Haftaras Bamidbar

The Midrash expounds on haftaras Bambidar as follows (Bamidbar Rabbah 2:15):
It is written (Hoshea 2:1): “It will come to pass that, instead of what was said to them – ‘You are not My people’ – it will be said to them: ‘You are the children of the living God.’” Said R. Yochanan: “Initially it is written (ibid. 1:2-9): ‘Hashem said to Hoshea: “Go, take for yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land is straying completely from following Hashem.” … And He said: “Call his name Lo-Ammi; for you are not My people, and I will not be yours.”’ But afterward it is written: ‘It will come to pass that, instead of what was said to them – “You are not My people” – it will be said to them: “You are the children of the living God.”’ …. Said Hoshea: ‘Nations of the world, what do you think? That because of what Hashem said – “Call his name Lo-Ammi, for you are not My people, and I will not be yours” – He is irreconcilably angry with them? See what He said right afterward: “It will come to pass that, instead of what was said to them – ‘You are not My people’ – it will be said to them: ‘You are the children of the living God.’”’
It is similar in a prophecy of Yeshayah. Initially he says (Yeshayah 1:2-4): ‘Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Hashem has spoken: “Children I have raised and exalted, but they have rebelled against Me. … Woe! They are a sinful nation, a people weighed down by iniquity, evil offspring, destructive children!”’ But afterward he says (ibid. 1:18):  ‘“Come now, let us reason together,” says Hashem. “If your sins are like scarlet, they will become white as snow; if they have become red like crimson, they will become like wool.”’
What is this like? It is like a prince who was told by his father to go to school, but instead went to the marketplace and started playing with other boys. When the father found out about this, he cursed his son and cast harsh words at him. But afterward he said, ‘Wash your hands and come sit down and eat with me.’”
The Maggid sets out to explain this Midrash. He quotes a Gemara in Pesachim 87a-b expounding on Hoshea’s prophecy:
Said the Holy One Blessed Be He to Hoshea: “Your children have sinned.” … Hoshea replied: “Master of the Universe! The entire world is Yours. Replace them with another nation.” … Hashem told him: “‘Go, take for yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry.’” Later, after she bore two sons and a daughter, Hashem told him: “Separate yourself from her.” Hoshea replied: “Master of the Universe! I have children from her – I cannot send her away.” Hashem retorted: “Look, your wife is a harlot and your children are children of harlotry, and you don’t really know whether they are yours or someone else’s. Yet you will not send her away. The People of Yisrael are My children … one of the four acquisitions that I acquired for Myself in My world. … And you say I should replace them with another nation?”
The Maggid explains the matter as follows. Within a person’s household there are two basic relationships: the person’s relationship with his wife and his relationship with his children. These relationships differ in major ways. On the one hand, there is a unique closeness between a person and his wife, so much so that the Gemara says that a person’s wife is like his own self (אשתו כגופו – see, for example, Berachos 24a). On the other hand, in another respect, a person’s children have an advantage over his wife. If a person becomes deeply displeased with his wife, he can divorce her and put an end to their relationship. But a person cannot divorce his children – the relationship between a person and his children can never be severed.
Now, the Jewish People are called Hashem’s wife, as in Shir HaShirim. This description reflects a special closeness, with the Jewish People cleaving to Hashem. As it is written (Devarim 4:4): “But you who cleave to Hashem your God are alive – every one of you – this day.” But the Jewish People are also called Hashem’s children, implying, so to speak, that Hashem cannot sever His relationship with them. However, there is a dispute in the Gemara in Kiddushin 36a about the status of the Jewish People as Hashem’s children. R. Yehudah says that it is only when the Jews obey Hashem’s will that they are called His children, but when they disobey they are not called His children. R. Meir disagrees and says that either way the Jews are called Hashem’s children. According to R. Meir’s view, Hashem’s relationship with the Jewish People is indeed inseverable. But according to R. Yehudah’s view, if the Jewish People disobey He can sever the relationship.
The exchange between Hashem and Hoshea in the Gemara in Pesachim parallels the dispute between R. Yehudah and R. Meir. Hoshea held like R. Yehudah. He therefore suggested, upon hearing Hashem say that the Jews have sinned, that He replace them with another nation. Hashem, on the other hand, held like R. Meir. He sought to teach Hoshea a lesson. He therefore told him to take a harlot as a wife and have children with her, and afterward told him to divorce her. Hoshea replied: “I have children from her – I cannot send her away.” Hashem then told him: “I regard the Jewish People as My children, no matter what. So how can I separate Myself from them?” Hoshea understood Hashem’s point. He therefore admonished the nations of the world, telling them since Hashem regards the Jewish People as His children, He will never decide in anger to cast them away.
Likewise, in Yeshayah’s prophecy, Hashem declares: “Children I have raised and exalted, but they have rebelled against Me.” The Jewish People rebelled, but Hashem still called them His children and regarded them as such. He therefore turned to them in reconciliation: “Come now, let us reason together – if your sins are like scarlet, they will become white as snow; if they have become red like crimson, they will become like wool.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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