Mattot-Maasei

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This is the second of the “Three [Haftarot] of Affliction” (Aramaic: תלת דפורענותא), describing the destruction of Judah, Jerusalem, and the First Temple in 586 BCE. They are recited on consecutive Shabbatot of the “Three Weeks”, between the fasts of the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av.

Jeremiah 2:4-28, and 3:4 or 4:1-2

Last week’s Haftarah presented Jeremiah’s call to prophecy in 626 BCE, and his Divine mission to warn Judah of imminent destruction and inspire it to return wholly to God. Its concluding verses instructed Jeremiah to remind the people, in God’s Name, of their loyalty to God in the wilderness after the Exodus, and of His promise to destroy those who attack them.

Continuing with the very next verse, this Haftarah is how Jeremiah begins to deliver that message to the entire nation, including its exiled tribes, with particular emphasis on its political and spiritual leaders. Invoking the heavens and even other nations’ loyalty to their false gods, he expresses astonishment at centuries of Israelite ingratitude for God’s kindnesses after the Exodus. With searing images and derision, Jeremiah lambasts the people for their lustful enthusiasm for local idols. Their idolatry betrays God’s kindness, defiles the land He gave them, distances them from His protection, and leads to the Land’s destruction. As in the past, idolatrous allies will not only betray Judah, they will attack it. Contrary to the astonishing suggestion that even repentance cannot help them (v. 22), the Haftarah skips many verses in order to conclude with a tenuous call for repentance.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verses 2:4-8: Jeremiah reminds Judah and Northern Kingdom exiles that God redeemed them from Egypt and brought them to a good land, yet ungrateful generations have defiled it. Spiritual elites also abandoned God.

Jeremiah 2:8

I brought you to a plentiful country, to eat its fruit and its bounty [but] you came and defiled 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: God will prosecute Judah, now and in the future, for its dual sins of abandoning God and of seeking out worthless foreign gods. No other nation has committed such a crime; even the heavens are astounded.

Jeremiah 2:11

Has a nation [ever] exchanged its god, [even though] they are not gods? [Yet] My people exchanged its glory for that which helps not.

הַהֵימִ֥יר גּוֹי֙ אֱלֹהִ֔ים וְהֵ֖מָּה לֹ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים וְעַמִּ֛י הֵמִ֥יר כְּבוֹד֖וֹ בְּל֥וֹא יוֹעִֽיל׃

Verses 2:14-15: These sins cause ferocious enemies to attack, kill, lay waste, humiliate, and take captives.

Jeremiah 2:15

Young lions roared over [Judah]; they raised their voices. They made its land a desolation, its cities burnt [until] without residents.

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

Verses 2:16-19: Without trust in God, Judah seeks security in alliances with Assyria and Egypt. Instead of protecting Judah, however, Egypt will afflict it.

Jeremiah 2:18   ירמיהו ב:י״ח

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

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

Verses 2:20-24: God’s “true seed,” His people, lustily abandoned Him for hilltop idols long ago. Their visible tracks in Jerusalem’s Gehinnom Valley betray their denials of idolatry and render useless their attempts to repent.

Jeremiah 2:23

How do you [Judah] say, "I have not been defiled; I have not gone after the Baalim [idols]"? See your way in the Valley, know what you have done- [like] a lustful young she-camel, determinedly travelling her paths!

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

Verses 2:25: God tells Judah not to weary itself by traveling to foreign allies. Judah reiterates its love for them.

Jeremiah 2:25

[God told you, Judah, to] “withhold your foot from going barefoot and your throat from thirst!” [Yet] you said, "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: Judah and its leaders turn to God only as a last resort in times of trouble. God’s mocking reply: Let your idols save you!

Jeremiah 2:27

They say to the wood, "You are my father," and to the stone, "You bore us," for they turned their nape to Me and not their face. [Yet] when evil befalls them, they say [to Me], "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: Despite Judah’s failings and their punishments, true repentance remains possible.

Jeremiah 4:1

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

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

With emendations, all translations are from Sefaria.org. To dedicate, comment, or subscribe, email haftarahhelper@gmail.com.