Although we are reading different Parshiot this Shabbat in Israel and outside of Israel, the Haftarot are the same, as this week’s Haftara is the first of the three Haftarot leading up to Tisha B’Av which prophecize the destruction of Jerusalem.
When Menachem Begin was elected as Prime Minister of Israel in 1977, he used a quote from this week’s Haftara (Yirmiyahu 1:1-2:3) changing around the last few words of the quote in order to give his wife credit for his victory: “I remember for your sake the kindness of your youth, the love of your bridal days, your following after me in the wilderness in a land sown with mines.”
The full quote from Yirmiyahu 2:2 states: “Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem saying, ‘Thus said God: I remember for your sake the chesed (kindness) of your youth, the love of your bridal days, your following me into the wilderness, in a land not sown.’”
Although most of the Haftara prophecizes destruction, we are left on a positive note. Due to the merits of B’nai Yisrael at the time of the exodus from Egypt, God will always forgive the Jewish people.
What was the loving kindness that B’nai Yisrael did in their youth?
According to Rashi, it is that they followed Moshe and Aharon from a settled land to a wilderness without anything but their belief in God.
Radak points out that the good merits that B’nai Yisrael had back then will help them in the future.
We see how B’nai Yisrael followed Moshe in Shmot 15:22 “Moshe led B’nai Yisrael away from the Reed Sea and they went out into the desert of Shur…”
Nehama Leibowitz adds that because of the loving kindness that B’nai Yisrael did back then, the nation will never fully be destroyed.
Shadal brings a different approach explaining that it is not only the loving kindness that the Jewish people did, it was also the loving kindness that God did for them by taking care of them in the desert. In this way, we see that chesed is reciprocal, the person who is giving is also receiving and vice versa.
These three weeks between the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av are the perfect opportunity for us to emulate God and our forefathers and focus on performing acts of loving kindness which will in turn lead us to the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash.