Hoshea Perek 11

Perek 11 of Hoshea begins with Hashem ‘reminiscing’ over the youthful existence of Bnei Yisrael as slaves in Egypt and His Father-son relationship with us: He saves us from trouble while also punishing us (if we sin), just as a father guides a child (even forcefully when necessary). The Radak points out that this relationship is referred to in Moshe’s opening line to Pharaoh in Shemos ‘bni bechori Yisrael’ – ‘My firstborn son Yisrael.’ We once pointed out that our relationship with Hashem is also referred to in Shir Hashirim and several comments of Chazal as a bride (us) and Groom (Hashem). What is the difference between these two portrayals of the relationship between Hashem and Bnei Yisrael?

The crucial difference is that a father cannot choose his son, while a groom selects his bride. Thus, a father cannot divorce his son, and no matter what the son does, he is always part of the family. This is why ‘A Jew who sins is still a Jew.’ Yet the husband-wife relationship denotes an extra degree of closeness which can only come when a loving choice has been made. It is interesting to note that (as the Radak hints at) we are first referred to as ‘Hashem’s children’ (during the dark times of slavery in Egypt), and only then (when we reached the spiritual heights of Mattan Torah) did we enter into our ‘marriage with Hashem.’

We see that first and foremost, our relationship with Hashem is essentially unbreakable – one of Father and son. Then we add the layer of love that comes with a husband-wife relationship. On a more practical level, Rav Shlomo Wolbe writes that this should be our approach to learning Torah (and performing mitzvos). First, we must realize that Torah and mitzvos are our lifeblood; they rise above the realm of choice. And then, after we have ingrained this ‘basic’ level, we can add levels of love and appreciation for mitzvos. For without appreciating that mitzvos are our lifeblood, we run the risk of abandoning them at will.