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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Matot

Parashat Matot

The Words of Yirmeyahu

Rabbi Yossef Carmel23 Tamuz 5765
3368
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The first of the three, important haftarot leading up to Tisha B’Av is taken from the very beginning of Sefer Yirmeyahu. Yirmeyahu’s activities are dated as follows: "That Hashem’s word was to him in the days of Yoshiyahu ben Amon, in the thirteenth year of his reign. And it was in the days of Yehoyakim ben Yoshiyahu, King of Yehuda, until the completion of eleven years of the reign of Tzidkiyahu ben Yoshiyahu, King of Yehuda, until Yerushalayim was exiled in the fifth month" (Yirmeyahu 1:2-3). Why does the pasuk mention separately Yirmeyahu’s activity at the time of Yoshiayahu and then again at the time of his sons? Why does it appear that Yirmeyahu’s prophecy was broken up into two periods?

Yoshiyahu became King of Yehuda at the age of eight (Melachim II, 21:1). The book of Melachim describes his reign only from its eighteenth year, when he started a positive, spiritual revolution. What happened until that time? Divrei Hayamim, which parallels much of Melachim, tells that he began seeking out Hashem at the age of sixteen but started purging the country of idolatry only at age twenty. However, even this spiritual effort was not sufficiently deep internally to effect real changes. As we see from the dating passage we began with, a young Yirmeyahu was the prophet who was charged with improving the nation’s spiritual state during that period. As Yoshiyahu and his rule matured, he had much more success in the eighteenth year of his rule (age 26) with the display of the sefer Torah (see Melachim II, 22). Unfortunately, this golden age of thirteen years was cut short when Yoshiyahu fell in battle.

Yoshiyahu’s son, Yehoyakim, was very sinful (see Yirmeyahu 22:17 and Sanhedrin 103b). Hashem commanded Yirmeyahu to shock the king by writing a scroll that contained a sign of impending destruction (Yirmeyahu 36: 1-3). The hope was that this would bring him to repent, but his reaction was the opposite of what his father would have done. He threw the scroll into the fire and tried to have Yirmeyahu and the scribe, Baruch ben Neriya, executed. Only an unusual type of Divine intervention, as Hashem hid them (ibid.:26) saved them. It appears that this period of hiding is what is hinted at in the p’sukim we started with. Yirmeyahu had to suspend his activity during his period of hiding, until he was sent a second time, later in Yehoyakim’s reign, to resume his prophecy.

Let us pray that just as Yirmeyahu’s prophecies were fulfilled, so we shall speedily see the continuation of the fulfillment of the prophecies of consolation and hope.

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