Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem’

Once again I offer a new, narrative presentation of the 3rd chapter of the book of Jeremiah, incorporating classic commentaries into the text. The color coding is as follows: 





My own words (for clarity)

Please enjoy, comment and share. And without further ado:

Jeremiah continued speaking in the name of HaShem. (1) “I could say you are no longer worthy of me, for if a man sends away his wife, and she goes from him and becomes the wife of another man, will the first husband return to her again? Behold, the land would surely be corrupted by such an act! And you have been unfaithful with many lovers! Nevertheless, return to Me! (2) Lift up your eyes upon the high places and see! Where have you not lied down? Upon the ways you have sat, ready for your lovers, like an Arab in the wilderness, and you have corrupted the land with your unfaithfulness and your evil. (3) The early rains have been held back, and the latter rains did not occur, yet you have had the brazenness of an unfaithful woman, you have refused to be ashamed. (4) If only from this moment you would repent of your wickedness and call to Me, ‘My Father, You are the Teacher of my youth!’ (5) Would your Lord bear against you forever that which you sinned toward Him? Would He hold onto it for eternity? He would not hold onto it! Behold, you have declared, ‘We will not come to You again,’ and that evil you will perform, paying no mind to repentance, and you will succeed in rebelling absolutely.

(6) In the days of King Josiah, HaShem commanded Jeremiah to bring back the Ten Tribes of Israel. A portion of them returned in the 18th year of Josiah (Rashi, v. 12). HaShem said to Jeremiah, “Did you see what the wayward Ten Tribes of Israel did? They would go up on every high mountain, and under every fresh tree and act unfaithfully to Me there, serving idols. (7) And I said through My prophets Amos and Hoshea son of Be’eri and others, after she (Israel) had done all this, ‘Return to Me!’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw that Israel was exiled, but Judah did not learn their lesson. (8) And I saw that Judah saw everything that happened because wayward Israel was unfaithful, that I sent Israel away, and I gave to Israel her document of divorce, but treacherous Judah, Israel’s sister, did not fear that I would send her away also, and did not consider repentance, rather, Judah went and acted unfaithfully also. (9) Because her unfaithfulness was light in her eyes, the land became corrupt; in her unfaithfulness she served stone and wood. (10) And even with all this, having seen the downfall and punishment of Israel, her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, rather falsely.” The generation of Josiah showed themselves to be righteous while they were actually wicked. They made images of idols on the insides of their doorways, half on one side and half on the other, so that when those seeking to eliminate idolatry would inspect the homes, the door would be open and the images were not recognizable.

(11) HaShem said to Jeremiah, “Wayward Israel has exonerated herself of judgment, for she did not have from whom to learn, as opposed to treacherous Judah. (12) Go and call out these words to the north, to the places where Israel was exiled, to Assyria, and say, ‘Return O Wayward Israel! I will not send my wrath against you, because I am abundant in kindness. I will not hold your sins against you forever. (See v. 6 above.) (13) But know your sin, for you rebelled against HaShem your God, and you were unfaithful to HaShem, spreading your legs for strangers under every fresh tree, and you did not listen to My voice. (14) Return, O rebellious sons! For I have been your master, and you have therefore been called by My name, and for you to remain among the nations takes away from My honor. Therefore, I will take you out of exile, even though you remain one in a city of gentiles, or two among an entire gentile nation, and I will bring you to Zion. (15) I will give you leaders who perform My will, and they will lead you with knowledge and wisdom. (16) And it will be, when you multiply and increase in the land in those days, they will no longer say, ‘The Ark of the Covenant of HaShem,’ nor will it even be a thought, nor will they remember it, nor will they consider it, nor will that be done with it which was done in Shiloh, when the Ark was brought out to war against the Philistines in the days of Eili the High Priest, for whole congregation will be holy, and I will dwell in the congregation as though it is the Ark. (17) At that time they will call Jerusalem the Throne of HaShem, and all the nations will gather to it for the sake of HaShem’s name, to Jerusalem, and they will not go anymore after the thoughts of their wicked heart. (18) In those days, the House of Judah will walk with the House of Israel, and they will come together from the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to their forefathers, becoming one kingdom.

(19) “I had thought, ‘How can I place you, My daughter, My congregation and My nation, among sons, among other nations, among idol worshippers?’ Therefore I set aside a better portion for you, giving you a desirable land, a portion that is the envy of the host of nations, and I said, ‘Call me Father, and do not turn away from Me.’ (20) However, you did not do as I wished, rather like a woman who betrays her beloved because he is unable to provide her needs, so you betrayed Me, O House of Israel, though I provide you with every good thing. (21) Over the rise, in the near future, the sound of the begging cries of the Children of Israel can be heard, for they have perverted their ways, they have forgotten HaShem their God. (22) Return O rebellious sons! I will forgive your rebellion!’”

Yirmiyahu then instructed the people to confess to HaShem and say, “Behold, we have come to You, for you are HaShem our God! (23) Indeed, for naught we hoped for salvation from false gods that we worshipped upon hills and in multitudes upon mountains! Indeed, by HaShem our God is the salvation of Israel! (24) Because of our shame, that we worshipped false gods, the toil of our fathers has been consumed from our youth, their sheep and their cattle, their sons and their daughters. (25) We will lie down in shame because of our sins, and our degradation will cover us, for we and our fathers have sinned to HaShem our God from our youth until this day, and we did not listen to the voice of HaShem our God.”


Part 2 in a series exploring the widely held belief that Eliyahu ha-Navi (Elijah the Prophet) is synonymous with the character of Pinchas, grandson of Aharon (Aaron).

Sh’moth Rabah 40:

[Betzalel] was one of seven people who were called [several] names. Eliyahu (Elijah) was called four names… Rabbi Elazar ben Pedath said: [Eliyahu] was a Jerusalemite, and one of those who sat in the Chamber of Hewn Stone (i.e. a member of the Great Sanhedrin, or High Court), and he was from a city of Judah, and his portion was in two tribes (Benjamin and Judah).

The Midrash proceeds to cite verses demonstrating Eliyahu’s several names. Notably, not of these names are Pinchas. Secondly, the names cited are all individuals belonging to the tribe of Binyamin (Benjamin), which would not allow Eliyahu to be Pinchas since Pinchas was a Kohen, a grandson of Aharon (Aaron), the Kohen Gadol (High Priest). Furthermore, since Eliyahu appears to possess a portion of land, this would seem to preclude him from being a Kohen since the Kohanim (priests) were not granted a portion of land, rather, “the Almighty is their portion.”

One of the cities the Midrash cites as belonging to the “portion” of Eliyahu is called Migdal Gad. The Midrash asks why the city was called by this name. The Midrash answers that it is from there that one would go forth who would cut down (megaded) the foundation of the idolators. This is a reference to Eliyahu himself. Therefore, the name of the town was given in accordance with Eliyahu’s destiny. This will become significant when we explore another source that contends that Eliyahu is from the tribe of Gad, offering a similar linguistic connection between the tribe’s name and Eliyahu’s role in history.

Summary thus far:

Source 1: Pirkey d’Rabi Eliezer — Compares Pinchas and Eliyahu but implies they are too unique individuals, just with great similarities.

Source 2: Shemoth Rabah — Clearly indicates Eliyahu derives from the Tribe of Benjamin, precluding the possibility that he is the same person as Pinchas, the Kohen.

So that makes two strikes against the view that Pinchas and Eliyahu are the same.

Isaiah 48:1-2:

Hear this, House of Jacob, who are called the name Israel, and who went forth from the waters of Judah, those who swear in the name of the Lord, and who make mention of the God of Israel, not truthfully and not justly. For  from the Holy City are you called, and upon the God of Israel have you relied, the Lord of Hosts is His name.

Rashi (ad loc):

‘You were not worthy to be redeemed except because you were called those from the Holy City (Jerusalem).’ It was she (Jerusalem) that caused them not to be exiled in the days of Sancheriv with the Ten Tribes… who have no redemption.

The Talmud (Gitin 56B) records a catastrophic incident in Jewish history that took place when the Romans destroyed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

When Titus (then general, son of Emperor Vespasian, later Emperor himself) entered the Holy of Holies (inner sanctum of the Temple), among the revulsive acts of absolute desecration he performed there, he plunged his sword through the curtain that divided between the area containing the Holy Ark (holiest of Temple vessels) and the area containing the other holy vessels. When Titus did so, the Talmud records, blood miraculously spurted out from the cut, and Titus “thought he had killed [the Almighty] Himself.”

When I quoted this passage recently during a class, a student expressed [rightfully] his skepticism regarding the veracity of this story. I vindicated his sentiment, asking him to remain openminded in order to draw out the message the Sages meant to convey with this story. In fact, Maimonides is emphatic that one should treat such difficult passages metaphorically. What then, is the metaphor of the spurting blood?

Rabbi Shimshon Pincus, of blessed memory, asserts (in Nefesh Shimshon: Shabbos Kodesh) that even more troubling is the notion that Titus actually thought he had eliminated G-d himself! Could he be so weak a thinker to believe he had such power?

I would like to borrow from Rabbi Pincus’ explanation, with slight variation, to offer the following understanding.  “Death” ultimately means the abandonment by the soul of the body. When the soul “leaves,” the body “dies.” But the soul lives on! Death is not an absolute end. Titus interpreted his “victory” as a sign that G-d had abandoned the Jewish people as the soul leaves the body. The Torah teaches that “the blood is the spirit [of life],” therefore the forsaking of the Jewish people, the abandonment of the “body” of the nation by G-d, the “soul” of the nation, is represented by the spilling of blood.  However, Titus’ error was in his short-sightedness. To where does the blood flow? To the earth. This symbolizes that G-d has not abandoned the Jewish people, but has joined them in their lowly state. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi, in that famous scene from the original Star Wars, says to Darth Vader, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine,” the Almighty (l’havdil) is not defeated, but, in our state of exile, has assured us He is with us upon whichever earth we stand, through all our ups and downs, until we shall return, may it be soon, to our Holy Land, where we will celebrate together the Glory of G-d.

Question from a correspondent of mine:

“Would you say that all of Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Faith are necessary for whatever you’re practicing to be Judaism? I bet #12 (the Coming of the Messiah) and more so #13 (Resuscitation of the Dead) are probably pretty tough for a lot of people…”

Our answer:

The prophets predicted that certain exceedingly unlikely events would occur at some point in Jewish history (predicting likely events doesn’t require a prophet), prophecies that remained unfulfilled for millennia. Imagine being a Jew living just a couple of centuries ago and trying to convince a non-believer of your faith.

“We’re going to return to our land from all of our exiles all over the world and the land that has been desolate all these centuries will sprout and become lush, fertile, productive! We will fly to Israel on the wings of eagles!”

One would be laughed at! “There’s no way for an ingathering of exiles of such proportion to occur! Give me break! That land is so desolate, nothing’s going to take root there. And to fly there? You’re crazy!”

“Yeah, and the nations of the world will unite to oppose us!”

“Nations of the world unite? There is so much war in the world, no country can get along with its neighbor and you think nations will become united? How could this possibly happen?”

“Yeah and the prophet says that an army of these united nations will besiege Jerusalem.”

“Why would anyone want to even go there? It’s desolate! You think Jerusalem is going to somehow become important to the world?”

“Yeah, and it says that this army will be destroyed with a fire that will burn them up in their tracks, melting them where they stand!”

“What kind of science fiction is that? There are no weapons that can melt entire armies! You Jews are nuts! And my proof is that things have been this way for thousands of years. How can you possibly believe these constants will change? How utterly irrational!”

Yet just a couple of centuries later — we are living messianic prophecy! The land of Israel has been greatly rebuilt, the Jewish people has returned en masse (Israel is projected to soon contain the MAJORITY of world Jewry over all worldwide communities combined). Israel produces some of the finest produce in the world, exported to many foreign markets, including prize-winning wines. We have airplanes today flying record numbers of people to Israel many times daily. There is today a United Nations that continually enacts resolutions against Israel (more than any other nation combined), and there is constant foreign pressure on Israel to give up its rights to its capital, Jerusalem, which the world community doesn’t even recognize as the capital of Israel. (Two of my children were born in Israel and have American birth certificates that show their birthplace as Jerusalem, but without any country, because Jerusalem is still not officially recognized, even by the United States, as an Israeli city, let alone its capital.) Indeed, the only thing the nations seem united about is hatred for Israel. And now that weapons of mass destruction are a reality, it has become easy to imagine the horrid scenarios described by the prophets.

Now, given that all these “impossible to believe” elements of Messianic prophecy have already come true before our eyes, is it such a leap of faith to trust the prophets on the rest?

I believe, given this evidence, that it is irrational to consider all this a “coincidence” or “lucky guess.” I’m certain the prophets were “on to something” and I’m hedging my bets with them. To do otherwise, to this mind, is simply unbelievable.


Rafi Mollot