This past week, the Haftorah for parshat Bamidbar came from Hosea chapter 2. It is significant that this parsha/haftorah always comes out around Shavuot because it has a strong message for us as a nation.
And it somehow seems even more relevant today, as Israel is experiencing a visit from the pope.
In order to understand the message of Hosea chapter 2. We first have to have a little background. Hosea was a prophet who lived and served in the Northern Kingdom during the same time as Isaiah, approximately 780 BCE to 725 BCE. In chapter 1 of the book of Hosea, we learn that G-d commanded him to marry a prostitute so that he would have an understanding of how He feels about the Jewish people.
Hosea’s wife Gomer, the prostitute, runs away and sleeps with another man, but Hosea still loves her and G-d explains that this is How He feels about Israel even though she prostitutes herself with idolatry, and as some have interpreted, the love of other nations.
And just as Hosea does not want to divorce his straying wife, but forgives her, G-d says He will not ever divorce Israel, because He loves her and He will forgive her.
Now on the one hand, we can understand this to be talking about the literal idolatry that Israel committed and resulted in the first exile and the destruction of the first temple. But our sages have told us that if we are still in exile, still without a Temple, then we are just as guilty as those who caused its destruction. But if it is true, as our sages have said that the leaders of earlier generations asked G-d to remove our drive for idolatry and that it was removed from us, what is the idolatry that we are guilty of now? What is the idolatry of today?
Well, it’s not actually a new phenomenon, we actually see it in the Tanach. In the book of Shmuel 1. The Nation of Israel asks G-d to give us a king because we want to be just like the other nations. Not much has changed.
It’s as if we were saying, we don’t want to have a special relationship with you, (G-d); we don’t want to be married to you, we want to be just like all the other nations, so give us a king. (1 Samuel)
At the time, the prophet Samuel warned the Nation that we did not want a king, that this would not be a good thing.
But like the prostitute Gomer, we, the nation of Israel have spent the last 2000 years wandering around seeking the love and protection of another husband. We want to be like the other nations.
When we are exiled in other lands we try to fit in, not to make trouble, not to make waves. We try to be like everyone else. Isn’t it ironic that in every nation where we have succeeded at some level to fit in with the people of the nation that we were a part of it was them who said, “Wait a minute! You may think you are one of us, you are trying really hard to be one of us, but you aren’t one of us!” and crusades, inquisitions and pogroms erupt reminding us once again that we are not one of them.
Even the holocaust, which took place in the one country where in all of history never had the Jewish people been able to blend in and become a part of the greater society than in Germany. And yet, instead of accepting us and appreciating our effort to assimilate, they blamed us for all the ills of society and cast us out like week old fish.
We are even beginning to see it in America – where people have said for decades that “it can’t happen here”. America – the bastion of civil liberties and ethnic diversity and freedom of religion. More and more we are seeing that the tolerance and freedoms are freely extended to everyone BUT the Jewish people. And somehow we continue on thinking “it can’t happen here – there.”
Our idolatry, our god of this generation is in our desire to garner the love and approval of the other nations. Even now, as we have the modern state of Israel, our motto continues to be that we want to be just like the other nations.
No theocracy for us, no. We have complete freedom of religion – that is, unless you are a Jew who wants to pray at a Jewish holy site that is in an Arab occupied area. We have gay rights, we have, well you name it. We want to be just like everyone else.
But that’s not the worst part. The worst part isn’t that we want to be like every other nation, but that we want to be liked by every other nation. We bend over backwards and we bow down to the demands of every other nation in the world fearing that if we don’t we will be cut off.
You see, we believe, like Gomer that everything we have has come from the benevolent hands of the nations around us. We think that if we stand up against proselytizing in Israel, our Evangelical supporters will stop supporting us. We won’t have enough money and we will lose what little support we still have from the west and specifically America.
Of course, what we have failed to see is that it’s not the moral and financial support of the nations around the world that have sustained us, it has been G-d all along (as described in Hosea 2). He has kept us as a nation and he has brought us back to our land and He says that it is He that will continue to protect and provide for us because He loves us.
He’s not going to abandon us, like Hosea who loved his straying wife, went after her, brought her back and forgave her, G-d is waiting with open arms for us to recognize that it is He who has been providing for us all along.
But while he’s waiting there for us, we still must make the choice to return to our husband, the only one who loves us and the only One who provides our needs. We are fooling ourselves if we think for a moment that our provision or protection comes from anyone besides G-d alone. We need to stop playing the harlot and return to our Husband.