|Posted on May 11, 2013 at 10:40 AM|
By Gary Konecky
The Book of Jeremiah deals with a series of prophecies foretelling the destruction of the Kingdom of Judea, the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and the Babylonian exile. All these prophecies also tell either why the destruction is coming and/or how to avoid the destruction. One of these prophecies occurs in chapter 22 and will be the prophecy I will be exploring.
Verse 3 tell us:
So said the Lord: Perform justice and charity, and rescue the robbed from the hand of the robber, and to a stranger, an orphan, and a widow do no wrong, do no violence, and shed no innocent blood in this place.
Verses 15 -19, which are addressed to the King of Judea (who is responsible for the spiritual and moral climate of his kingdom), tells us:
15 Shall you reign, for you compete with the cedar? Your father-did he not eat and drink and perform justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. 16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy, then it was good. Is not that the knowledge of Me? says the Lord. 17 For your eyes and your heart are on nothing but your gain and on innocent blood to shed and on the oppression and on the crushing to do. 18 Therefore, so said the Lord about Jehoiakim, king of Judah; They will not lament him, [saying], "Hoe, brother!" or "Hoe, sister!" they will not lament him, "Hoe, lord!" or "Hoe, his glory!" 19 A donkey's burial shall he be buried, dragged and tossed past the gates of Jerusalem.
Rashi, the great Jewish sage, explains some of the points in the above verses as follows:
3 do no wrong This means taunting with words.15 Shall you reign Will you live long that you contend to make your rule oppressive to let all know that you are a king? your father Josiah, who demeaned himself with humility, did he not eat and drink and enjoy pleasure all the days of his life? 17 on your gain to steal money. the crushing the crushing of the poor..18 Hoe, his glory! Woe for his glory. 19 A donkey’s burial As they drag the carcass of a donkey, so will they drag his carcass...
There is a lesson for us in the above. Hugely profitable corporations in the US pay no income taxes, while the poor do not have access to medical care. One of the most successful anti-poverty programs in history, a program born out of the poverty and pain of The Great Depression is under attack yet again. I refer to Social Security, a program that has helped countless widows and orphans over the decades. “and to a stranger, an orphan, and a widow do no wrong...”
I am writing this weeks after the horrific terrorist attack on people at the Boston Marathon. Nor is it just the Boston Marathon, as there have been shootings across the US in recent months. Nor does the violence stop there, as there have been countless suicides of children who were harassed into the grave because they were gay or lesbian. “do no violence, and shed no innocent blood in this place.”
To conclude, we are told in Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord demands of you; but to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and to walk discreetly with your God.” What does walk discreetly with your G-d mean? It means to follow G-d's ways. What are G-d's ways? The Talmud (Sotah 14a) tells us: "Just as G-d clothes the naked... so must you clothe the naked. The Holy Blessed One visits the sick... so you must also visit the sick. The Holy Blessed One comforts mourners... so must you comfort mourners. The Holy Blessed One buries the dead... so must you bury the dead."
Somehow, taking money from the poor so the rich do not pay taxes seems to fly in the face of these teachings. Somehow, driving gay and lesbian children into committing suicide seems to fly in the face of these teachings. Somehow, mass murders (at schools, offices, movie theaters, and a marathon) seems to fly in the face of these teachings. Let us not forget that G-d takes these teachings seriously, for this is the reason He gave for the destruction of both the Kingdom of Judea and His holy Temple.
Source for the above bible quotes and Rashi's commentaries:
The Complete Tanach with Rashi, copyright (c) 1999 by Davka Corporation and Judaica Press
Source for the Talmud quote:
The Soncino Talmud, Judaic Classics by David Kantrowitz, Version 3.0.8, Copyright 1991-2004, Davka Corporation.