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The Prophecy Project

Hoshea chapter 2 presents an odd contrast to our Parsha. Whereas Bemidbar is thematically titled Numbers, for the many times Israel is counted, the prophet opens “and Israel will be like the sand by the sea, who cannot be measured or counted” (2:1). This conflict reflects the varying moments in history of our Parsha and Haftorah. Bemidbar describes a fledgling nation, hoping to grow; Hoshea, however, prophesies a redemptive future. Israel’s humble beginning may be quantified; its successful conclusion cannot. Our Haftorah’s imagery represents perhaps the most jarring experience of today’s reading. The prophet depicts Israel as a the cheating wife, and God the cuckolded husband. God pours out His anger upon the people who are imagined as the children of an illicit affair: “And I will not have compassion upon her children; for they are children of harlotry” (2:6). The image of Israel as the Lord’s wife compares to the Song of all Songs. Hoshea, however, is harsh in his characterizations. God demands fidelity from His beloved and the rejection of Torah and Mitzvoth is tantamount to adultery. God’s anger, as well, emerges with the heat and passion of a scorned lover: “And now will I uncover her shame in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of My hand” (2:12). Yet, as in Shir HaShirim, the bond of the beloveds looms eternal. The anger of the Lord subsides: “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly unto her” (2:16). Indeed, God declares that His relationship with Israel is an “Eternal Betrothal”, steeped in love and forgiveness. That betrothal began at Sinai and continues. At a singular moment in time, we committed ourselves to the One God and to his system of commitment and justice. That commitment binds us to Him, and, as it were Him to us. It is an appropriate introduction to Shavuot which celebrates the moment when we entered the canopy with God.

A Singular Occurrence
Even the simplest layman knows that in Halacha agreement is precious. Nevertheless, while there exists numerous conflicting practices (Ashkenaz, Sefard, Yemenite…) when it comes to all other Haftorot, all traditions staunchly support this week chosen Haftorah. Our tradition thus supports the Mechilta’s observation, that on the eve of Kabalat Ha-Torah at Sinai, the Jews camped at the foot of the mountain ke’ish echad b’lev echad, as one human with one heart.