First and second haftarot of rebuke

Rabbi Jan Uhrbach
Masei Mattot Pinehas | Tishah Be'av By :  Jan Uhrbach Director of the Block / Kolker Center for Spiritual Arts Posted On Jul 6, 2018 / 5778 | The Voice of the Prophet | Social Justice

Chapters 1 and 2 of Jeremiah constitute the first two haftarot of “calamity” or rebuke. In them, the prophet anticipates disorienting but necessary societal upheaval; he is called “to uproot and pull down, destroy and overthrow,” and also “to build and to plant.” His prediction will prove true: the Temple will be destroyed and the people exiled, leading eventually to the re-envisioning of Judaism on healthier, holier footing. The core of the problem is a two-fold idolatry: a) forsaking God, “the Fount of living waters,” and b) creating “broken cisterns which cannot even hold water.”

According to Walter Brueggeman (Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks), the broken cisterns represent a corrupted ideology, distorted and unsustainable, that the people are using to deny reality and the need for change. Like Jeremiah, Brueggemann argues that healing and hope are dependent on stripping away denial, confronting reality, and experiencing the concomitant grief.

Food for thought:

  • What are the sources of true nourishment and vitality that our society is abandoning?
  • What values and ways of being do we cling to that will never be sustaining and healthy?
  • What realities must be confronted and losses grieved in order to change course?

Listen to the haftarah brought to life as it is declaimed in English by renowned actor Ronald Guttman by subscribing to The Voice of the Prophet podcast.