“Pains as of a woman in childbirth come to him,
but he is a child without wisdom;
when the time arrives,
he doesn’t have the sense to come out of the womb.” — Hosea 13:13
The Torah portion for this week, Vayeitzei, which means “and he left,” is from Genesis 28:10–32:3, and the Haftorah is from Hosea 11:7–12:14.
This week’s Haftorah reading, from the book of Hosea, recounts darker times for the nation of Israel. Led by their kings, the people had strayed and were deeply immersed in idolatry. God, through the prophet Hosea, desperately sought to get His people to return to Him.
God explained that while He had been a faithful God, rescuing the nation from Egypt, bringing them to the land of Israel, and feeding them until they were satisfied, the people had forgotten Him. Showering His beloved nation with gifts of kindness hadn’t kept them faithful, and so God had to turn toward other means. “So I will be like a lion to them, like a leopard I will lurk by the path. Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open; like a lion I will devour them— a wild animal will tear them apart” (Hosea 13:7-8). As the saying goes, there is no atheist in a foxhole. Through placing the people in painful and stressful situations, God hoped to get their attention and recapture their hearts.
On the one hand, these verses are painfully violent. It’s hurtful to think of our God as a lion out to devour us. However, on the other hand, these verses are deeply comforting. Behind the most trying situations of our lives, God is right there running the show. God is still on the throne, still calling the shots. Everything that happens to us happens for a reason, and the reason is to get us to return to God and create the most meaningful, pleasurable, and viable relationship with Him that we possibly can.
This is the treasure buried in every challenge of our lives. The question is, do we find the treasure or just wallow away in the mud that it is buried under?
A few verses later we read, “Pains as of a woman in childbirth come to him, but he is a child without wisdom; when the time arrives, he doesn’t have the sense to come out of the womb.” In our lives, we are constantly placed in painful and stressful situations – but these are not meaningless pains and pressures; these are the sensations of childbirth!
In every challenge, we have the opportunity to be reborn. However, in order for our rebirth to take place, we have to know when it is time to leave the comfort of the womb – the ease of our comfort zone. We need to know when to step out in faith, chart a new course, and be reborn. We need the courage to exit the womb so that we can experience a new and better life.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President