Haftaras Bamidbar

This week’s haftarah begins (Hoshea 2:1): “It will then be (v’hayah) that the number of the Children of Yisrael will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured our counted. And it will then be, that instead of it being said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ it will be said to them, ‘Children of the Living God!’” The Gemara (Yoma 22b) notes an apparent contradiction between the beginning and the end of the verse: In the beginning the verse speaks of the number of the Children of Yisrael, while in the end it states that they cannot be measured or counted. The Gemara resolves the contradiction by saying that when the Jewish People are doing Hashem’s will, they cannot be counted, but when they are not doing Hashem’s will, they can be counted.
Many commentators have raised the question of how the same verse can be speaking of two different time periods. The Maggid offers the following explanation. The word v’hayah at the beginning of the versecontains a Biblical conversive vav, which converts the past tense verb hayah (it was) to future tense (it will be). This hints at something being transferred from the past to the future. The verse can thus be understood as speaking of how a deficit in one period is made up for by a great expansion in a later period. At present our fulfillment of Hashem’s will is lacking – we are, so to speak, not fully His people – and therefore Hashem restricts our population size to a limited number. But in the future we will make up for our present deficiencies in mitzvah observance by serving Hashem with extraordinarily profuse effort – we will transform ourselves into the “Children of the Living God,” sterling servants of Hashem. In response to our efforts, Hashem will make up for the small Jewish population size of the past by causing extraordinary population growth that will bring our population size to a level beyond number.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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