Posts Tagged ‘repentance’

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: 

Rashi

Targum

Radak

Metzudah

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.”

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 this is one of the ways teshuvah (repentance), that at a time when trouble arrives, and the people will cry out over it, and sound the shofar (trumpet), everyone will know that due to their wicked deeds has this evil befallen them… and this will cause the trouble to be removed from them. But if they will not cry out and not sound the shofar, but will say this matter has occurred because it is the way of the world, and this trouble is coincidental, behold, this is the way of cruelty, and causes them to cling to their wicked ways, and upon this trouble shall be added other troubles.

          -Mishnah Berurah 576:1

From ברית אברהם (The Covenant of Abraham) by R’ Avraham haLevi Horowitz, father of the Shla”h (ch. 8):

לבי לבי הלא ידעת
כי עפר אתה
וכל ימיך חרוצים
וחייך קצוצים
ובכל יום תקרב אל הקבר
ותעוף בלי אבר
ומדוע אתה נמהר
ולא תעבור על לבך יום המר
יום תאבד עצתך
ונסרחה חכמתך
יום ישיאוך
על כתף יסבלוך
ואל ארץ תחתיות ישליכוך
ארץ ציה וצלמות
חצר מות
שם תפול עליך אימה
ותכסך כלימה
ולבושך גוש ורימה
הלא היום ההוא נורא ואיום
יום אשר אין לך פדיום
יום תמרר בבכיה תאניה ואניה
יום חרדה וצעקה
יום שואה ונעקה
יום מספד מר
יום תערוך אבל משמר מול משמר
יום יחרה אף הא-ל וקנאתו
ונצתה כאש חמתו
יום תצא הנשמה
וישאר הגוף שלך שממה
שוכב לבדו
ולא יהפך מצדו אל צדו
ואתה בן אדם אל מי ינוס לעזרה
או מי יהיה עליך סתרה
אז תאמר אוי לי מה עשיתי
ומדוע דבר ה’ בזיתי
ואחרי שרירות לבי פניתי

And every man should hasten to repent, and should be afraid that he will be punished for his sin before he [repents], as it is said, ‘Give honor to the Lord your God before it gets dark’ (Jeremiah 13:16), and it says, ‘And remember your Creator in the days of your youth, while the days of evil have not yet come…’ (Ecclesiastes 12:1). And it also is taught in Tractate Shabbath (153A), ‘Rabbi Eliezer says, ‘Repent one day before you die.’ Rabbi Eliezer’s students asked him, ‘Does a person know on which day he will die?’ He said to them, ‘All the more so should a person repent today, lest he die tomorrow. Thence all his days he will be in repentance.’ And our Sages of blessed memory said in the first chapter of Tractace Rosh haShanah: ”Fortunate is the man who fears God.’ Fortunate is the man, and not the woman? It means, ‘Fortunate is the person who repents while he is a man.” And Rashi explains [this means] while he is a young man, in his strength, that is to say, he hurries to recognize his Creator before the days of old age, while he is a mighty man. And even though all repentence is excellent, even in one’s old age, as the verse states: ‘You cause man to repent until contrition (דכא)’ (Psalms 90:3), and our Sages of blessed memory said [this means] ‘until the time when life is crushed (דכדוכא) [i.e. old age]’ (Ruth Rabah to Ruth 3:13), nevertheless, the repentance that a man does during his youth, in his strength, is more desirable and acceptable before God.

(B’rith Avraham, Chapter 5)

There Are No Shortcuts in Character Refinement

In preparation for the fast of the 17th of Tamuz, 5774 (July 15, 2014), I offer here the words of Mishnah Berurah (549:1): “Every person is obligated to introspect on these [communal fast] days, and to examine one’s deeds and repent of them, for the principle obligation is not fasting… Fasting is merely a preparation for repentance (teshuvah). Therefore, those people who, when they fast, go on trips and engage in useless activities, have grasped the lesser obligation and forsaken the greater one. Nevertheless, one may not absolve oneself through repentance alone, for fasting on these days is a positive injunction from the prophets.”

Artwork by zbush -- http://zbush.deviantart.com/

Yonah ben Amitai being swallowed by the “big fish.”

In an earlier post, I quoted from Tana d’Vey Eliyahu Rabah a story about Eliyahu haNavi (Elijah the Prophet) visiting a widow and instructing her to separate a portion of bread for him first as a sign that he (Eliyahu) would first come to the exile, followed by the redeemer. (Please read that story to understand my comments here.)

One interesting point in that midrash was that it identified the widow’s son as “Mashiach ben Yoseph” (see there), the title for a quasi-redeemer in Jewish oral tradition. We remarked there, amid our confusion, that there was no indication in the text as to the identity of this child.

However, upon perusal of another text, Yalkut Shimoni (Yonah, Ch. 1), we do find an interesting opinion regarding the identity of the widow’s son:

Yonah (Jonah) ben Amitay was from Asher, as it is written: ‘Asher did not remove the inhabitants of Ako and the inhabitants of Tzidon’ (Judges 1:31), and it is written (regarding Eliyahu): ‘Get up, go to Tzorphath which is of Tzidon… Behold, I have commanded there a widow to sustain you’ (I Kings 17:9), and Rabbi Eliezer taught: Yonah ben Amitay was the son of the widow of Tzorphath.

A second opinion there has it that Yonah is from the tribe of Zevulun (Zebulun), and the conclusion appears to be that his father was from Zevulun and mother (the widow) was from Asher.

Be that as it may, this midrash indicates the identity of the widow’s son as none other than the prophet Yonah (of the book of Yonah, or “Jonah”). Is this midrash at odds with Tana d’Vey Eliyahu?

Was this boy Yonah or Mashiach ben Yoseph? If he was from either Asher or Zevulun, then he was from neither of the tribes of Yoseph (Menasheh or Ephrayim). And in what way did he fulfill the role of Mashiach ben Yoseph?

While I admit ignorance regarding the full extent of the role of Mashiach ben Yoseph, I understand that he may be a redeemer for the nations of the world (as opposed to a redeemer for Israel particularly), as was Yoseph, who saved Egypt from a bitter end by famine, and rather, was able to sustain the entire world during the years of famine with the stores of food he had saved. “Son of Yoseph” could mean not a biological heir but a spiritual one, one who carries the mantle of Yoseph by also being a redeemer of the nations.

Yonah very much fulfilled this role as one who came to the people of Nineveh, a gentile city, to warn them of their impending doom. They repented and were saved. In this way there need not be seen any conflict between the two midrashim.

Perhaps now we understand the relevance of Eliyahu’s “sign to the world.” Since this child would become a harbinger to the nations of the world, it would be appropriate for him to carry Eliyahu’s message to them.

And what of Eliyahu’s message? Why should the nations of the world know that Eliyahu will come first and then the Son of David?

I don’t know, but my offhand guess is that just as Yonah came first to Nineveh to warn them, allowing them to repent and be saved, so too will the nations have a similar opportunity in the future, to return to the One True G-d before the arrival of Mashiach ben David, by which time it may be too late for repentance.

Dunno, just a thought.