[NOTE: I have included the verse numbers here and color coded the commentaries so that any words based on a particular commentary appear in a specific color. The first time a particular commentary is used, the name of that commentary will appear in parentheses. Subsequent appearances will be indicated by color only. I have used in some cases the Hebrew phonetic spelling for names such as “HaShem” for God, “Yirmiyahu” for Jeremiah, “Kohanim” for priests, etc.]

(1) Hashem spoke to Yirmiyahu, saying, (2) “Go and prophesy before the people in (Targum) Jerusalem, saying, ‘Hashem said, ‘Return to Me, for I desire to have mercy upon you! (Rashi) I remember the kindness of your youth, the goodness of times past, and the love we shared when I brought you under a bride’s canopy, when you followed after my messengers, Moshe and Aharon. You went out of a land that was settled to go into the wilderness, a land not sown, with no provisions for the journey, because you had faith in Me. (3) Israel is Hashem’s sanctified portion, as terumah is the sanctified portion of the earth’s produce, like the wheat harvest before the omer offering is brought. Just as these are forbidden to be consumed, and those who consume them incur guilt upon themselves, so too, all that devour Israel shall be held guilty; evil shall come upon them.

(4) “Hear the word of the Hashem, O House of Jacob, and all the families of the House of Israel. (5) What did your fathers find wrong with Me, that they have gone far from Me, and have gone after vanity, and become insignificant? (6) Neither did they consider, when seeking objects of worship (Radak): ‘Where is Hashem that brought us up from the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt?’ Rather, they pursued foreign gods. (7) I brought you to the Land of Israel, that was planted like a forest, to eat its fruit and its bounty, but you came and defiled My land, and you made My heritage an abomination. (8) The Kohanim did not say, ‘Where is Hashem?’ and those who hold fast to the Torah, the Sanhedrin, did not know me, and the shepherds, the kings, rebelled against me, and the prophets prophesied in the name of Baal, and they followed after that which could not profit. (9) Therefore, before I bring evil upon you, I will continue to reprove you, through my prophets, and I shall reprove your children’s children, even though I have already reproved you for many days. (10) Pass over to the islands of the Kittites and see, send to Kedar and pay attention, observe their ways well; see if this has ever happened. (11) Has a nation forsaken its gods, though their gods are false? Yet My nation has forsaken its Glory for gods that can avail them not. (12) O heavens, be bewildered at this! Storm and be as though you are ruined, over the Holy Temple that will ultimately be ruined. (13) For my people have committed two evils! Had they merely forsaken Me for another like Me, that would be only one evil. However, they forsook Me, the source of the waters of life, and as a second evil, they have followed after false gods, like digging for themselves broken, fissured wells to hold stagnant water, wells that cannot contain their water, as it leaks through the cracks, and splashes over and against the walls, causing them to collapse. (14) Is Israel a slave or the child of a maidservant? Why have they become the spoils of others? (15) Kings threaten the nation of Israel; like roaring lions, they have raised their voices. They have desolated the Land of Israel; they have burnt their cities, rendering them uninhabited. (16) The people of Noph and Tachpanches, the Egyptians, shall also crush your skull. (17) Shall not your guilt and iniquity, having abandoned HaShem your God, while He tried teaching you to go upon the good and upright path, cause this evil and retribution to come upon you? (18) And now, why would you abandon Me and rely upon Egypt, to drink the waters of the Nile in which the Egyptians drowned your children? And why would you rebel against Me so that you will be exiled to Assyria, to drink the waters of the Euphrates River, across which Assyria is found? (19) Your evil shall bring suffering upon you, and your waywardness shall bring rebuke upon you, and know and see that evil and bitter is your forsaking Hashem your God, and that the fear of me was not in your heart. (20) For I have always broken the yoke of the nations from upon you, I have cut off your bonds, and you said, ‘I will not transgress Your words,’ yet upon every high hill and underneath every fresh tree you lay like a prostitute, serving other gods. (21) I planted you as a sorek, a choice vine. Just as sorek equals 606, I gave you 606 commandments in addition to the seven Noahide laws. You are children of upright and righteous fathers, completely pure seed, so how did you turn into unwanted, wild vines? (22) Even if you attempt to clean yourself with soda ash and use much soap, yet like a stain that cannot be cleansed is your iniquity, the iniquity of the Golden Calf, before Me, for that iniquity stands forever, and all retribution that befalls Israel includes some of the iniquity of the Golden Calf. (23) How can you say, ‘I have not been defiled, I did not go after the bealim’? See your way in the valley, know what you did, how you sinned in the matter of Baal Peor, and you continue in the same way, like a swift, young she-camel that continues in the wayward behavior of her youth. (24) A wild she-donkey, accustomed to the wilderness, runs in whatever direction she desires (Radak); who can retrieve her from her intended destination? All those who seek her shall become exhausted for naught; she shall be found and caught in the month of her sleep. So too you, Israel, shall be caught in the month of Av, that has been prepared for you since the time of the spies, when your forefathers established it as a time for crying with their baseless tears. (25) My prophets say, ‘Hold yourself back from serving idolatry, so that your foot not walk barefoot into exile, and hold back your throat from dying of thirst!’ Yet you say regarding the words of the prophets, ‘I have despaired of your words, no! For I have loved foreign gods, and I shall go after them.’ (26) Like the shame of a person thought trustworthy when he is discovered to be a thief, so shall Israel be ashamed, they, their kings, their officers and their priests and their prophets. (27) They say to the wooden image, ‘You are my father,’ and to that made of stone, ‘You gave birth to me,’ for they have turned to Me their back and not their face, but in the time that evil comes upon them they will reject their idolatry and confess before Me and say, ‘Arise, have mercy upon us and save us!’ (28) And where are your gods that you made for yourself? Let them arise, and see if they can save you in the time evil befalls you, for your gods have become as numerous as your cities, O Judah; in each city a different deity is worshipped!

(29) “Why do you contend to Me, saying, ‘We have not sinned!’ You have all rebelled against me, even the righteous among you! (30) In vain I struck your sons, for they did not accept reproof; your sword consumed your prophets, Zechariah and Isaiah, whom you killed, like a destroying lion.”

(31) Jeremiah held up the container of manna that had been preserved since the generation of the Exodus and declared, “You of this generation! See here what the word of Hashem can bring about! When I brought down from heaven this miraculous bread every single day, did your forefathers experience a barren wilderness, a land of darkness? Why has my people said, ‘We are distanced from you; we shall not come to you again’? (32) Will a maiden forget her jewelry or a bride her ornaments? But My people has forgotten Me for days innumerable. (33) O how you adorn yourself to seek love when you greet your adulterous lovers! Indeed, you have pursued even the worst of all ways to learn and behave. (34) Even on your skirt is found the innocent lifeblood of the destitute. You did not find them stealthily tunneling into someone’s home to rob them, in which case they forfeit their life by endangering others, when you killed them. Rather, it was because they rebuked you concerning these matters. (35) Yet you said in your heart, ‘Indeed, I am innocent, even His anger is turned back from me.’ Behold, I shall come with you to judgment for saying, ‘I have not sinned.’ (36) How very lowly you will become, straying from your path, abandoning Me and depending upon Egypt for help!” Here Yirmiyahu refers to the future, to the days of the kings Yehoyakim and Tzidkiyahu. “You will also be embarrassed that you depended upon Egypt, just as you were embarrassed that you depended upon Assyria in the days of King Achaz. He depended on Assyria, but they besieged him rather than strengthen him. (37) You will also go out from this place with the shame of your sins upon your head, for HaShem is disgusted that you rely upon others (Metzudah), and you will not succeed because of them.”

I have rendered Jeremiah Chapter 1 into a flowing English narrative incorporating selections of classic commentaries, primarily Rashi, also drawing from Targum and Radak. I would love for this to be a springboard for discussion.

Jeremiah, Chapter 1

Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, a Kohen (priest) from Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, was descended from Rahab the harlot. Despite his humble lineage, he was more righteous than those in his generation who were of prestigious lineage, and therefore was chosen by God to rebuke his generation. Jeremiah began prophesying in the 13th year of King Josiah son of Amon, when the Divine Presence (Shechinah) began to dwell upon him. He prophesied throughout the rest of Josiah’s reign, and throughout the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, and the reign of Zedekiah son of Josiah, until the 11th year of Zedekiah, in the 5th month, when Jerusalem was exiled.

God said to Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. I had already revealed to Adam, from the beginning of time, who the prophets of each generation would be for all time, including you. Before you emerged from the womb, I prepared you for this purpose. I already told Moses, ‘I will raise up a prophet for them… like you’ (Deuteronomy 18:18). This prophecy refers to you, Jeremiah. You are a prophet like Moses, for just as Moses rebuked Israel, so shall you rebuke Israel. Just as Moses prophesied for forty years, so shall you prophesy for forty years. I have made you a prophet who will prophesy to Israel, a nation that behaves as though it is the same as the other nations of the world, not fulfilling the unique mission that I have commanded them. You will also prophesy regarding the calamities that will befall the nations of the world because of their wickedness.”

Jeremiah said to God: “But Lord, behold, I am unable to rebuke the people, for I am yet a lad. Moses rebuked the people close to his death. By that time, Israel already regarded Moses highly because of all the miracles he had performed for their benefit throughout many years. He took them out of Egypt and split the sea for them. He brought down the manna and swarms of quail for them to eat. He gave them the Torah and drew water from the rock. Therefore he could also rebuke them and they would listen. But you ask me to rebuke them at the very beginning of my career!”

God said to Jeremiah: “Do not say, ‘I am a lad,’ for you shall go to the nations of the world if I send you to them, and you shall speak to the people of Israel the words I tell you. Do not fear them, for I am with you, to save you.”

God sent His prophetic words and arranged them in Jeremiah’s mouth. God said to Jeremiah: “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms to uproot and to smash and to annihilate and to destroy, for as you prophesy regarding them, so shall befall them. But as for Israel, you are appointed to build and to plant, if they listen and repent.”

God spoke to Jeremiah, saying, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

Jeremiah said, “I see an almond branch, representing a king who is quick to do evil, as the almond tree is quicker to blossom than other trees.” 

God said to Jeremiah, “You have seen well. Just as this almond blossoms more quickly than other trees, so am I quick to carry out my word. It takes twenty-one days for the almond to ripen, just as there shall be twenty-one days from the 17th of Tamuz, when the walls of Jerusalem will be breached, until the 9th of Av, when the Temple will be destroyed.”

God spoke to Jeremiah again, saying, “What do you see?”

Jeremiah said, “I see a boiling pot, bubbling up on the north side.”

God said to Jeremiah, “From Babylonia, which is in the north, shall the evil come forth upon all the inhabitants of the land. For behold, I am calling to all the families of the kingdoms of the north, and each man shall set his seat at the opening of the gates of Jerusalem, and upon all its walls around, and upon all the cities of Judah. And I shall pronounce judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem for all their evil, for abandoning me and burning incense to other gods, and bowing to the works of their hands. And you, Jeremiah, brace yourself, and rise up, and speak to them all that I shall command you. Do not fear them, lest I break you before them. Behold, today I have made you strong as a fortified city and as a pillar of iron and as copper walls to pronounce retribution against all the inhabitants of the land: the kings of Judah, its officers, its priests and the common people. They will judge you and strive against you to suppress your prophetic words, but they will not succeed against you, for I am with you, to save you.”

“And when the yoke from without began to be lifted, and the spirit breathed more freely, one of eminently illustrious personality came upon the scene and influenced Jewish life to the present day. His freer intellectual development, indeed, owed much to the influence of forces extraneous to Judaism… In his personal life and practice an observant Jew, he showed his brethren throughout the world that a man could be strictly religious and yet enjoy the eminence and lustre of a German Plato. It was this ‘and yet’ which proved decisive. His successors contented themselves with the zealous cultivation of Tenakh on philological and aesthetic lines… to the neglect of Judaism itself.”

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Nineteen Letters, p. 30

Quote  —  Posted: January 8, 2017 in History
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“[T]he adherents of Jewish liberalism… traced the origin of the Reform Movement to [Moses Mendelssohn]. Mendelssohn’s writings, however, in which every word of the Jewish text is declared to be divine wisdom, prove the error of this thesis.”

Hermann Schwab, The History of Orthodox Jewry in Germany, Ch. II

Quote  —  Posted: January 8, 2017 in History
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To the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon,” these new lyrics (by me) capture the Biblical and midrashic stories about the enigmatic giant known as Og.

Og, the mighty giant, tall as he could be,

He held on tight to Noah’s Ark, to survive the mabul sea.


In the rain Og traveled, as the Teivah sailed,

It bobbed and rocked and shook and lurched, what a whale of a tale! Oh…


Og, the mighty giant, tall as he could be,

He held on tight to Noah’s Ark, to survive the mabul sea.


Og, the mighty giant, tall as he could be,

He held on tight to Noah’s Ark, to survive the mabul sea.


When Lot was living in Sedom, the Five Kings went to war,

Lot was captured when the five kings lost against the four.


Og tried to be clever, came and told Avram,

He hoped Avram would die but Avram fought with dirt and won.


Og, the mighty giant, tall as he could be,

He held on tight to Noah’s Ark, to survive the mabul sea.


Og, the mighty giant, tall as he could be,

He held on tight to Noah’s Ark, to survive the mabul sea.


Mighty King of Bashan, later Og became,

Everyone would tremble at the mention of his name.


Old King Og would try to destroy Avraham’s children,

Tried to squash B’ney Yisrael with a big mountain.


Humble Moshe jumped and struck Og’s ankle with his staff,

That’s how Og met his mighty end, he had not the last laugh.


Og, the Mighty Giant, thought that he was brave,

He didn’t know only Hashem has the power to save. Oh…


Og, the mighty giant, tall as he could be,

He held on tight to Noah’s Ark, to survive the mabul sea.


Og, the mighty giant, tall as he could be,

He held on tight to Noah’s Ark, to survive the mabul sea.

Video  —  Posted: January 3, 2017 in Midrash, Music, Mussar (Ethics), Parshah, Stories, Talmud, Tanach, Torah, Video
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“For pass over to the isles of the Kittites, and see, and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there has been such a thing. Has a nation changed its gods, which yet are no gods? But My people has changed its glory for that which does not benefit.”

Jeremiah 2:10-11

“The Kittites and Kedarites are tent dwellers and cattle herders. They travel nomadically from pasture to pasture, from wilderness to wilderness, carrying their gods with them to the place where they encamp. I, however, carried you until I established you firmly, but you abandoned me.” (Commentary of Rashi)

The Path of the Just (מסילת ישרים), Ch. 24:


We have already found that the great transcendent angels tremble and shudder constantly before the awesomeness of the Eternal, to such a degree that our Sages of blessed memory have said in a wise allegory (Chagigah 13B): ‘From where does the [Heavenly] River of Fire originate? From the sweat of the holy creatures [who serve the Eternal].’ And this is because of their awe of the exaltedness of the Blessed One that is constantly upon them, lest they detract, even if only in a small way, from the glory and sanctity that befits Him.

Quote  —  Posted: December 16, 2016 in Kabalah/Mysticism, Midrash, Mussar (Ethics), Talmud
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