Haftarah of Bamidbar

Hoshea 2:1-22

 

Hoshea was the prophet for the northern Kingdom of Israel a generation before their exile. At that time, they enjoyed economic prosperity and military success. This was not due to G-d being pleased with them; on the contrary, their society was infamous for injustice, deceit, and arrogance. Their religion was influenced by their pagan neighbors; while they did worship G-d, their service was adulterated with that of the local god Ba'al.

 

The Haftarah uses very harsh imagery, which is a continuation of the previous chapter in Hoshea:

 

G-d had said to Hoshea, "Your people have sinned." He had expected him to answer, as did prophets before him, "They are Your children, be merciful to them!" But instead Hoshea said, "Fine. Get rid of them, and replace them with a different nation." So G-d decided to teach him a lesson. In the first chapter of Hoshea, G-d tells him to go and marry a prostitute. He does so, and his wife has children, who may or may not be his, and he is ordered to give them names like, "No Mercy" and "Not My People". Then, according to the Midrash, G-d orders Hoshea to divorce his wife. He protests - "but I have children with her!" "Aha!" says G-d. "You can't bear to get rid of children that you're not even sure are your own, and you're telling Me to get rid of My beloved Children of Israel?!" At that point, Hoshea realized that his role as a prophet is not only to show anger at the Jewish People, but also to ask for mercy for them and give them hope. (Pesachim 87a)

 

The Haftarah begins with a blessing that Hoshea gives Israel, with a vision of prosperity and reconciliation within the Jewish People.

 

1) The number of children of Israel will be like the sand of the sea

which cannot be measured and cannot be numbered;

instead of being told, "you are not My people",

they will be called, "the children of the G-d of Life".

(א) וְהָיָה מִסְפַּר בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּחוֹל הַיָּם

אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִמַּד וְלֹא יִסָּפֵר

וְהָיָה בִּמְקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יֵאָמֵר לָהֶם לֹא עַמִּי אַתֶּם

יֵאָמֵר לָהֶם בְּנֵי אֵל חָי:

2) The sons of Yehuda and the sons of Israel will gather together,

they will appoint themselves one leader, and go up from the land;

for great will be the Day of Yizrael.

(ב) וְנִקְבְּצוּ בְּנֵי יְהוּדָה וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל יַחְדָּו

וְשָׂמוּ לָהֶם רֹאשׁ אֶחָד וְעָלוּ מִן הָאָרֶץ

כִּי גָדוֹל יוֹם יִזְרְעֶאל:

3) Say to your brothers, "My people",

and to your sisters, "Mercy".

(ג) אִמְרוּ לַאֲחֵיכֶם עַמִּי

וְלַאֲחוֹתֵיכֶם רֻחָמָה:

 

Meanwhile, the relationship between G-d and the Jewish People is in tatters. The prophet expresses this relationship using the metaphor of marriage, where G-d is the husband and the Jewish People is the wife. The wife has not been faithful; the Jewish People have betrayed G-d in favor of pagan gods. If they do not stop courting other religions, G-d will take away everything they have.

 

4) Fight with your mother, fight,

for she is not My wife,

and I am not her husband;

she should remove her whorish makeup from her face,

and her perfume from between her breasts.

(ד) רִיבוּ בְאִמְּכֶם רִיבוּ

כִּי הִיא לֹא אִשְׁתִּי

וְאָנֹכִי לֹא אִישָׁהּ

וְתָסֵר זְנוּנֶיהָ מִפָּנֶיה

וְנַאֲפוּפֶיהָ מִבֵּין שָׁדֶיהָ:

5) Or else I will strip her naked,

and present her like the day she was born,

and make her like a desert,

and place her like a barren land,

and slay her with thirst.

(ה) פֶּן אַפְשִׁיטֶנָּה עֲרֻמָּה

וְהִצַּגְתִּיהָ כְּיוֹם הִוָּלְדָהּ

וְשַׂמְתִּיהָ כַמִּדְבָּר

וְשַׁתִּהָ כְּאֶרֶץ צִיָּה

וַהֲמִתִּיהָ בַּצָּמָא:

The Jewish People emulated foreign cultures and their gods, and credited those gods with their success. All their achievements were tainted by their idolatry. G-d will block their ability to rely on these pagan societies, and in their defeat they will turn back to Him.

 

6) I will not have mercy on her children,

for they are bastards.

(ו) וְאֶת בָּנֶיהָ לֹא אֲרַחֵם

כִּי בְנֵי זְנוּנִים הֵמָּה:

7) For their mother was a whore,

the one who bore them shamed them;

when she said,

"Let me go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water,

my wool and my linen,

my oil and my liquor."

(ז) כִּי זָנְתָה אִמָּם

הֹבִישָׁה הוֹרָתָם

כִּי אָמְרָה

אֵלְכָה אַחֲרֵי מְאַהֲבַי נֹתְנֵי לַחְמִי וּמֵימַי

צַמְרִי וּפִשְׁתִּי

שַׁמְנִי וְשִׁקּוּיָי:

8) Therefore, I will hedge your path with thorns,

and build a fence against her,

so she will not find her paths.

(ח) לָכֵן הִנְנִי שָׂךְ אֶת דַּרְכֵּךְ בַּסִּירִים

וְגָדַרְתִּי אֶת גְּדֵרָהּ

וּנְתִיבוֹתֶיהָ לֹא תִמְצָא:

9) She will chase her lovers but will not reach them,

she will look for them but not find them;

she will say,

"Let me go and return to my first husband,

for it was better than then now."

(ט) וְרִדְּפָה אֶת מְאַהֲבֶיהָ וְלֹא תַשִּׂיג אֹתָם

וּבִקְשָׁתַם וְלֹא תִמְצָא

וְאָמְרָה

אֵלְכָה וְאָשׁוּבָה אֶל אִישִׁי הָרִאשׁוֹן

כִּי טוֹב לִי אָז מֵעָתָּה:

 

It was G-d all along who had been the source of their prosperity, yet they took His gifts and used them to serve the idol Ba'al. As a result of this betrayal, G-d will take away all the riches that He had given them, leaving them with nothing.

10) She did not know,

that it was I who had given her

the grain, the wine, and the oil;

I gave her much silver, and the gold was used for Ba'al.

(י) וְהִיא לֹא יָדְעָה

כִּי אָנֹכִי נָתַתִּי לָהּ

הַדָּגָן וְהַתִּירוֹשׁ וְהַיִּצְהָר

וְכֶסֶף הִרְבֵּיתִי לָהּ וְזָהָב עָשׂוּ לַבָּעַל:

11) Therefore, I will go back,

and I will take away My grain in its time,

and My wine in its season,

I will pull away My wool and My linen,

for covering her nakedness.

(יא) לָכֵן אָשׁוּב

וְלָקַחְתִּי דְגָנִי בְּעִתּוֹ

וְתִירוֹשִׁי בְּמוֹעֲדוֹ

וְהִצַּלְתִּי צַמְרִי וּפִשְׁתִּי

לְכַסּוֹת אֶת עֶרְוָתָהּ:

12) Then I will reveal her baseness to the eyes of her lovers,

and nobody can save her from Me.

(יב) וְעַתָּה אֲגַלֶּה אֶת נַבְלֻתָהּ לְעֵינֵי מְאַהֲבֶיהָ

וְאִישׁ לֹא יַצִּילֶנָּה מִיָּדִי:

13) I will halt all her parties,

her holidays, her months, her Shabbats,

and all her festivities.

(יג) וְהִשְׁבַּתִּי כָּל מְשׂוֹשָׂהּ

חַגָּהּ חָדְשָׁהּ וְשַׁבַּתָּהּ

וְכֹל מוֹעֲדָהּ:

14) I will destroy her grapevines and her figs,

about which she had said,

"This is my fee,

that my lovers have given me",

I will turn them into a forest,

and they will be eaten by the beasts of the field.

(יד) וַהֲשִׁמֹּתִי גַּפְנָהּ וּתְאֵנָתָהּ

אֲשֶׁר אָמְרָה

אֶתְנָה הֵמָּה לִי

אֲשֶׁר נָתְנוּ לִי מְאַהֲבָי

וְשַׂמְתִּים לְיַעַר

וַאֲכָלָתַם חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה:

15) I will pay her

for the time of the Ba'alim, when she would burn incense for them,

and bedecked herself with her earrings and her jewels,

and followed her lovers,

but Me, she forgot, says Hashem.

(טו) וּפָקַדְתִּי עָלֶיהָ

אֶת יְמֵי הַבְּעָלִים אֲשֶׁר תַּקְטִיר לָהֶם

וַתַּעַד נִזְמָהּ וְחֶלְיָתָהּ

וַתֵּלֶךְ אַחֲרֵי מְאַהֲבֶיהָ

וְאֹתִי שָׁכְחָה נְאֻם ה': פ

 

But later, when they have realized the futility of chasing foreign gods and ideologies, G-d will give them a chance to start over. They will return to the relationship they had in the desert, when it was perfectly clear where all their sustenance came from.

 

16) Therefore,

now I will beguile her,

and lead her to the desert,

and speak to her heart.

(טז) לָכֵן

הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי מְפַתֶּיהָ

וְהֹלַכְתִּיהָ הַמִּדְבָּר

וְדִבַּרְתִּי עַל לִבָּהּ:

17) I will give her vineyards that come from there,

and the Valley of Pollution will become the Gateway of Hope.

She will respond to Me there, like in the days of her youth,

when she went up from the land of Egypt.

(יז) וְנָתַתִּי לָהּ אֶת כְּרָמֶיהָ מִשָּׁם

וְאֶת עֵמֶק עָכוֹר לְפֶתַח תִּקְוָה

וְעָנְתָה שָּׁמָּה כִּימֵי נְעוּרֶיהָ

וּכְיוֹם עֲלֹתָהּ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם: ס

 

The relationship between G-d and the Jewish People will be closer than ever, so that the metaphor of "husband and wife" will be inadequate and will be replaced with "man and woman", as at the beginning of Creation. Pagan idols and false ideologies will not even be part of their vocabulary. The Jewish People will enjoy peace and security in their land.

 

18) On that day, it will be, said Hashem,

that you will call Me "my man",

and you will not call Me again "my master".

(יח) וְהָיָה בַיּוֹם הַהוּא נְאֻם ה'

תִּקְרְאִי אִישִׁי

וְלֹא תִקְרְאִי לִי עוֹד בַּעְלִי:

19) I will take away the names of the Ba'alim from her mouth,

and they will no longer be mentioned by name.

(יט) וַהֲסִרֹתִי אֶת שְׁמוֹת הַבְּעָלִים מִפִּיהָ

וְלֹא יִזָּכְרוּ עוֹד בִּשְׁמָם:

20) I will make a covenant on that day,

with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky,

with the reptiles of the earth,

and the bow, and the sword, and war, I will break from the land,

and I will lay you down in safety.

(כ) וְכָרַתִּי לָהֶם בְּרִית בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא

עִם חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה וְעִם עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם

וְרֶמֶשׂ הָאֲדָמָה

וְקֶשֶׁת וְחֶרֶב וּמִלְחָמָה אֶשְׁבּוֹר מִן הָאָרֶץ

וְהִשְׁכַּבְתִּים לָבֶטַח:

 

G-d and the Jewish People will renew their commitment to each other, which will be based on aspects that each of the parties brings to the relationship. The Jewish People commit to acting with righteousness and justice, and G-d commits to treating them with kindness and mercy. They commit to being faithful to Him, and He commits to being close with them and allowing them to know Him.

 

21) I will betroth you to Me forever,

I will betroth You to Me, through righteousness and justice,

through kindness and mercy.

(כא) וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי לְעוֹלָם

וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי בְּצֶדֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּט

וּבְחֶסֶד וּבְרַחֲמִים:

22) I will betroth you to Me through faithfulness,

and you will know Hashem.

(כב) וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי בֶּאֱמוּנָה

וְיָדַעַתְּ אֶת ה': ס

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright Kira Sirote

In memory of my father, Peter Rozenberg, z"l

לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי פנחס בן נתן נטע ז''ל