Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Following Hashem in the Desert

After the general quality (as the Malbim puts it) of Yirmiyahu's nevua is described in the first chapter of the book we read for the first time of Hashem instructing him to call out to the people:
א וַיְהִי דְבַר-יְהוָה, אֵלַי לֵאמֹר. ב הָלֹךְ וְקָרָאתָ בְאָזְנֵי יְרוּשָׁלִַם לֵאמֹר, כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה, זָכַרְתִּי לָךְ חֶסֶד נְעוּרַיִךְ, אַהֲבַת כְּלוּלֹתָיִךְ--לֶכְתֵּךְ אַחֲרַי בַּמִּדְבָּר, בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא זְרוּעָה. ג קֹדֶשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל לַיהוָה, רֵאשִׁית תְּבוּאָתֹה; כָּל-אֹכְלָיו יֶאְשָׁמוּ, רָעָה תָּבֹא אֲלֵיהֶם נְאֻם-יְהוָה.
Yirmiyahu is told:
Go and call out in the ears of Yerushalayim and say, "So says Hashem, 'I remember the chesed of your youth, the love of your nuptials -- your following after me in the desert in an unsown land. Sanctified unto Hashem is Yisrael, the first of his crop -- all those who consume him will be held guilty, evil shall come upon them -- the word of Hashem'"
What is the significance of this message? Why is this an appropriate message for the people in Yerushalayim? Is this an example of a nevua of nechama (consolation)?

At first it seems this is a message of consolation. First Hashem praises the Jewish people speaking their praises and then says that all who hurt them will be punished. However Hashem "remembers" the chesed of Yisrael's youth and how they followed after Hashem in the desert -- not so now. It is true that those who harm the Jewish will be punished. However this implies that harm will befall the Jewish people. The purpose of this message is to criticize the Jewish people for not living up to the example of their forefathers. In other words, how could the same people that followed after Hashem into the desert, the first of his crop now be worthy only of destruction.

But why should the people in Yerushalayim compare themselves to the Jews who followed Hashem in the desert? What was their greatness and why is it relevant? The answer to these questions is to be found in the eight chapter of Sefer D'varim. There the people are implored to (D'varim 8:2) "...remember the entire road on which Hashem..." led them for fourty years in the desert. And what are they supposed to remember about that experience? (8:3)"He [Hashem] afflicted you and let you hunger, then he fed you the mann that you did not know and that your forefathers did not know, in order to make you know that not by bread alone does man live but by all that comes forth from the mouth of Hashem does man live." I will continue next time with a fuller discussion of this passage from D'varim and how it is relevant to our piece in Yirmiyahu.

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