LORD, you are the hope of Israel;
all who forsake you will be put to shame.
Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust
because they have forsaken the LORD,
the spring of living water. — Jeremiah 17:13
The Torah portion for this week is Bechukotai, which means “my decrees,” from Leviticus 26:3–27:34, and the Haftorah is from Jeremiah 16:19–17:14.
Ronald Reagan once said, “We are never defeated unless we give up on God.” I might add that we are never completed unless we give up on everything else. Sometimes it takes a desperate situation to help us realize our true rock and foundation.
In the Torah portion, we read about the terrible curses that would be visited upon the children of Israel if they disobeyed the Lord. The Haftorah reading takes us into the future, just before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem which marked a period of exile for the Jewish people. Jeremiah was the prophet who carried the burden of warning the people about the impending disaster. In this week’s reading, he described the tragedy that was about to befall them. Yet, this portion was not all doom and gloom. At the end there was a beacon of light, a ray of hope.
The prophet said, “LORD, you are the hope of Israel.” Interestingly, the Hebrew word for hope used in this verse is mikveh. The word mikveh is also the name of the ritual bath that was used during Temple times to purify the priests and is still used today in the Jewish tradition. By Jewish law, any natural body of water is a mikveh. Since it is filled with waters that come directly from the source of creation, its waters have the power to purify, heal, and restore.
Any manmade mikveh has strict laws which include a minimum amount of rainwater so that it, too, is connected to a natural source of water. When a person immerses in a mikveh, their entire being is enveloped like a baby in a womb. In that womb of water, connected to God, the Source of creation, a person is transformed. When a person emerges from a mikveh, they are changed, purified, restored, and reborn.
Hope has the same effect on us. We can believe in God all we want, but it’s not until we have nothing else to lean on that we can truly experience what it is like to put our hope solely in God. When we surround ourselves with hope in God and realize deep down that He alone is the source of salvation, healing, and blessings, our souls are purified. Our minds are clarified. We are changed for the better, transformed into faithful believers. We are reborn.
Friends, when you seem to be in a hopeless situation, let your faith in the Lord surround you like the waters of a mikveh. All things are possible with God. Immerse yourself in hope; bathe in your faith, and you will see His salvation.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President