web analytics
August 21, 2014 / 25 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Torah As A Marriage Contract

On the face of it, the connections between the sedrah and haftarah of Bamidbar are slender. The first has to do with demography. Bamidbar begins with a census of the people. The haftarah begins with Hosea’s vision of a time when “the number of the children of Israel will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or numbered.” There was a time when the Israelites could be counted; the day will come when they will be countless. That is one contrast between the future and the past.

The second goes deeper. The sedrah and the book that bears its name are called Bamidbar, “in the wilderness.” The book is about the wilderness years in both a physical and spiritual sense: a time of wandering and internal conflict. Hosea, however, foresees a time when God will bring the people back to the desert and enact a second honeymoon there:

“…I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came out of Egypt.”

What gives the haftarah its special resonance, however, is the fact that Bamidbar is always read on the Shabbat preceding Shavuot, the festival of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. The fact that tradition chose this of all prophetic passages tells us something deeply moving about how the Jewish people understood this festival and about the Torah itself as the living connection between a people and God.

The story of Hosea is one of the strangest of that great chain of visionaries we call the prophets. It is the story of a marriage. The prophet married a woman called Gomer. He was deeply in love with her. We can infer this because, of all the prophets, Hosea is the most eloquent and passionate on the subject of love. Gomer, however, proved faithless. She left home, had a series of lovers, was serially unfaithful, and was eventually forced to sell herself into slavery. Yet Hosea, caught between anger and tender longing, found that he could not relinquish his love for her.

In a flash of prophetic insight, God leads him to understand that his own personal experience mirrors that between God and the Israelites. He had rescued them from slavery, led them through the wilderness and brought them to their new home, the land of Israel. But the people proved faithless. They worshipped other gods. They were promiscuous in their spiritual attachments. By rights, says God, I should have abandoned them. I should have called them (as the prophet called his third child) lo-ami, “you are not My people.” Yet God’s love is inextinguishable. He too cannot let go. Whatever the people’s sins, He will bring them back into the desert, scene of their first love, and their marriage will be renewed.

The Talmud in Pesachim gives an extraordinary account of the dialogue between God and Hosea – the unwritten story of the episode that precedes the first chapter of the book of Hosea:

The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Hosea, “Your children have sinned.” To this, the prophet should have replied, “They are Your children, the children of your favored ones, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Be merciful to them.” Not only did he not say this but he actually said, “Lord of the universe, the whole world is yours. Exchange them for another nation.” The Holy One, blessed be He, said, “What shall I do with this old man? I will tell him to go and marry a prostitute and have children by her. Then I will tell him to send her away. If he can, then I too will send Israel away.”

There are few more telling passages in the whole of rabbinic literature. If I were to summarize it, I would say: Who is a leader of the Jewish people? Only one who loves the Jewish people. Reading the prophetic literature, it is easy to see the prophets as social critics. They see the people’s faults; they speak them aloud; their message is often a negative one, foretelling disaster. The Talmud is telling us that such a view is superficial and misses the essential point. The prophets loved their people. They spoke not out of condemnation but from the depths of deep desire. They knew that Israel was capable of, and had been summoned to, great things. They never criticized in order to distance themselves, to set themselves above and apart. They spoke in love – God’s love. That is why, in Israel’s darkest nights, the prophets always had a message of hope.

About the Author: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, is the author of many books of Jewish thought, most recently The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Torah As A Marriage Contract”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
landingt Schedule Aug 21 2014
Live Update: Despite Hamas Threats, Planes Landing at B-G Airport (Last Update: 7:13am)
Latest Judaism Stories
Azrielli Tower - Shema Yisrael

A bit of (non-Jewish) history can help us understand this week’s Torah portion: In the early 1500s, the Catholic church was being fundamentally challenged by movements which claimed it had monopolized religious power and used to enrich the church and its officials. The most radical of these movements were a particular sect of Anabaptists. Anabaptists […]

Leff-081514

“When a mother plays with her child there is an acute awareness of the child. But even when the mother works at a job or is distracted by some other activity, there is a natural, latent awareness of her child’s existence.

Business-Halacha-logo

“Guess what?” Benzion exclaimed when he returned home. “I just won an identical Mishnah Berurah in the avos u’banim raffle.”

The-Shmuz

While it’s clear to you and to me that a 14,000-pound creature can easily break away from the light ropes holding it, the reality is that it cannot.

An Outcast
‘He Shall Dwell Outside His Tent’
(Moed Katan 7b)

Question: The Gemara in Berachot states that the sages authored our prayers. Does that mean we didn’t pray beforehand?

Menachem
Via Email

Based on the opinion of the Ramban, the Territorial School believes that leaving any territory of the Land of Israel in the possession of non-Jews is a violation of a biblical mandate.

“But they told me to come in today,” she said. They gave me this date months ago. It’s not my fault if it’s the wrong day.”

Tosafos there takes issue with Rashi’s view that the letters that are formed in the knots of the tefillin are considered part of the name of Hashem.

Blind obedience is not a virtue in Judaism. God wants us to understand the laws He has commanded us

What does Hashem want of us? That we should protect each other and the awesome heritage He gave us.

Israel is the only place where we have the potential to fulfill our mandate as the chosen people.

The innkeeper smiled and replied, “Why do you think we are dancing? We are dancing because G-d destroyed the Bais HaMikdash!”

One of the manifestations of the immature person is a sense of entitlement.

More Articles from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Sacks

Blind obedience is not a virtue in Judaism. God wants us to understand the laws He has commanded us

Rabbi Sacks

Israel shows the world that a people does not have to be large in order to be great.

When someone exercises power over us, they diminish us; when someone teaches us, they help us grow.

Ours is a small and intensely vulnerable people. Inspired, we rise to greatness. Uninspired, we fall

The negotiation between Moses and the tribes of Reuven and Gad is a model of conflict resolution.

God’s “name” is therefore His standing in the world. Do people acknowledge Him, respect Him, honor Him?

The very act of learning in rabbinic Judaism is conceived as active debate, a kind of gladiatorial contest of the mind.

In Judaism, to be without questions is a sign not of faith, but of lack of depth.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks/torah-as-a-marriage-contract/2013/05/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: