Haftarah: Behar-Bechukotai: Trust
Jeremiah 16:19 – 17:14: This week’s portion challenges us to rely on God. The laws of Shemittah – the Sabbatical Year – force us to rely that God will provide food for us despite – from our human perspective – or, because – from God’s perspective – that we will not work the land for a year. We trust that our Brit – Covenant with God – will protect Israel throughout history, even when we are not reliable.
Jeremiah spoke to his generation and to us about relying on, and trusting God. The Babylonians were approaching. The end was near. Israel did not feel secure, but somehow there were seeds of hope deep inside their hearts. That hope allowed them to ignore Jeremiah’s rebukes and warnings. I guess you could say that in some twisted way, they had what people generally call Bitachon – Trust. “All will be good in the end.” “God will never allow Jerusalem to be destroyed.” “Things will be tough for a while, but all will be well.” Does any of that sound familiar?
Many people have difficulty trusting God, more trust too easily, and yet more trust too easily: They have no idea what it means to trust God. I often hear people in crisis claim, “Everything will be OK. I have Bitachon – Trust – in God.” Do they really assume that because they have Bitachon that they will be saved? Do they believe that they will automatically be healed? What happens to all those people who have Bitachon and do not recover? What happens to all the families that have Bitachon and still lose their homes? Is their Bitachon shattered? Will they continue to have Bitachon?
It is interesting that, as in this prophecy, the Bible never uses Bitachon – Trust – as a noun. It is always a verb. One cannot have Bitachon: One can be a Boteiach – One who trusts.
Jeremiah compares those who trust so easily to the pagans who are willing to trust in gold and silver images formed by their own hands. How can someone who formed an idol trust in the power of what he has made? “Can we form a god with our hands and then claim that it is a real power?” (16:20) The verse reminds us how easily we can trick ourselves to trust in the impossible.
Israel continued to work the land as if all they planted would grow and they would have what to eat. They trusted that all their efforts would protect them even as they heard reports of the approaching Babylonian hordes. They relied on God to protect His land and His city despite the fact that they ignored His laws and continued to work the land during Shemittah – the Sabbatical year. They relied on their work. They trusted the work of their hands. They maintained their high level of Bitachon – at least in what they chose to believe. There was a disconnect between their relationship with God and their level of Bitachon.
“The sin of Judah is written with an iron pen, carved into their hearts.”(17:1) They could not let go of their sins. Their actions and desires had rooted themselves in the people’s hearts. They could not possibly have any integrity in their trust in God. Their hearts were somewhere else. Jeremiah warned them that all the people, actions and things in which they placed their trust would be destroyed. They would lose all and be vulnerable because they did not trust in God and they did not know how to trust. “Jerusalem, which rests among the mountains, and the surrounding fields and storage houses, will be spoils for their enemies.” (17:3) “Cursed is the person who places his trust in other people (and not God.)” (17:5)
Jeremiah praises those who trust in God with a pure heart. God, Whose throne is on High from even before the Creation (17:12) searches our hearts and examines our deepest convictions (17:10) and measures our actions against our claims of Bitachon. Only He, Omniscient and above time, is reliable. Our actions must be consistent with the way we trust. The action, the verb, will shape the trust.
How can we heal the engravings of the iron pen? How can we repair the scars left by the times we claimed to have Bitachon but were not active Trusters?
“Please God; Heal me so I can function as a healed person! Save me, so I can live as one who has experienced salvation! For I understand that You are the Source of all the beauty in my life.” (17:14)