Parshat Matot/Masei

July 21, 2017

The three haftarot before Tisha b'Av is known as the שלש דפורענותא - (the three haftarot of calamity/punishment).  In the second Shabbat of the "three weeks", we read from Sefer Yirmiyahu, Chapter 2:4-8 and Chapter 3:4.  

 

Within this week's haftarah, Hashem says through Yirmiyahu in2:13:  

 

כִּי-שְׁתַּיִם רָעוֹת, עָשָׂה עַמִּי:  אֹתִי עָזְבוּ מְקוֹר מַיִם חַיִּים, לַחְצֹב לָהֶם בֹּארוֹת בֹּארֹת נִשְׁבָּרִים, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָכִלוּ הַמָּיִם.

 

For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

Hashem is saying to the people:  It is one evil to commit an inexcusable act of betrayal. But, what is more, my children have gone after cisterns which are broken.  Hashem, provides the people with water, with life, stored in cisterns which secure that water.  Yet, foolishly, the people opted for broken cisterns - where the water seeps out and is not stored.  In essence, the people opted for foreign nations and beliefs that could not provide any security or assistance to this people.
In his commentary on Haftarot, Rav Dr. Mendel Hirsch (son of Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch) examines the word for cisterns:  בארות.

 

Like we see with the באר in sefer Braishit, באר is normally translated as a pit.  However, there is no tsere vowel (which makes an ei sound) under the alef.  The alef in this case is silent.  But, in this haftarah, the word is read not B'eirot, but Borot.   Rav Hirsch suggests that this spelling is significant.  It reflects Bnei Yisrael's misconception of what they are engaged in.  A bor is an empty hole as was described in Breishit.  A b'eir is something that is filled with something valuable.  Substantive - like water.  Unfortunate for Bnei Yisrael, they looked upon the b'eirot as something worthless. Instead of appreciating what the b'eir had inside, it became a bor for them, an empty pit. This was Yirmiyahu's word play, expressing to the people that they became people who valued what was empty, vacuous and substance-less.  They abandoned what would have worth and meaning for their physical and spiritual lives.

Perhaps these three weeks allows us to pause and re-examine what we extol and appreciate in our own lives.  Our society does provide us with values, culture and the capacity to advance ourselves.  Yet, it is helpful to be attuned to where general society emphasizes certain ideas, activities and personalities which are far from a Torah life.  Do some of these deceive us into valuing these items as b'eirot, filled with substance, when they are indeed borot - distracting us from becoming productive members of society, Klal Yisrael and the world?  It is helpful to reconsider where we place our energies and loyalties.  

This works in the reverse as well.  At times, people, including our leadership see emptiness in spirituality of others because it is not how he or she practices their commitment to Hashem and Klal Yisrael.  They fail to see the b'eirot.  We all need to see better and spare a judging others' spiritual expression and activity as empty and meaningless or threatening.  

May we always see Hashem in our lives, appreciate the other and consider what will give us personal growth - where our lives are filled with kedusha and meaning.  Placing this corrective at the forefront, enables Bnei Yisrael to repair their relationship with Hashem and each other after experiencing despair and tragedy.
 

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