"My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." Jeremiah 2:13
The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Matot-Massei, from Numbers 30:2-36:13. Matot means branches and Massei means journey. The Haftorah is from Jeremiah 2:4-28; 4:1-2.
This week's Haftorah addresses the time period that we are in now. Historically, this month leads up to the greatest catastrophe in Jewish history the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews from Israel.
In this reading, the prophet Jeremiah expounded upon the sins of the Israelites that led to their expulsion. The main sin that he focused on was the sin of idolatry. I love this powerful image that Jeremiah puts forth in the name of God, "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." This imagery really puts idolatry in perspective. God is like an overflowing fountain of life. Idols are like broken cisterns that can't even hold any water.
Now, for the modern-day person, it seems quite obvious that bowing down or worshiping images of wood or stone is ridiculous. We wonder why anyone would exchange a chunk of wood for an omnipotent and all-loving God. However, let's examine for a moment how idolatry comes in many forms and is very much a part of the world that we live in today - perhaps even in our own lives.
Today, idolatry can come in the senseless pursuit of material objects. We live in a physical world, and we need material objects to survive and serve God. However, when the sole focus of our lives becomes completely materialistic, that is idolatry. If we work only to buy more stuff, that's idolatry. If we live only to experience physical pleasure, that's abandoning God and therefore, idolatry.
Idols can also come in the form of people. When we place our faith in any person instead of trusting in God, that's idolatry. When we place our hopes and dreams solely in the hands of a human being like our spouse or our children that's idolatry. When we attribute our success only to our own talents and efforts, that's denying God.
Now, let's peek at the opposite end of the spectrum serving God, the fountain of life. When our lives are focused on how we can best serve God and contribute to His purposes, that's worship of God. When we place all our hopes and dreams in His hands alone, that is honoring God. When we place our faith and trust fully in the Lord, that is crowning God as our King.
Just as it was true in Jeremiah's time, it is true today. Don't be fooled by the illusions. Just as it did for the Israelites, a life of idol worship leads to disappointment and unhappiness. But a life honoring God will lead to fulfillment, peace, and vitality. Today, let's break down the idols and cling only to our God.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President