Haftarah Mattot: Jeremiah 1, translated by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Rabbi Arthur Waskow


Words of Yermi-yahu [Jeremiah] son of Chilki-yahu, of the clan of priests in Anathoth in the district of Benjamin, as the Breath of Life spoke through him in the days of Yoshi-yahu [Josiah] son of Ammon king of Yehudah, in the thirteenth year of his kingship, and as it came also in the days of Yeho-yakeym, son of Yoshi-yahu king of Yehudah, until the end of the eleventh year of Tzidki-yahu, son of Yoshi-yahu, king of Yehudah, until the exile of Yerushalyim in the fifth month.

And so the Breath of Life spoke through me, saying
"Even before I shaped you in the belly,
I held you in my heart;
Even before you came forth from the womb,
I made you holy:
I gave you as a Prophet
To the nations."

But I said,
You Who are the Pillar of my universe,
the Breath of Life,
Here - I cannot take your words to heart,
For my Anokhi, my I, is simply childish.
But Yah said to me,
"Do not say 'My I is childish,'
For to all to whom I send you, you shall go;
All that I command you
You shall speak.
Do not fear their faces,
For I am here with you to shield you,
Declares the Breath of Life.'

Then the Breath of Life caressed my lips,
Yahh said to me,
'Here, I place my speaking in your mouth:
See, I appoint you this very day
Over the nations and over the kingdoms,
lintosh v'lintotz
livnot v'lintoa,
to uproot and to tear down,
[i.e., "to destroy and overthrow"]
to build and to plant."

And again the Breath of Life spoke through me, saying,
'What do you see, Jeremiah?'
And I said, 'A stalk of Early- Bloom I see.'
And the Breath of Life said to me,
'Good seeing! -
For Early Blaming
Is my watchword,
I will do it!'

Then a second time the Breath of Life spoke through me, saying,
'What do you see?'
And I said, 'I see a boiling pot,
And its face is facing from the north.'
And Yahh said to me, 'From the north will pour forth evil
upon all who sit passive in the Land.
For here I am! - I will call on all the families of the northern kingdoms,
Declares Yahh,
And they shall come and each shall set its throne
At the entrance of the gates of Yerushalayim,
Surrounding all its walls,
And against all the cities of Yehudah.
And [through them] I will speak forth my judgments
Concerning all the evildoing
Of those who have betrayed me,
Who have made themselves sweet for other gods
and bowed low to the works of their own hands.

'So therefore, Jeremiah,
Center yourself,
And speak to them
All that the One"I" commands you
Do not abase yourself before their faces,
Lest I indeed debase you to their faces.
For here! - I set you this very day
As if you were yourself
A fortress city,
with pillars of iron
And walls of brass,
Against all the cities of the Land
Against kings and bureucrats,
Against even the priests of your own clan,
Against the very people of the land.
They will attack you, but they cannot cope with you,
For I am with you,
Declares the Breath of Life.

Then the word of the Breath of Life spoke through me, saying,
Get going! Cry out in the ears of Yerushalayim, saying,
'So says the Breath of Life:
For your sake I remember
The loyalty you felt when you were young,
The love you voiced in our espousals;
How you walked just behind me in the wilderness,
In a land where no seed had ever sprouted.

'Even now you Godwrestlers are a holy offering to the Breath of Life,
the best of all my harvest;
So anyone who eats this offering of Mine will be found guilty
And his robbery will recoil upon him,
Declares the Breath of Life.' "

Jeremiah 1:1 through 2: 3, translated by Arthur Waskow.

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