“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.” — Jeremiah 17:7
The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Behar-Bechukotai, from Leviticus 25:1–27:34 and the Haftorah from Jeremiah 16:19–17:14.
A little bit of faith goes a long way. Just as a small flame can light up an entire room of darkness, so does even a small dose of faith dispel so many of the doubts and worries that bog us down. Faith brings us hope and peace. It gives us safety and security.
Many places in Scripture encourage us to have faith in God, but one place in particular gives us a powerful image as to what life is like when lived with faith, and in contrast, what life is like without it. That place is Jeremiah Chapter 17. It is also part of the Haftorah that we read this week.
This week’s Torah portion spelled out the blessings that follow when we obey God, and the curses that result from disobedience. It is as clear as black and white. This week’s Haftorah provides us with another point of clarity – what faith looks like and what the opposite feels like.
Jeremiah provides us with a description of two trees. The first is like a bush in the desert. It lives in parched soil and does not thrive. The second tree is a true evergreen: “ . . . a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream . . . its leaves are always green . . . and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:8). A tree planted by a stream of water always has strong roots. It isn’t affected by the twists and turns of the weather because it has an alternate source of nourishment. A tree with well-nourished roots always thrives. It is strong, beautiful, and always fruitful.
Jeremiah likens the first tree living in parched soil to a person who puts his faith in man instead of in God: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man . . . and whose heart turns away from the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:5). The second tree with strong roots is the person who puts all of his faith in God: “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD . . .” Faith in God brings blessings.
When we live our lives with faith, we will be able to thrive in any circumstances. Faith is the water that nourishes our roots, our soul, and allows us to flourish whatever the situation. We are grateful for the good in our lives and use our blessings well. We understand that even the challenges are blessings, for it is through them that we grow.
The choice is ours: we can plant ourselves in a desert, or in the luscious grounds of faith. Just like trees, it is where we live that determines how we will grow.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President