April 18, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 18, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Reluctance of God’s Agents

Parshat Pinchas

The haftarah we read this week introduces the three-week mourning period that precedes Tisha B’Av and is, therefore, the first of the “tlat d’puranuta,” the three haftarot of tragedy. The haftarah also introduces the Book of Yirmiyahu and includes the first revelations of Hashem to the great prophet. As a result, this first perek of the book also includes Yirmiyahu’s inauguration into his divine mission. In reviewing the chapter, we read of the initial visions the prophet sees, one of a staff from an almond tree and one of a bubbling pot. Each vision was meant to prepare the navi for the task of warning, threatening and preparing the nation for the coming destruction, a result of their sinfulness and their stubbornness in rejecting the divine messages delivered to them by the prophets.

Especially interesting is the response of Yirmiyahu to his selection for this mission. Unquestionably, most people who study this perek will quickly note the similarity of Yirmiyahu’s reaction to that of Moshe Rabbeinu when God appeared to him at the burning bush. Moshe is reluctant to take on the challenges with which he is presented, as is Yirmiyahu. Moshe attempts to convince God that he is a poor choice because he cannot speak, “ki chvad peh uch’vad lashon anochi, for I am slow of speech,” while Yirmiyahu hopes to avoid his choice by saying “hinei lo yada’ti dahbeir, I do not know how to speak.” Both prophets were presented with challenging undertakings: Moshe was assigned the task of changing the minds of the powerful Pharaoh and his empire in demanding that they allow Israel to leave, while Yirmiyahu was assigned the task of changing the minds of his own people so that they realize how they had turned away from Hashem and would change their ways.

Yet, we have the right to ask the question: Why did Hashem insist on sending those who were so reluctant to serve as His agents? Were there none more willing to heed God’s command and take on the responsibility? Certainly we know that the Al-mighty was all-knowing and, as such, knew that these individuals were the best suited for the job. But sometimes we settle for the second-best who might carry out the mission well enough. Of course, the question is not a very good one but it is asked in order to learn from the answer.

Simply put, Hashem wanted one who was reluctant to take on the job. He specifically desired a personality who was not tempted by the power or the glory that came along with the position. God, therefore, searched for one who understood the gravity and importance of the mission and felt unworthy for such a task. Many were the leaders whose overconfidence and inflated self-esteem led their followers to defeat. Only one who was hesitant was one who truly comprehended that he needed God’s help to succeed.

And only one who understood how much he needed God could carry out Hashem’s commands as He wished him to. Only the modest, and therefore reluctant, could succeed in touching the hearts of His beloved people.

By Rabbi Neil N. Winkler


Rabbi Neil Winkler is the rabbi emeritus of the Young Israel Fort Lee and now lives in Israel.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles