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The Prophecy Project

Our Haftorah, Jeremiah 16:19-17:14, stands before a quandary, the images of rebuke in Parshat Bechukotai present a challenging parallel. Jeremiah offers a stark vision of the sins of Israel: “The sin of Judah written with a pen of iron, is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and nevertheless of the their hold is on the horns of your altars.” The prophet criticizes a people who continue feign religious commitment, while failing spiritually and ethically. Our Torah portions’ promises of sin are seemingly fulfilled in the hypocrisy of Jeremiah’s generation. A recurring theme in Jeremiah is the twin failure in both the spiritual and ethical realms. Indeed, he criticizes the idolaters who offer sacrifices to false gods on the “high places” and the moral failures of those who “obtain riches, though not by right”. R. Samson R. Hirsch notes that the people of the time are referred to as “heart sick” for “if the heart is sick everything external is an empty dream.” Still Chazal were careful in their choice of our Haftorah, for the latent hopefulness that exists as well. Already toward the beginning of the prophet’s words, we are told, “cursed is the on who trusts in mankind… blessed be the man who trusts in God.” Jeremiah implies that Israel’s state need not be an eternal experience. Their failure emerges from a trust in man’s folly and if only they turned toward God’s system, they may return to their state of success. The Haftorah closes declaring “God is the source of Israel’s hopes” and a prayer: “Heal me Oh God that I shall be healed.” The conclusion declares God to be the foundation of all success, compared to a continuously flowing spring. The spiritual sins of Israel stem from their failure to recognize that their salvation can come from God; they are essentially hedging their bets. Lack of faith similarly inspires their moral failure, as they refuse to count upon God, and seek illegal means to support themselves. Jeremiah’s concluding prayer is for the healing of Israel’s heart, that it should open and recognize God’s faithfulness, and inspire the them to “dedicate their lives to God” (Hirsch).

Yom Yerushalayim, Sunday 28 Iyyar
Mentioned more than 600 times in the Bible, Jerusalem, anchored in Jewish tradition, is the national landmark of that tradition. It represents our collective soul. It is Jerusalem that binds one Jew to another. There is not a prayer more beautiful or nostalgic than the one which evokes the splendor of its past and the shattering and enduring memory of its destruction. I remember when I went to Jerusalem for the first time; I felt that it was not the first time. Yet each time I revisit the city, it is always for the first time. What I feel and experience there I feel nowhere else. I return to the house of my ancestors; King David and Jeremiah await me there. Elie Wiesel, Jerusalem in My Heart, NY Times 1/24/01