Matot-Masei

Jeremiah 2:4-28, and 3:4 or[1] 4:1-2

This Haftarah is the second of the “Three of Affliction” (Aramaic: תלת דפורענותא), three Haftarot that discuss the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Despite King Josiah’s attempts to eliminate idol worship and enact social reforms, the people are still mired in sin. The leadership, Josiah included, still search after international alliances, the people still worship idols albeit in private, and nobody truly serves God.

Haftarah Breakdown[2]

Verses 2:4-8: Judah has forgotten God’s goodness…

Jeremiah 2:7

And I brought you to a land of fruitful fields, to eat of its produce and its goodness, and you came and contaminated My land, and made My heritage an abomination. 

          וָאָבִ֤יא אֶתְכֶם֙ אֶל־אֶ֣רֶץ הַכַּרְמֶ֔ל לֶאֱכֹ֥ל פִּרְיָ֖הּ וְטוּבָ֑הּ וַתָּבֹ֙אוּ֙ וַתְּטַמְּא֣וּ אֶת־אַרְצִ֔י וְנַחֲלָתִ֥י שַׂמְתֶּ֖ם לְתוֹעֵבָֽה׃

Verses 2:9-13: ...and has sinned against Him, by worshipping idols.

Jeremiah 2:13

For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the spring of living waters, to dig for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that do not hold water. 

        כִּֽי־שְׁתַּ֥יִם רָע֖וֹת עָשָׂ֣ה עַמִּ֑י אֹתִ֨י עָזְב֜וּ מְק֣וֹר ׀ מַ֣יִם חַיִּ֗ים לַחְצֹ֤ב לָהֶם֙ בֹּאר֔וֹת בֹּארֹת֙ נִשְׁבָּרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־יָכִ֖לוּ הַמָּֽיִם׃

Verses 2:14-17: Therefore, Judah is punished.

Jeremiah 2:15

Young lions roar over him [Judah]: they have raised their voice, and they have made his land a desolation; his cities were burnt without an inhabitant.

        עָלָיו֙ יִשְׁאֲג֣וּ כְפִרִ֔ים נָתְנ֖וּ קוֹלָ֑ם וַיָּשִׁ֤יתוּ אַרְצוֹ֙ לְשַׁמָּ֔ה עָרָ֥יו נצתה [נִצְּת֖וּ] מִבְּלִ֥י יֹשֵֽׁב׃


Verses 2:18-19: Not trusting in God’s protection, Judah seeks foreign alliances - but they cannot help.

Jeremiah 2:18

And now, what do you [seek] on the road to Egypt to drink the water of the Shihor [Nile], and what do you [seek] on the road to Assyria to drink the water of [the Euphrates] river?

 וְעַתָּ֗ה מַה־לָּךְ֙ לְדֶ֣רֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם לִשְׁתּ֖וֹת מֵ֣י שִׁח֑וֹר וּמַה־לָּךְ֙ לְדֶ֣רֶךְ אַשּׁ֔וּר לִשְׁתּ֖וֹת מֵ֥י נָהָֽר׃


Verses 2:20-24: Judah still worships idols…

Jeremiah 2:23

How do you say, "I have not been defiled; I have not gone after the Baalim?" See your way in the valley, know what you have done, [like] a swift young she-camel, clinging to her ways.

אֵ֣יךְ תֹּאמְרִ֞י לֹ֣א נִטְמֵ֗אתִי אַחֲרֵ֤י הַבְּעָלִים֙ לֹ֣א הָלַ֔כְתִּי רְאִ֤י דַרְכֵּךְ֙ בַּגַּ֔יְא דְּעִ֖י מֶ֣ה עָשִׂ֑ית בִּכְרָ֥ה קַלָּ֖ה מְשָׂרֶ֥כֶת דְּרָכֶֽיהָ׃

Verses 2:25: … and pursues foreign alliances...

Jeremiah 2:25

Withhold your foot from going barefoot and your throat from thirst; but you said, "I despair. No, for I love strangers, and I will follow them." 

            מִנְעִ֤י רַגְלֵךְ֙ מִיָּחֵ֔ף וגורנך [וּגְרוֹנֵ֖ךְ] מִצִּמְאָ֑ה וַתֹּאמְרִ֣י נוֹאָ֔שׁ ל֕וֹא כִּֽי־אָהַ֥בְתִּי זָרִ֖ים וְאַחֲרֵיהֶ֥ם אֵלֵֽךְ׃

Verses 2:26-28: ...even though they do nothing, hypocritically turning to God only as a last resort.

Jeremiah 2:27

They say to the wood, "You are my father," and to the stone, "You bore us," for they turned to Me their nape and not their face - yet when evil befalls them they say [to God], "Arise and save us!”

        אֹמְרִ֨ים לָעֵ֜ץ אָ֣בִי אַ֗תָּה וְלָאֶ֙בֶן֙ אַ֣תְּ ילדתני [יְלִדְתָּ֔נוּ] כִּֽי־פָנ֥וּ אֵלַ֛י עֹ֖רֶף וְלֹ֣א פָנִ֑ים וּבְעֵ֤ת רָֽעָתָם֙ יֹֽאמְר֔וּ ק֖וּמָה וְהוֹשִׁיעֵֽנוּ׃

Verses 3:4, 4:1-2: However, they are still beloved by God, and there is time to repent.

Jeremiah 4:1

“If you return, O Israel,” says the Lord, “to Me, you shall return; and if you remove your detestable things from My Presence, you shall not wander.” 

            אִם־תָּשׁ֨וּב יִשְׂרָאֵ֧ל ׀ נְאֻם־ה׳ אֵלַ֖י תָּשׁ֑וּב וְאִם־תָּסִ֧יר שִׁקּוּצֶ֛יךָ מִפָּנַ֖י וְלֹ֥א תָנֽוּד׃


Important Themes

Don Issac Abarbanel describes the insincerity of the people’s repentance:

Abarbanel on Jeremiah 2:22

In 2:22, Jeremiah does not declare, “If you wash your heart of evil” to indicate that God would reject even internalized repentance. Instead he says, “Even though you wash with natron and use much soap, your iniquity is stained before Me,” to describe his generation as publicly pious yet privately evil yet. Natron and soap clean garments. Even if your external garments and public acts are clean, pure, and pious, God still knows they are deceitful since He also knows your evil, private acts. Jeremiah’s words mean, “Your private iniquity still stains you Before Me.”

לא נאמר כאן כי אם תכבסי מרעה לבך שהוא רמז לתשובה האמתית... לפי שלא כיון הנביא לומר בו שאע"פ שיעשו תשובה לא יועיל להם אבל היתה כונתו לומר שאנשי דורו היו רשעים בסתר ומראים עצמם חסידים בגלוי, ועל זה אמר כנגדם שאף על פי שיעשו בגלוי מעשה חסידו' שהקדוש ברוך הוא היה יודע מעשי סתריהם הרעים וזהו כי אם תכבסי בנתר ותרבי לך בורית שהם הדברים שיכבסו בהם הבגדים כדי ללבן אותם הנה עם כל המעשים הנגלים שאתה עושה במרמה והונאה נכתם עונך לפני רוצה לומר עונך הנסתר הלא הוא נכתם ורשום לפני.

1. Ashkenazim read 3:4, while Sephardim read 4:1-2.

2. Biblical translations by Rabbi A. J. Rosenberg, with some emendations; other translations from Sefaria.org.

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