Thursday, 28 June 2012

More on Jeremiah message to Exiles

Jeremiah pleaded with King Zedekiah and the people not to be misled by the false prophets. He appeared everywhere with his yoke on his neck, tirelessly repeating G-d's message that their only salvation lay in obedience to G-d's Will. It was G-d's Will that they patiently bear the yoke of Babylonian rule which, however humiliating, left them free to serve G-d. Indeed, the sooner they returned to G-d and took upon themselves the "yoke" of His Torah and Mitzvos, the sooner they would free themselves from the Babylonian yoke.
Jeremiah and the False Prophet Hananiah
It was the same year, in the fifth month (Av) that Jeremiah appeared in the Beis Hamikdosh. He was met by Hananiah the son of Azzur, a self styled prophet from Gibeon, who declared in the presence of Jeremiah and all the Kohanim and the people:
"Thus said the L-rd of Hosts, the G-d of Israel: 'I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two full years I will bring back into this place all the vessels of G-d's house that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried them to Babylon. And I will bring back to this place Jechoniah, the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah...' "
Jeremiah promptly replied, "Amen! May the L-rd do so... but only that prophet whose word comes true shall be known that G-d has truly sent him."
Then Hananiah brazenly grabbed the yoke from Jeremiah's neck and broke it, saying, "Thus says the L-rd: just so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within the space of two full years!"
With a troubled spirit Jeremiah went his way. It pained him to think that at such a critical time, when the fate of the Jewish people hung in the balance, there should be false prophets among them, and, worse still, that there were many Jews who allowed themselves to be misled and deceived by them.
Then the word of G-d came to Jeremiah, ordering him to go to Hananiah and tell him: "Thus said G-d: You have broken bars of wood, but you shall make for them bars of iron... Hear now, Hananiah, G-d has not sent you, but you have made the people trust in a lie. Therefore... I will cast you from the face of the earth; this year you shall die, because you taught rebellion against G-d." Hananiah died the same year, in the seventh month (Ch. 28).
Jeremiah's Letter to the Exiles
Though Zedekiah turned a deaf ear to the warnings and pleadings of the Prophet Jeremiah, and secretly plotted against Nebuchadnezzar, he still pretended to be loyal to the Babylonian king. Little did he know that his policy would lead to the inevitable fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh seven years later.
On his part, Jeremiah, while still trying to save his people from the destruction against which he warned them, knew that the survival of the Jewish people would depend on the surviving remnants, the captives and exiles that were driven from the Land of Israel to a land not theirs, among nations not of their kind. Other nations - more numerous and more powerful than the tiny nation of Israel - once they were conquered and exiled from their land, soon disappeared without a trace; they assimilated and were completely absorbed by their conquerors. This was not to happen to the Jewish people. It was vitally important that the Jewish exiles should know that they had to carry on and preserve their way of life and Jewish identity even after the loss of their homeland, and while living as a small minority among the nations of the world. And so, when Zedekiah sent two emissaries to Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah sent with them a letter addressed to the Jewish elders and captives, with a Divine message that was to serve as a guideline for Jewish survival. It read, in parts, as follows:
"Thus said the L-rd of Hosts, the G-d of Israel, unto all the exiles whom I have exiled from Jerusalem unto Babylon: Build houses and dwell in them; and plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and have sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply, and do not diminish. And seek the peace of the city in which I caused you to be exiled, and pray unto G-d for it; for in its peace you shall have peace... "
After warning again not to be misled by false prophets and dreamers, Jeremiah tells them that, to be sure, the exile is a temporary one, but nevertheless long enough to settle down to a normal life, with complete trust in G-d that He will redeem the remnants of His people and return them to their homeland. Jeremiah even pinpointed the length of the Babylonian Exile:
"For thus says the L-rd: After the completion of seventy years in Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word toward you to return you to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think about you, says G-d; thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and hope. (In the meantime) you shall call upon Me, and walk in My way, and pray unto Me, and I will hear you. And if you seek Me, you will find Me, if you search for Me with all your heart... And I will bring back your captivity, and will gather you from all nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, says G-d; and I will bring you back into the place from which I have exiled you... (Jer. ch. 29)."
Jeremiah's message made a tremendous impression upon the Jewish exiles in Babylon. It breathed new life into them, and encouraged them, for they knew exactly what they had to do. Thus, seventy years after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh by Nebuchadnezzar, the community of the faithful who returned from Exile, rebuilt the Beis Hamikdosh and Jerusalem, exactly as Jeremiah had prophesied.
Although Jeremiah's letter was addressed primarily to the exiles in Babylon, it was a clear and lasting message for Jews at all times, including the time of the present long Exile, since the destruction of the Second Beis Hamikdosh nearly two thousand years ago. Throughout this longest and darkest exile, Jews dispersed among the nations of the world have lived, as we still do, by the words of this Divine message of Jeremiah and by the prophecies of our other Divine prophets, and we are certain that G-d will keep His promise and send us His true redeemer, our righteous Moshiach, who will gather our exiles and lead us to Jerusalem, and rebuild the (third) Beis Hamikdosh, in a world that will finally recognize the supreme Heavenly kingdom on earth, under the guidance of the Chosen People, the People of the Torah.


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