Haftaras Masei

In the prophecy of this week’s haftarah, there is a verse (not part of the haftarah itself, but in a nearby passage) that describes Hashem exclaiming (Yirmiyah 2:31): “Have I been a wilderness to Israel, or a land of deep darkness?” In Sefer HaMiddos, Shaar HaDaas, chapter 18, the Maggid discusses this verse. The Torah writes (Vayikra 18:1-2): “Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying, ‘Speak to the Children of Israel, and say to them – “I am Hashem your God.”’” According to Sifra Acharei Mos 9, Hashem’s declaration comprised a number of messages, including the message “I am faithful to pay reward.” The Maggid interprets this message as meaning that Hashem is the source of all bounty, and faithfully sustains us in a miraculous manner under all conditions.
In the Jewish People’s initial days as an independent nation, when they went out of Egypt, they traversed a path of dry land in the middle of the Sea of Reeds, and afterward saw the Egyptians drown to death in the sea. At that point, they could easily have gone back to Egypt, taken the country over, and enjoyed the benefits of the fertile land there. But instead they listened to Moshe and followed him into the wilderness, a barren area riddled with snake and scorpions. The entire nation – men, women, and children, young and old – entered an area that afforded no means of procuring food. Hashem regarded this act of loyalty as a merit for the people, as is written in last week’s haftarah (Yirmiyah 2:2): “Go forth and cry out in the ears of [the people of] Yerushalayim, saying, ‘Thus said Hashem, “I recall on your behalf the devotion of your youth, the love your bridal days – how you followed after Me in the wilderness, in a land unsown.’” And He provided all our needs in the wilderness for forty years.
The Midrash in Bamidbar Rabbah 1:2, commenting on the verse from this week’s haftarah that we quoted at the outset, elaborates on the way Hashem cared for us. He transported us on cushions like kings; He provided us three great teachers, Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam; He caused manna to stream down from heaven for us to eat; He enveloped us in clouds of glory, which protected us, exterminated snakes and scorpions, and leveled our path; and He provided us a well of water that accompanied used throughout our travels. We had no feeling of being in a wilderness; there was nothing that we lacked.
At present we are just like the wilderness generation, for we have been exiled from our land and wander as strangers across the globe. And now, just as then, Hashem sustains us with magnanimous and wondrous kindness. There is no difference between our situation now and our situation in the wilderness, except that in the wilderness the miracles that Hashem worked for us were open miracles that all men could see with their physical eyes, whereas the miracles that He works for us now can be perceived only by the eye of the intellect. Hoshea 2 can be interpreted as describing how Hashem cast us into exile because of our sins, how He cares for us in the exile as He cared for us in the wilderness, and how we will ultimately come to recognize His constant providence.
The truth is that our entire existence, including all our sustenance, flows from Hashem through wondrous means. Although we cannot physically see Hashem at work, if we ponder matters carefully, we will realize that we cannot attribute the bounty we acquire to the actions we take within an “automatic” system of nature. And when we recognize this fact, we will understand how fitting it is to follow the counsel of our Sages (Avos 2:4): “Nullify your will before Hashem’s will.” We will know that the mitzvos of Torah are what provide us our life and vitality, as it is written (Mishlei 4:22): “For they are life to he who finds them, and healing for all his flesh.” May we all reach this realization, and then see the day when Hashem will bring blessing to Zion and rebuild the walls of Yerushalayim.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

1 Comment

  1. David Zucker:

    Note: a correction was made to the first sentence of this post.

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