Friday, 26 May, 2017 - 12:00 pm

An anxious man filed a "missing persons" report about his wife. She had gone shopping earlier that day, and hadn't yet come back.

Officer: What is her height? Husband: I never checked.

Officer: Slim or robust? Husband: Not slim.

Officer: Petite or large? Husband: Not petite.

Officer: Color of eyes? Husband: Never noticed.

Officer: Color of hair? Husband: Well, that changes according to season.

Officer: What was she wearing? Husband: Not sure, a dress or a suit.

Officer: What color? Husband: How would I remember?

Officer: Was she driving? Husband: Yes.

Officer: Color of the car? Husband: It was a black Audi A8 with supercharged 3.0 litre V6 engine generating 333 horsepower, teamed with an eight-speed tiptronic automatic transmission with manual mode. It has full LED headlights, which use light emitting diodes for all light functions and has a very thin scratch on the front left door.…  As he continued, the man started to cry.

Officer: Don't worry, sir... We will find your car.

In the Haftorah of this week’s portion, Bamidbar, we read one of most startling episodes in all of Prophets: The Divine Creator instructed the great prophet Hosea to marry a harlot and build a family with her. Hosea married a woman called Gomer. He was deeply in love with her. Gomer, however, proved faithless. She left home, had a series of affairs, and was serially unfaithful. Hosea was not even sure if all his children were his own.  Yet, caught between anger and tender longing, Hosea found that he could not relinquish his love for her.

Why on earth did G-d make the righteous Hosea endure such an enormously painful and difficult chapter in his life?

The Talmud gives an account of the dialogue between G-d and Hosea–the unwritten story preceding chapter 1 of the book of Hosea. Hosea asked G-d, “Why do you not forsake the Jews and find another people who is more faithful!”

Now, in our story, after Hosea had two sons and a daughter, G-d told him: “Leave Gomer. After all, you are a prophet and she is promiscuous.”

Hosea responded: “Sovereign of the Universe! I have children with her; I cannot expel nor divorce her. Yes, there was betrayal, but she is MY WIFE.”

Imagine: G-d tells a prophet to do something, and he says: I can’t!

At this point, through this brilliant chain of events, G-d at last responded to Hosea. In the words of the Talmud: “Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to him: ‘Then if you, whose wife is a harlot and your children are the children of harlotry, and you don’t know whether they are yours or they belong to others, yet you are committed to her; then the Jewish people who are My children, the children of My beloved ones, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and of my four most precious acquisitions in the world (Torah, Israel, heaven and earth, and the Holy Temple)… Yet you say, ‘Exchange them for a different people?!’”

At last, Hosea “gets it.” G-d showed him in his own life how, caught between anger and longing, he could not relinquish his love for Gomer. G-d led him to understand that his own personal relationship mirrored that of G-d and the Israelites. He had rescued them from slavery, led them through the wilderness and brought them to their new home, the land of Israel. But the people proved faithless and worshipped other gods. By rights, G-d should have abandoned them. He should have called them (as the prophet called his third child) Lo-ammi, “You are not My people.” Yet God’s love is inextinguishable. He cannot let it go. Whatever their sins, He will bring them back into the desert, the scene of their first love, and their marriage will be renewed.

After having this epiphany, Hosea embraced the Jews with a full heart, and in chapter 2 he began to express romantic, loving statements about the Jewish people:

And the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which shall neither be measured nor counted; and it shall come to pass that, instead of saying to them, "You are not My people," it shall be said to them, [You are] "The children of the living G-d."

In that day–declares the Lord–you will call Me “my husband”; you will no longer call Me “my master”…  I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, love and compassion; I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you will know G-d….

The message is clear. Who is a leader of the Jewish people? Only one who loves the Jewish people! You cannot lead, educate, challenge and criticize the Jewish people if you do not love them with all your heart and soul!

The lesson for our times is clear: Some of our finest and holiest Jews, with all of their zealousness, miss the most essential quality of the bond between G-d and His people: Unconditional love. G-d loves each Jew, and we must as well.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

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Jerry Goldman wrote...

What time does the fast start and end on the 17th day of Tamuz?