Haftorah This Week
Welcome to Haftorah This Week, the place where you will find thoughts and
reflections by CLAL faculty and associates on this week's Haftorah.
(Jeremiah 7:21-8:3; 9:22-23)
In the opening and closing verses of this Haftarah, both the religious and secular
manifestations of Jewish culture are measured against the ideals and values that are
central to the people's covenant with God. Jeremiah, as is the case with most prophetic
figures, becomes a spokesman for a religious, counter-cultural critique of the Israelite
society in which he is living.
The Haftarah begins with a scathing reminder of the mission of the Jewish people and
the purpose of the covenant that was created in the aftermath of the Exodus from Egypt:
Thus said the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel:
Add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat! For when I freed
your fathers from the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them concerning burnt offerings or
sacrifice. But this is what I commanded them: Do My bidding, that I may be your God and
you may be My people; walk only in the way that I enjoin you, that it may be well with
Jeremiah describes God's rejection of the mechanistic ritualism that often
characterizes religious culture. The sacrificial system is not the goal of the covenant,
but merely a vehicle through which the people can express their relationship with God.
Ritual can only be meaningful if it is performed in the context of a pattern of life that
conforms to God's broadest concerns.
But it is not only the purely religious realm of ritual that must be measured against
the covenantal yardstick. The general values of our culture must also be examined in light
of the central goals of the covenant.
Thus said the Lord:
Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; Let not the strong man glory in his
strength; Let not the rich man glory in his riches. But only in this should one glory: In
his earnest devotion to Me. For I the Lord act with kindness, justice and equity in the
world; For in these I delight.
This powerful lesson in Jewish values is as appropriate for our contemporary culture as
it was for ancient Israelite society. Are we not guilty of making academic achievement,
political power and material wealth the ultimate values of our Jewish community? Perhaps
if we listen carefully to Jeremiah's moving words, we can create a community that reflects
the most cherished values of our people: justice, kindness and equity.
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