The Light at the end of the Tunnel

In this week’s Haftara from Yirmiyahu, Chapter 1, we read about God choosing Yirmiyahu to become the prophet.

In verse 10, God tells Yirmiyahu: “See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to uproot and to smash, and to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Nehama Leibowitz brings the Malbim’s commentary to explain how a kingdom is compared to a house, because it is a structure made by man putting one stone on top of another, as a kingdom is gradually built up. In contrast, the nation is an organic natural growth (like a forest bringing forth trees). This verse sets the prophet over the nations and kingdoms- over the nations to uproot and destroy, over the kingdoms to pull down and demolish.

This order- placing destruction before construction- corresponds to the operation of removing evil before doing good. Rebuilding and replanting can have no permanency as long as the old have not been uprooted and pulled down.

Alshich explains:

The purpose of your prophecies is not to uproot and pull down but to prompt them to repent and mend their ways since they possess free will. Even the prophecy of uprooting and pulling down has the constructive purpose of building and planting, since the evil tidings- their retributions and failure to repent- is for the purpose of rebuilding and replanting, to prompt them to mend their ways.

The hope is that the people will repent before the destruction, but if that does not happen, they will still have to opportunity to rebuild and replant later.

We are now in the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av. We remember that the Jewish people did not listen to Yirmiyahu’s words to repent, the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed and the Jewish people were exiled. The prophecy to rebuild was fulfilled when Ezra and Nechemia came back to the Land of Israel and rebuilt Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash. Yet the people transgressed again, the Second Temple was also destroyed and the Jewish people were sent into exile.

Yet here we are today, against all odds, back in the Land of Israel, once again fulfilling Yirmiyahu’s prophecy “to build and to plant.” May we continue to cherish the State of Israel, the first flowerings of our redemption and may the Third Beit HaMikdash be rebuilt speedily in our days.