on their “tof”, a handheld drum. There is a beautiful painting of the women led by Miriam playing their drums in The Golden Haggadah, and another lovely rendition in The Sarajevo Haggadah.

Devorah the Prophetess by Laya Crust
(inspired by a painting from a 17th C. Judeo-Persian book)

This Bible reading describing the escape into the desert, across the sea, and the ultimate Song of the Sea is paired with an adventure story in the Book of Judges. Led by the prophet Devorah the Israelites won a battle against Sisera’s Army. A woman named Yael completed the defeat by killing Sisera. Devorah then sang a song of praise about the triumph and Yael’s conquest.

 When we are happy, when we are sad, when we want to remember or forget, when we want to meditate or pray, be left alone or celebrate with others we often turn to music. Because it is a comforting, joyous and spiritual medium the most beautiful parts of prayer are often paired with music. The painting at the top of the page shows biblical instruments mentioned in “psoukei d’zimra”, prayers we say in the morning.

On this Shabbat Shira, the Shabbat of Song, pay attention to the songs and music composed by Moses, Miriam, and the prophetess-judge Devorah. Enjoy the art, the sounds, and the music around you and have a Shabbat Shalom.

Laya

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Tisha B’Av

Tisha BAv sigart by Laya Crust, inspired by Miklos Adler

We will be observing Tisha B’Av this Saturday night, July 21, 2018 through Sunday evening, July 22. It is the anniversary of the destruction of both the First Temple (586 BCE) and the Second Temple (70 CE) in Jerusalem. Although they occurred about 655 years apart they occurred on the same day in the Hebrew calendar. Many other Jewish tragedies are also remembered on Tisha b’Av-  the day has been called the “saddest day in Jewish history”. We read the Book of Eicha which was written by the prophet Jeremiah, and other calamities are commemorated by reading kinnot (poetry of sorrow).

Tisha B’Av is treated as a day of mourning. We fast from sunset to sunset- unlike most other Jewish fasts which last from sunrise to sunset. We don’t wear leather, listen to music, swim, and we sit on the ground. One tradition is to eat a hard boiled egg dipped in ashes before the fast begins. The “Book of Lamentations”, “Eicha” in Hebrew, is read by candle light sitting on the floor.
We also read Jeremiah 8:13 – 9:23, a series of some of Jeremiah’s gloomiest prophecies.  Invasion, siege, famine, starvation, doom, devastation, death, lament, cruelty are the themes of this haftarah. The dirge is unrelieved by words of comfort. These words reflect the emotion of Tisha b’Av.  The image chosen for Tisha b’Av is based on a woodcut by the Shoah artist Miklos Adler. Miklos Adler was a Hungarian Concentration camp survivor who depicted the autrocities of the Shoah. He was born in 1909 and died in 1965 in Israel.He painted,drew and did woodcuts. His woodcuts can be seen in a powerful haggadah called “The Survivor’s Haggadah”.The picture I drew is based on one of his haggadah woodcuts. It shows Jews waiting at a train station, looking at smoke in the form of faces rising out of crematoria chimney stacks.

I hope you have a meaningful fast and that we all endeavour to make Israel strong, and make the world a better place. Maybe we will see peace… we can work towards that. If you have comments or reflections on Tisha B’Av or the imagery please post your ideas.I would love to hear from you.

Best, Laya

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Ethics and Power

An explanation  of the artwork is at the bottom of the postI See an Almond Branch and a Cauldron by Laya Crust

The prophet Jeremiah was born in the small town of Anatot, outside of Jerusalem the same year King Josiah began to reign over the Southern Kingdom of Judea.  While Josiah was in power a scroll was found in the Temple containing laws that the Jews had forgotten. King Josiah began to introduce and enforce religious reforms based on the scroll. Jeremiah was about thirteen years old when this happened, and was appointed by God to be a prophet.

Jeremiah was not accepted or liked by his fellow Jews. He witnessed the rise and fall of other Jewish rulers and the sacking of the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE. He ended his life in exile in Egypt. Jeremiah’s words and trials are fitting for the Weeks of Rebuke before Tisha B’Av.

The Calling of Jeremiah by Marc ChagallImage result for jeremiah chagall

On the three Shabbatot preceding Tisha B’Av, a day of mourning for the Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, we read “Haftarot of Rebuke”. This is the first “Reading of Rebuke”, taken from Jeremiah ch 1-2:3.  Jeremiah, like Moses, was a reluctant prophet. He told God that he was young and couldn’t speak. God tried to give Jeremiah confidence, saying, “Be not afraid of them for I am with you to deliver you.” (1:8) That did not reassure Jeremiah, so God touched Jeremiah’s mouth saying He had put words into Jeremiah’s mouth. Moses, too, was afraid to speak and tried to reject God’s request. ( spoiler alert- it didn’t work.)

Both men had been chosen by God for a certain roles and had been chosen before they were aware. In this week’s haftarah God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you came out of the womb I sanctified you; I have appointed you a prophet unto the nations.” (1: 5)

Jeremiah and Moses were leaders who taught morality-  not politics and not war. They didn’t speak of who should be the next leader. Instead they communicated God’s wishes and preached ethical behaviour. Throughout our teachings we are told that it is not might that will win wars against our enemies. We are taught that it is faith in God and adherence to ethical and moral behaviour that will allow us to triumph over our adversaries.

Just as Jeremiah and Moses were chosen before they were born and given a role before they were born the same is true for each of us. We each have been blessed with specific talents, strengths, insights and abilities. It is up to each of us to recognize what is within ourselves and use those abilities to make the world a better place. We need to look at what we can do and use our tools to help make our society healthy, safe and accepting. It seems that respect and ethical behaviour are seen as weaknesses. Guns, bombs and threats are preferred methods of negotiation.The fights and wars we see around us today will never allow the people of the world to live in peace and security.

Let’s endeavour to make words, art, music, poetry and scientific improvement our preferred currency over hatred and insults.

Have a good Shabbat and let’s make the world happier!

Laya

The drawing for this haftarah was inspired by Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus. I have shown a despondent Jeremiah looking out of his barren room  at the sacking of the city. It looks like any modern city  but represents Jerusalem. In the corner of the room are an almond branch and a steaming cauldron representing the enemy coming from the north. This illustration and others will be featured in my forthcoming book.

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“For he will be like a tree planted by the waters”

Behukotai“A Tree Planted by the waters” by Laya Crust

Bechukotai is the last reading in the Book of Leviticus, a book devoted to teaching b’nei Yisrael how to conduct their lives. God sets out clear and detailed guidelines referring to acceptable morals and behaviour. There are directives on everything from marriage, to diet, to respecting the land. After all the rules have been laid we are told what will happen if we don’t follow the laws.

God says that if we follow His laws and observe His commandments “I will grant you rains in their season, so the earth shall yield its produce…I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down untroubled by anyone…” (26: 4, 26:6). It sounds so idyllic! The earth will be bountiful, noone will bother God’s people, and they will live in peace, harmony and comfort. But wait a minute…God continues with a warning…

“But if you do not obey Me and do not observe all these commandments, if you reject My laws and spurn My rules…I will wreak misery upon you…” (26: 14, 16) God’s warnings don’t stop there . They  become harsher and harsher. The text is frightening but finally the severity is mitigated. It is followed by God then telling His people that He will never forget them and will remember His covenant with them. God knows that the Israelites will return and will once again become strong and bountiful. The desolation is followed by hope.

P1150004Tamarisk tree in the desert by Laya Crust

The haftarah follows the same theme. Jeremiah begins by telling the Israelites that their sins are written on their hearts and they will be punished.  But he also says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose trust the Lord is. For he will be like a tree planted by the waters, and spreads out its roots by the river, and he will not see when the heat comes. Its foliage will be lush and will not be anxious in the year of drought. And it will not cease from yielding fruit.” He says those who depend only on men will be like a tree that grows on parched land in the wilderness. But one who trusts in God will be like a tree planted by the waters which spreads its roots by the river.  The tree will flourish even during a drought.

The message of desolation turning to hope exemplifies the Jewish people. It also delivers a  personal and comforting message.

We as individuals have choices throughout our lives. We can follow a path of good, of mediocrity or of evil. We can take our strengths and gifts and use them to improve our surroundings, we can ignore those gifts, or we can use them selfishly. There are people we meet throughout our lives who use their talents and make visible improvements to the world around them. One such man was Dr. Eli Cohen z”l.

Dr. Cohen was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1938 where his family had lived since about 500 BCE. In 1951, when it became dangerous for the Jews living in Iraq, his family emigrated to Israel. They had to relinquish their Iraqi citizenship, and all their assets were either frozen or taken by the state. He never forgot his country, the house where they lived, or the open hospitality of his mother. When he was 18 he joined the Israeli Defense Forces as a paratrooper commando. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Hebrew University then left Israel to further pursue his education in Manitoba, Canada. Ultimately Eli earned four degrees, in genetics and then statistics.  One of the technologies he developed is a medical instrument that monitors whole blood coagulation mainly during surgery (TEG). The TEG is used in hospitaals internationally and has saved thousands and thousands of lives and improved surgical outcomes.

Eli and his wife Carole developed the company Haemoscope together. Together they raised three phenomenal children, mentored countless students and employees, and created a caring workplace. They invested in and cared about their employees and never lost sight of the people whose lives would be saved through the technology.

As it says in Jeremiah 17:8,  “For he will be like a tree planted by the waters, and spreads out its roots by the river, …And it will not cease from yielding fruit.”  Dr. Eli Cohen z”l has left a legacy of beauty, generosity, vision and kindness. He improved the world through his family and research, and they will continue to improve the world for generations.

With thanks to Carole Cohen and Dr. Eli Cohen z”l, may we all strive to be like a tree planted by the waters. not afraid of the heat and spreading out our roots to be strong and give sustenance to those who need it.

May you have a foliage full, and fruitful week, and a Shabbat shaded by those you love.

Laya

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Bechukotai- and comfort

P1150004Tamarisk tree in the desert by Laya Crust

Parsha:  Bechukotai:  Leviticus  26:3 – 27: 34

Haftarah:  Jeremiah:  16:19 – 17:14

Bechukotai is the last reading in the Book of Leviticus, a book devoted to teaching b’nei Yisrael how to conduct their lives. God sets out clear and detailed guidelines referring to acceptable morals and behaviour. There are directives on everything from marriage, to diet, to respecting the land. After all the rules have been laid we are told what will happen if we don’t follow the laws.

God says that if we follow His laws and observe His commandments “I will grant you rains in their season, so the earth shall yield its produce…I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down untroubled by anyone…” (26: 4, 26:6). It sounds so idyllic! The earth will be bountiful, noone will bother God’s people, and they will live in peace, harmony and comfort. But wait a minute…God continues with a warning…

“But if you do not obey Me and do not observe all these commandments, if you reject My laws and spurn My rules…I will wreak misery upon you…” (26: 14, 16) God’s warnings don’t stop there . They  become harsher and harsher until HaShem says,”I will spurn you. I will lay your cities in ruin and make your sanctuaries desolate… And you I will scatter among the nations, and I will unsheath the sword against you.” (26: 13, 33)

The text is frightening. It is followed by God then telling His people that He will never forget them and will remember His covenant with them. God knows that b’nei Yisrael will return and will once again become strong and bountiful. The desolation is followed by hope.

BehukotaiSigart by Laya Crust

We see the same idea in the haftarah.  Jeremiah begins by telling B’nei Yisrael that their sins are written on their hearts and they will be punished. He says those who depend only on men will be like a tree that grows on parched land in the wilderness. But one who trusts in God will be like a tree planted by the waters which spreads its roots by the river.  The tree will flourish even during a drought.

The message of desolation turning to hope exemplifies the Jewish people. Throughout our history Jews have been faced with the most horrifying situations imaginable. Pogroms, the Inquisition, concentration camps and death camps did not destroy the Jewish will to live in the best way under the circumstances. No matter where Jews have been they have set up schools, benevolent societies, and soup kitchens. Even in the most appalling conditions Jews made music for each other. They clandestinely learned Torah and taught it to their children. There is a well known joke that Satan is giving a tour of the depths of hell. When  he gets to the seventh level of hell he and his “guest” walk into a verdant garden. “Damned Israelis [aka Jews],” he mutters.”They’ve been irrigating again!”

We have hope and we retain our hope. God knows that human beings have a leaning towards laziness. People don’t like following rules. The rules and mitzvot make the world a better and just place. When we misstep God will wait for us, and we will get back on track.

May we all be like a tree planted by the waters. not afraid of the heat and spreading out our roots to be strong and give sustenance to those who need it.

Have a foliage full, and fruitful week, and a Shabbat shaded by those you love.

Laya

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Tisha B’Av and Poetry

Tisha BAv sigart by Laya Crust

Tisha B’Av- a day of mourning on the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av

Readings- Lamentations written by the prophet Jeremiah, poems of sorrow  (kinot) by Jewish writers from throughout history

For many Jews Tisha B’Av is the most difficult day of the year. It is a fast day (no eating or drinking for about 26 hours) during which we reflect upon  many tragedies that took place on the 9th of Av throughout history. The destructions of the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem  (586 BCE and 70 CE), the fall of Bar Kochba’s outpost at Betar (135 CE), the expulsion of the Jews from England (1290 ), the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492), and the  commencement of World War I in 1914 are some of those disasterous events.

We are a people of words. Words, specifically poetry, convey despair, angst and loss more effectively than any other medium.

section of Eicha

The Book of Lamentations is attributed to  Jeremiah , the prophet who lived at the time of the destruction of the first Temple. Eicha is a book comprised completely of poetry. The searing desolation of the people- their hunger, loss and despair are experienced and described. The reading of The Book of Lamentations is followed by readings of shorter poems or kinnot . The kinnot (dirges) were composed   by various writers and authors throughout our history. These writers recognized that the pain of persecution and expulsion was not limited to the destruction of the First and Second Temples. The disasters continued with crusades, pogroms, expulsions, the public burnings of Torah scrolls and sacred books, the holocaust, and even more recent massacres.

P1090522art by Laya Crust

The beautiful and searing poems were written by notable scholars and poets such as Rabbi Elazar Hakalir and  Rabbi Judah Halevi.  Many congregations add modern kinnot to the traditional list and even have “kinnot slams” to involve and express current events.

Tisha B’Av is a time of reflection not just of oneself but of history, nation, and community behaviour. We are surrounded by enemies. Not just those who want to destroy us as a people or destroy the country of Israel, but enemies such as greed, selfishness, and egocentricity. Those traits lead to not caring about others, not helping others and the fraying of beautiful communities.

This Tisha B’Av I hope you read the rich poetry of our nation and make it a healing experience.

Have a meaningful week,

Laya

If you found this interesting, please follow my blog and share with your friends. If you have comments or poems, add them to my comment section. For more information you can go to

http://www.jewfaq.org/holidayd.htm

Click to access Sample_of_Translated_Kinos.pdf

http://www.milkenarchive.org/works/lyrics/774

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Shabbat Shira – it’s music

Miriam's Song

Miriam’s Song by Laya Crust

Parshat b’Shalach

Haftarah: Judges 4: 4 – 5: 31

Music is magical. We can’t see it, touch it, smell it or taste it. We can hear it and magically it can transform our mood and take us to other places in our imagination. We all know about love songs (a billion), break-up songs (2 billion), songs of tribute (Starry Night  about Vincent Van Gogh) and patriotic songs (Le Marseillaise). All our secrets can be unearthed (Killing Me Softly) and raw emotion can exposed (Stravinsky).

It is a beautiful union of art, science, math and imagination. I remember a friend of mine- a physicist- being amazed and unbelieving when I told him I loved music. “How is that possible? ” he asked. “You’re an artsy.” I was really surprised by that comment because I had always thought that music was art and emotion. And then I found out the close relationship between science and music. I’ve been working on a new composition (visual, not musical) for an engineer (physics, not train). Because he is, from what I can tell, equally music and science oriented I wanted to merge the two fields in my painting.  My intention is to merge the spectrum of tone, the measure of the notes and the background ordering of the staff. Here is a draft of my ideas:

20150127_183737art by Laya Crust

Music is an integral part of  joyous Judaism. In the Torah portion B’shalach we read “The Song of the Sea”.  It is Moses’ song of praise to God that was sung after the Israelites safely crossed the Red (or Reed) Sea, and were saved from the angry Egyptian army. The women, led by the prophet Miriam, sang and danced and made music on their tof, a hand held drum. There is a beautiful painting of the women led by Miriam playing their drums in The Golden Haggadah, and another lovely rendition in The Sarajevo Haggadah.

This Bible reading describing the escape into the desert, across the sea, and the ultimate Song of the Sea is paired with an adventure story in the Book of Judges. Led by the prophet Devorah the Israelites win a battle against Sisera’s Army. A woman named Yael completes the defeat by killing Sisera. Devorah then sings a song of praise about the triumph and Yael’s conquest. halleluhu0052

 The painting here shows biblical instruments mentioned in prayers we say in the morning.

When we are happy, when we are sad, when we want to remember or forget, when we want to meditate or pray, be left alone or celebrate with others we often turn to music. Because it is a comforting, joyous and spiritual medium the most beautiful parts of prayer are often paired with music.

So enjoy the art, the sounds, and the music around you.

Shabbat Shalom, Laya

I would love it if you would share your thoughts or stories about music. Even if it’s lyrics to ballads by cowboys, the loneliest lyrics in the world.

 
Artist in Residence,  The Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Textiles, Toronto

website  layacrust.com

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The Best Bedtime Stories

Bo sigart by Laya Crust

Parshat Bo: Exodus, chapter 10 -13

Haftarah: Jeremiah  46: 13 -28

The Best Bedtime Stories

Story time is one of the best times of the day.  We are transported to magical places. We meet extraordinary people and see things we would never come across on a typical day. Stories make time enchanting when reality is boring. You need to get someone to brush teeth? Tell a story. The wait in the doctor’s office is hours long? Tell a story. The car ride isn’t ending? Tell a story.

Our family’s favourite source of stories was Tanach (the Jewish Bible). Between the angels, the giants, the talking snakes and the trickery, what could be more exciting?

Take this week’s Torah reading. Our heroes are Moses and Aaron, two poor brothers, who were on a quest to free a nation of slaves. The downtrodden  slaves were in the grasp of a powerful ruler, the Pharaoh of Egypt. To Pharaoh’s surprise Moses and Aaron had managed to turn the water in Egypt to blood, bring millions of frogs into the cities and fields, create an infestation of lice, and destroy the spring crops with balls of flaming hail.

This week’s episode have the brothers confronting Pharaoh again.  Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ” How long are you going to be so stubborn? If you don’t let the slaves go God is going to send locusts.” The plague of locusts attacked the land, and destroyed all the crops the hail had left. That was followed by a darkness so thick the darkness could be touched. Neither Egyptians nor their animals could see or move for 3 days and three nights.

darkness 20048painting by Laya Crust

Even so, Pharaoh refused to be threatened. He raised himself up and through gritted teeth proclaimed, “Get away from me. Take heed of yourself. Never approach me again. For on the day you see my face again, you will die!” And Moses answered, “You have spoken well. I will see your face again no more.”

Then the two brothers rushed to the slaves, told them to grab their belongings and get ready for the dangerous road to freedom.

What a story!

babiesarava, challah 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So do yourself a favour. Get a comfy couch, a couple of cuddly kids, some milk and cookies. Then open up your friendly bible to Exodus chapter 10. It’s a great read . Be warned, it can get a little sad or scary at parts. That’s part of the adventure too.

Come back next week- same time, same place, and you’ll see what new exploration we may embark upon.

Laya

Artist in Residence,  The Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Textiles, Toronto     website http://www. layacrust.com

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Masei

Mas'ei

Jeremiah 2:4– 28; 3:4;  4:1-2

Jeremiah (prophet) c. 655 BCE -.586 BCE.

Haftarat Masei is the second “Haftarah of Rebuke” and is read during the “Three Weeks of Mourning” (17th of Tammuz to the 9th of Av).

The path the Israelites followed from Egypt to Canaan is described in both the parsha and the haftarah, so that became the theme  for this week’s painting. The route  is described in great detail in the first 49 verses of the parsha. It was a long and arduous journey for the Israelites and they strayed from Gd’s lessons throughout. Although they didn’t always follow Gd’s rules, after 40 years they arrived in the Promised Land.

In the haftarah the prophet Jeremiah reminds B’nei Yisrael how Gd 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). 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.

The haftarah begins with the word “Shim-u”- “Listen” or “Hear” the word of Gd. The rabbis remind us that these words are reminiscent 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 Gd. The word “Eich”- How? 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.

There is negativity and sadness in the haftarah. Jeremiah reminds B’nei Israel of the difficult trek through the desert and how Gd brought them to the Promised Land. Then Jeremiah describes B’nei Yisrael’s sins. At the very end of the haftarah Jeremiah mitigates the message slightly by telling the people that if they return to Gd “in sincerity, justice and righteousness nations will bless themselves by you and praise themselves by you.”

In the midst of what is happening in Israel the messages from the haftarah still resonate today. We are blessed to be in the “Land of Milk and Honey”. Brave Israelis are fighting for our survival, for the right to live on our land and for the existence of our crops, our farms, our education and our nationhood.  As well as fighting physically for our survival we are reminded to act morally and do good deeds- an echo from Jeremiah’s prophecies.

May the battles be over soon. May there be no more loss of life. May Israel live in peace and security, unbothered by bombs and rockets.  And may we all endeavor to live a life of goodness and be an “ohr l’goyim”  (“a light unto the nations”).

Shabbat Shalom.

This haftarah is dedicated to Noam ben Nicole.

On a side note,  there is a program pairing people with soldiers and people on guard duty in Israel called The Shmira Project. Go to http://www.shmiraproject.com/SignUp.aspx.  You then pray and/or perform mitzvot with that soldier in mind, asking Gd to answer your good deeds with protection for that soldier.   There is no charge, and it takes 30 seconds to sign up.

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