Friday, July 29, 2016

The prophet, the ‘three weeks’ and ‘Palestinians'

On Shabbat, July 30, 2016, Jews in Israel will read the Torah Portion, Mattot (Bamidbar, 30:2-32:42). Jews will also read a Haftorah portion from Yirmiyahu [Jeremiah] (1:1-2:3).

As you may know, a Haftorah reading is an excerpt from the prophets. These excerpts are read each week immediately following the end of that week’s Torah reading. These excerpts typically have a thematic connection to the weekly Torah Portion. But sometimes, these readings are linked not to the Torah Portion but to events commemorated in the Hebrew calendar.

Beginning July 30, 2016, and for the following nine weeks (for a total of ten weeks), Jews around the world read a series of ten haftorot that are connected to the Hebrew calendar. These ten focus on the destruction of two Holy Temples and the resultant two exiles of the Jewish people from Israel which had occurred at this time of year first 2,600 years ago and then again 1,900 years ago.

The first three of these ten haftorot are called either the “Haftorot of Admonition (or Rebuke or Affliction or Calamity or Destruction)”.  These three are read in a period called, 'the three weeks', exactly the time that led up to the destruction of our two Holy Temples (both of which were destroyed on the same day, the ninth of Av, some 656 years apart). Each of these readings focus on the behaviour of the Jewish people that brought that exile and destruction to the Land of Israel so long ago.  

The prophets who speak to us during these three weeks are Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) and Yeshaiyahu (Isaiah). They tell Jewish Israel that HaShem our G-d isn’t happy.  The Jewish people have betrayed Him (“The Special Haftarot of the Three Weeks”, dailyHalacha. com, 2010). The Jewish people stand to pay a horrible price for this betrayal—unless it changes its behaviour.

These three readings are intense. Since we can look back in time from our modern vantage-point to see what actually happened then, we shudder with horror at the sins committed, the communal betrayal of HaShem, and the devastation which was ultimately visited upon them despite the prophetic warnings.

But after these three ‘Haftorot of Admonition/Calamity, etc’, come seven very different Haftorot. These seven are called, ‘Haftorot of Consolation’. They are uplifting. They console us for our loss (the destruction of the Temples; our exile from our homeland). They Promise us our Final Redemption (“Seven Degrees of Consolation”, Tisha B’Av and the three weeks, chabad, no date).

These ten weeks begin on now, July 30, 2016, with the words of the prophet Yirmiyahu, who lived 2,600 years ago. In his time, Jews had “strayed greatly from the TorahMe’am Loez, Book of Yirmeyyahu,  The Torah Anthology, Moznaim printing corp, p 4). They sinned egregiously.

Yirmiyahu’s job wasn’t easy. He prophesied for more than four decades before the destruction of the First Temple (586BCE). For his efforts, he was hounded, arrested, imprisoned, rejected and denounced.

Understandably, Yirmiyahu’s prophecies are chiefly rebuke and warnings (ibid, x). He tells the Jewish people of the terrible punishments which will come to them because of their sins (ibid). He lived to see his prophecies come true.

Yirmiyahu speaks to the Jewish nation about HaShem, sin, destruction, exile and the Land of Israel. He talks about Jerusalem.

For more than 2,600 years Jews have heard Yirmiyahu’s voice. This voice confirms everything the ‘Palestinian Cause’ denies (Ilan Ben Zion, “Jerusalem mufti: Temple Mount never housed Jewish Temple”, timesofisrael, October 25, 2015; Dalit Halevi,“PA Parliament: Jews Have No Right to Even 'One Inch' of Israel”, arutzsheva, May 15, 2015; “PA continues to deny Israel's right to exist”, Palestinian Media Watch, May 31, 2011).

‘Palestinian’ Jew-hate is insistent—and intense: the Jews don’t belong in Israel. But the words of this prophet confirm the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. They confirm the Jewish connection to Israel. They confirm that ancient Israel was ruled by and for Jews.

The nations of the world choose the ‘Palestinians’ over Israel (“UNESCO and the Palestinians (updated)”, thejudeanpeoplesfront, October 15, 2015). But Yirmiyahu reminds us that G-d chose the Jewish people, not Arabs. Jerusalem is Jewish, not Muslim.  

Yirmiyahu reaches across time to remind us who we are. He reminds us this Land is ours: our history is here in Israel, he reminds us, not ‘Palestinian’ history.

The ‘Palestinian Cause’ wants to erase us (“Poll: Most Palestinians want to eliminate Israel”, timesofisrael, June 25, 2014). But during these ten weeks we hear each year from our ancient prophets that HaShem will return the exiles, not erase them. Zion will be redeemed, not conquered (ibid). The Jewish nation will return to Israel and proliferate (ibid), not disappear.

We have returned to Israel. We proliferate. Zion is ours. HaShem, the G-d of Israel is True.

Am Yisroel Chai (the nation of Israel lives!).

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