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CHAPTER 7 JEREMIAH INTERPRETED A Rabbinic analysis of the prophet BRYNA JOCHEVED LEVY Women's nstitute for Torah Studies, Jerusalem The most vivid autobiographical portrayal in prophetic literature is that of Jeremiah. We are fortunate to have records not only of his oracles and pronouncements, but of his prayers and contessions. In those personal statements, Jeremiah shares with us his deepest anguish and most profound hopes, not only regarding the fate of the nation but also regarding his own personal destiny. More than any other prophet, Jeremiah allows us to peer into the inner chambers of his heart and witness his poignant struggles. We are aftorded our first glimpse of the intensely human aspect of Jeremiah's prophetie career at its very oulset, in his description of God's call to him. By defini- tion, a prophetic call narrative delines for the candidate the mission he is to perform. But among the greal seers of Israel, Jeremiah alone was not only informed what his mission would be, he was told who he was. His prenatal appointment was revealed to him in no uncertain lerms: The word of the Lord came to me: Before I created you in the womb, I selected you; before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet unto the nations (1:4). Seemingly. given this clear predestination, there is no rOom for Jeremiah to shirk his prophetic mission. Furthermore, we expect that Jeremiah will have the authority and power to carry out this mission: "Behold, I make you this day a fortified city and an iron pillar and bronze walls against the whole land" (Jeremiah 1:18). Nevertheless, Jeremiah tuned out to be the most tortured and self-tortured of the prophets whose literary legacies are available to us. It is hard to imagine a more moving prophetic eri de coeur than Jeremiah's plaint: Thave become a conslant laughingstock; everyone jeers at me. For every time I speak, I must cery out, must shout, Lawlessness and rapine! For the word of the Lord causes me constant disgrace and contempt. I thought. 'I will not mention Him, no more will I speak in His name-But [His word] was like a ragin fire in my heart, shut up in my bones; I could not hold it in, I was helpless (Jeremiah 20:7-9). 65 G. Glas et al. (eds.). Hearing Visions anud Seeing Voices, 65-86. 2007 Springer

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Women's nstitute for Torah Studies, Jerusalem
The most vivid autobiographical portrayal in prophetic literature is that of Jeremiah.
We are fortunate to have records not only of his oracles and pronouncements, but of his
prayers and contessions. In those personal statements, Jeremiah shares with us his
deepest anguish and most profound hopes, not only regarding the fate of the nation but
also regarding his own personal destiny. More than any other prophet, Jeremiah allows
us to peer into the inner chambers of his heart and witness his poignant struggles.
We are aftorded our first glimpse of the intensely human aspect of Jeremiah's
prophetie career at its very oulset, in his description of God's call to him. By defini- tion, a prophetic call narrative delines for the candidate the mission he is to perform.
But among the greal seers of Israel, Jeremiah alone was not only informed what his
mission would be, he was told who he was. His prenatal appointment was revealed to
him in no uncertain lerms:
The word of the Lord came to me: Before I created you in the womb, I selected you; before you were
born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet unto the nations (1:4).
Seemingly. given this clear predestination, there is no rOom for Jeremiah to shirk his
prophetic mission. Furthermore, we expect that Jeremiah will have the authority and
power to carry out this mission: "Behold, I make you this day a fortified city and an
iron pillar and bronze walls against the whole land" (Jeremiah 1:18). Nevertheless, Jeremiah tuned out to be the most tortured and self-tortured of the prophets whose
literary legacies are available to us. It is hard to imagine a more moving prophetic eri
de coeur than Jeremiah's plaint:
Thave become a conslant laughingstock; everyone jeers at me. For every time I speak, I must cery out, must
shout, Lawlessness and rapine! For the word of the Lord causes me constant disgrace and contempt.
I thought. 'I will not mention Him, no more will I speak in His name-But [His word] was like a ragin
fire in my heart, shut up in my bones; I could not hold it in, I was helpless (Jeremiah 20:7-9).
G. Glas et al. (eds.). Hearing Visions anud Seeing Voices, 65-86.
2007 Springer
In this and many other passages in the book, we are granted precious perspectives on
the experience of prophecy and its impact on the prophet's life. Jeremiah's confes-
sions are grippingly human, and readers of the Bible throughout the generations have found in them spiritual inspiration and sources of strength.
One group of readers deeply concerned not only with the preaching but with the life of Jeremiah were the Rabbis of the early centuries of the common era-
the creators of the homiletic works known as Midrash. The Rabbinic interpreta- tion of Jercmiah goes beyond the explicit statements of the prophet to identify
textual nuances throughout the book that hint to the psychological factors affect ing the persona of the prophet. In this chapter I would like to show how the Rab- bis portray Jeremiah, the prophet of doom, as a man whose identity is forged not
only by the preordained immutability of his call, but by his own doubis. The
mdrashic texts depict Jeremiah as undergoing a complex process of personal assertion and denial in which he identifies with both God, his source of strength and suffering, and with the people of Israel, whom he loved desperately and who failed him incessantly. In doing so, the Rabbis display sophisticated psychologi cal insight and deep literary sensitivities which are of great value to all readers of the Biblical text.
Classically, the triadic relationship between prophet, people and God is clear. The
prophet's calling is established by God, and relates to the situation of his people. In the case of Jeremiah, the mechanism is different. His all-consuming empathy and hence his effectiveness as a prophet remove all barriers and allows him, or
perhaps forces him, to identify powerfully with his people and/or with the Lord. Take for example, Jeremiah's confession ot the sins ot the people in lirst person plural: "Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O Lord, for the sake of Your name; though our rebellions are many and we have sinned against You" (14:7).
And in speaking of the wrath of God, Jeremiah says: "But I am filled with the
wrath of the Lord, I cannot hold it in. I pour it on the infant in the street and on the company of youths gathered together. (6:11). These and other statenments
throughout the book testify to Jeremiah's strong projective identification with
God and Israel. A comment made in the Tannailic Midrash, the Mekhila" sums up this notion.
There, Jeremiah is contrasted with two other giants among the prophets, Elijah and
Jonah. Each is labeled according to the banner which they raised. Elijah is said to have championed the cause ol God, and Jonah to have championed the cause of his people. Jeremiah, however "Championed both the honor of the Father and the honor of the son." This statement highlights the conflict which was endemic to Jeremiah's long and frustrating prophetie Career. It is easy to be a zealous firebrand or a com-
passionate dralt-dodger; being torn by contllicting loyalties is by far the greatest burden.
Let us now see how the Rabbis interpreted several passages in the book in keeping with their understanding of Jeremiah as a constantly conflicted personality in search
of identity.
Rabbinic psychoanalysis of Jeremiah begins the moment the prophet is introduced in
the text.
The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah," one of the priess of Anatoth in the territory of Benjamin (1:).
Jeremiah is a priest, a distinction liable to render hima man of esteem. Yet the rabbis have Jeremiah despairingly testify to the unfortunate nature of his priestly status,
which has been undermined:
One of the priesus of Anatoth (Jeremiah l:1) R. Berachyah said: Jeremiah asserted: My name is disparaged among the priests (ashuk shemi bacohanim). In Moses' day. "May God bless you'" Num 6:24): in my day. May they represent a curse" (Jeremiah 29:22). In Moses day, "And protect you' (Num 6:24); in my day.
Those consigned to the plague to the plague' (Jeremiah 15:2). In Moses' day. "May God shine His coun tenance upon you' (Num 6:25): in my day. "He made me dwell in darkness like those long dead' (Lam 3:6). In Moses' day. 'And deal graciously with you' (Num 6:25)% in my day. "For I will show you no
merey' (Jeremiah 16:13). In Moses' day, "May God bestow His favor upon you' (Num 6:26)% in my day A ruthless nation that will show the old no regard and the young no mercy' (Deut 28:50). In Moses day And grant you peace' (Num 6:25); in my day. "For l have withdrawn my peace from this people, declares the Lord. My kindness, My compassion' (Ieremiah 16:5). IPesikta de-Rab Kahana 13:13}
The midrash begins with a contrast between Jeremiah's prophetic role with what he would have preferred to have been doing as a priest. Instead of invoking the Aaronic priestly benediction, a vehicle of love and blessing, Jerenmiah is forced to intone
imprecations and predictions of disaster. There are numerous midrashic texts which portray Jeremiah bemoaning his regrettable fate as the prophet of destruction. This one, however, is different; the key phrase is ashuk shemi bacohanim, "my name is disparaged among the priests". In other words: I have been barred from serving in
the priestly capacity, in the beatific posture whichI covet. This rabbinic formulation may be understood as a midrashic paraphrase and
editorial comment on the phrase min hacohanim asher beAnatoth "Of the priests of Anatoth." The city of Anatoth is located in the teritory of the tribe of Benjamin, six kilometers north of Jerusalem. It is listed among the Levitical cities in Joshua 21:18,
but becomes relevant to our story by way of the priestly line that dwelled there. In 1
Kings 2:27 we are told that Abiathar the priest was banished to Anatoth by King Solomon as a result of his political miscalculations, having backed Adonjah rather than Solomon as heir to the Davidic throne. He was not executed for this misde- meanor, rather banished to Anatoth. Presumably, Jeremiah's family is from this line
of banished priests." But the link with Abiathar and the priests of Anatoth is, in fact. a long-range link to the notorious line of priests from the house of Eli (1 Sam 14:3),
who proved themselves unworthy custodians of the ark at Shiloh." The corruption
and downfall of the house of Eli is described graphically in the Book of Samuel.
Ei's sons are accused of abusing their priestly privileges and engaging in audacious
acts of sexual license. Their erimes against God and man resulted in their disen chisement as officiating priests, the caplure of the ark by the Philistines and the
mate erushing blow, the destruction of the sanctuary at Shiloh.'"
All of this is Jeremiah 's priestly legacy. l is little wonder. therefore, that Jeremi is the only prophet to mention Shiloh"" (7:12,14, 26:6,9). It was the destruction oe Shiloh which served as a powerful image in the recesses or Jeremiah's memory fuel. ing the fires of his impassioned Temple Sermon:
Therefore 1 will do to the House which bears My name, on which you rely, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers. just what 1 did to Shiloh (Jeremiah 7:14; ct. 26:6).
Although Jeremiah's scathing words are directed to his constituency, who have abused the Temple and looked for cheap cxternal forms of atonement, relying upon the cultic efficacy of the Temple rather than their own religious rehabilitation, there is a self-reflective dimension to this image as well. The repercussions of the fall of Shiloh began a process which, in elfect, eventually lead to the banishment of Jere-miah's family from Jerusalem and their exclusion from serving in the Temple. In Jeremiah's prophecy. as well as his psyche, therefore, the fall of Shiloh and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem are paralleled not merely as historical events but as a catalyst for personal retrospective. The urgency and horror of the destruction of Shiloh may be temporally located in the distant past, but for Jeremiah of Anatoth they are part of his eternal psychological present. The breakdown in the infrastruc ture of religious leadership during the time of the Elides impacted upon Jeremiah's family. ultimately stigmatizing Jeremiah as an outcast priest -min hacohanim asher beAnatoth -and subconsciously undermining his self-worth. Abiathar, founder of the priestly colony in Anatoth (1 Samuel 22:20. 14:5). was the sole survivor of the massacre of the priests of Nob ordered by Saui decades earlier. That macabre story, too, must have painfully reverberated in the soul of the prophet and in the recesses of his unconscious. The iravesty o Saul, king of Israel, heinously murdering an entire city of priests was an act o unprecedented horror. Such a trauma doubtlessly left a scar on Jeremiah's tamu of survivors. As a priest of Anatoth, a scion of that line, Jeremiah will relive terror of carnage, not as victim but as the agent through whom destruction a violence will be proclaimed. Anatoth, therefore, serves as a constant reminder of the reality of territoria ishment for Jeremiah on a micro level. When publicly branded as an outcast, n derisively labeled "the Anatothite"" by the people of Judea - a Cohen rustica the fields of Anatoth, a priest unfit to serve in the Temple. On a macro ievche miah of Anatoth has been chosen as the harbinger of the ultimate banishmen
ere the exile.
Jeremiah s appellation as a "priest from Anatoth", therefore, holds great he gniti- cance in terms of his self-delinition. It powerfully defines what he is not, un
ask will not perlorm. The unrequited goals for which his soul yearns will re l mit
pathel ically beyond his reach goals of religious leadership and of pristine spin istry abounding in blessing and hope.
Does Jeremiah identify with his ancestor Abiathar, an eyewitness to terror, a ban
ished survivor? Does he psychologically compensate for the sins of his forbearers
the Elides by propheticaly imputing their guilt and lack of chastity to contemporary priests and prophets? It is hard to avoid drawing such a conclusion. Throughout the book, Jeremiah indignantly targets the priests as unworthy and contemptible." Yet
in the eyes of the Rabbis, his disappointment with and disdain toward the priests is transposed into his own personal frustration that ashuk shemi bacohanim - *"my
name is disparaged among the priests." This phrase becomes the reflection of the
inner thoughts of Jeremiah as an outcast priest, a man whose hands are tied and who finds himself undermined and maligned at every juncture." Jeremiah's marginaliza- tion is a defining feature of his prophetic identity.
Recognition of Jeremiah's priestly descent is present in another passage in the
Pesikta, which grimly portrays him performing one of the priesthly functions- with an unexpected twist:
He Ueremiah) was one of two who cursed and execrated the day on which they were born, Job and Jere-
miah. Joo sad. Penish the day on whuch I was born' (dob 3:3); Jeremiah said, Accursed be the day that
was borm' deremiah 20:14). Said Jeremiah. "Let me tell you to what l can be likened. To a high priest who
has been chosen to administer the bitter waters [to the Sotah, the wife suspected of adultery (Num 5).
They bring him the woman, he uncovers her hair, takes the cup to give her to drink, looks at her and real-
1es that she is his mother. He begins to wail and says: Woc is me! My mother whom I tried to honor
nave shamed you: o sad Jerema.woe unto you Mother Zion:I was certain that I would prophesy
good tidings and consolation, and alas! I prophesy catastrophe. |Pesikta Rubbati 26:4]
The image offered in the Pesikta portrays Jeremiah's guilt, shame and distress in the
presence of his harlot mother. Jeremiah's wish has been granted, he may officiate as priest, but litle does he know what devastating task awaits! He is chosen to bring
the bitter waters to the lips of his beloved mother who has been accused of infidelity.
She, who represents comfort, loyalty and protection, is none of these things for Jere- miah. She herself is the personification of that from which he longs to escape! The prophet is destined to live a life of sorrow and a life of shame: "Why did I ever issue
from the womb, to see misery and woe, to spend all my days in shame." (20:18). The Rabbis did not choose by chance the image of the priest administering the bit-
ter cup. The textual rubric for this description is Jeremiah 25:15-18:
For thus said the Lord, the God of Isruel. to ne: Take from My hrand this eup of wine of wrath- and make all the nations to whom send you drink of it. Let them drink and retch and act crazy, because of the sword that I am sending among them. So I took the cup from the hand of the Lord and gave drink to all
the nations to whom the Lord had sent me: Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, and its kings and officials to make them a desolate ruin, an object of hissing and a curse us is now the case.
Jeremiah, a 'prophet unto the nations anticipated that his position would be to take
the nations to task. He is notified by God that he is indeed to bring the poisoned chal ice to the lips of the nations. yet he is rudely awakened to the discovery that the first in line is his beloved Jerusalem. Jeremiah 25 is not explicitly mentioned in
the Pesikta previously cited but it is the basis of a parallel midrashic endition in Eicha [Lamentations] Zuta 1:7:
Since he did not want to prophesy such stringent prophecies upon them (lsrael) until he was told: 'Be. created you in the womb, T knew you: belore you were DOT.Consecraled you; I appointed vou
prophet concerning the nations. Immediately. he took the prophetic task upon himself and Jeren
assumed that he was designated for the nations. When Jeremiah accepted the task, God said to him: T
the cup ot wine of wrath.deremiah 25:15). Immediateiy Jeremian took , as it says, 'And I took th cup from the hand of the Lord' (25:17) and he assumed that he was to give the nations to drink. Thus Cd
Said to him: Take a lesson from what is cUstomary: don we give he most important to drink firs? Note
who is first among the nations- give Jerusalem first. for she is lirst among all of the nations. To what can
it be likened? To a Sotah who comes into the Temple court to drink of the bitiler waters; the priest comes to administer them, only to see that she is his mother. Immediatcly. he is embarrassed and recoils, wailing and screaming about his mother. So Jeremiah, when God told him to give Jerusalem to drink, screamed and wailed and said to God. Master of the universe, did you not iell me thatI was appointed prophet of
the nations? Now you have begun my prophecy to my own nation!You have enticed me and I have becn
enticed, overpowered me and prevailed. (20:7) God answered him: "You have accepted and there is no
tuming back. At this point he took the cup from His hand and drank it all down.
It is noteworthy how the two midrashic versions portray Jeremiah's reaction at dis-
covering his mother's guilt. In Eichah Zuta this causes the prophet to be personally embarrassed and to recoil. He is informed, though, in no uncertain terms, that there is no turning back, that he must go through with the painful task. In contrast, in the
Pesikta his sympathies are directed exclusively to his mother and his concerm is for her dignity: "He began wailing and said: Woe unto you my mother, whom I tried to
honor and instead I disgrace" lt is significant that the Pesikta switches direction in
midstream. It tums from the Biblical text in which Jeremiah bemoans his fate into a vignctte in which Jeremiah laments his mother's fate. "Woe unto me that I was ever
born becomes "Woe unto you my mother, whom I wanted to revere and I must dis
grace." He does not speak of the shame which her action has brought upon him (as in
Eichah Zuta), but of the pain he feels bringing shame upon his mother by exposing her as a wayward Sotah and by subjecting her to the ordeal of drinking the bitter
waters. This midrashic transformation collapses the barriers between Jeremiah and
his mother; her shame is his. Jeremiah projectively identifies with his mother. His degree of empathy bridges all identity gaps between them. One might expect that Jeremiah the son would be repulsed by his mother's crime, yet what is evoked in him
is a heightened sense of loyalty to her. Rather than being repelled by her, Jeremian drawn to her and longs to defend and protect his mother irrespective of her erime
Such an image is a psychologically compelling illustration by the Rabbis ol wht they sensed to be at the root of Jeremiah's persona self-doubts about his stat
worth, and legitimacy. These are portrayed as radically undermined by a mou
whose infidelity casis a deep, dark shadow and makes her unworthy of trust.
those closest to the prophet are suspect. It is little wonder that lack of chastiy
integrity become an overriding theme of his prophecy and are passionately aee
by him at every juncture The midrash itself unpacks its netaphor of the Sotah mother, making it cleur
she is symbolic of Imma Zion - Mother Zion, Jerusalem personified. Jerusaie
Jeremiah's spiritual matrix, but she has disappointed the prophet and betrayed her God. Iu will fall to Jeremiah to press the bitter cup of doom to her lips and to seal her
fate. Though he accepts that her actions have made the outcome unavoidable, his pain at having to be the messenger of its advent is no less than if he were forced to pronounce his own mother's death sentence. The midrash depicts Jeremiah, in the
throes of this pain, draining the bitler cup himself, choosing to share the late of his
beloved city. Another confrontation between Jeremiah and his Sotah mother, one which Is
described as having taken place carlier on in the life of Jeremiah, appears in a dil ferent passage in the Pesikta. Here, too, Jeremiah's mother is transposed into the characier of Imma Zion - Mother Zion. It is she who is the target of Jeremiah's
devastating ministry and the designated object of Jeremiah's intense projective identification.
At Jeremiah's coming forth into the world, he cried a great cry as though he were already a tull-grown youth, and exclaimed: "My bowels, my bowels! I writhe in pain! The chambers of my heart arein
agony. My limbs are all atremble. Destruction upon destruction ! I am the one who will announce
destruction to the whole world. And whence do we know that Jeremiah spoke thus? Because it is so written: "My bowels, my bowels!'T writhe in pain: The chambers of my heart! My heart moaneth within
me Ueremian 4:19). Jeremiah opencd his mouth, and reprimanding his mother, sand: "Tell me,
mother, 1sn't it true that you did not conceive me in the manner ot other women, and that you did not
loose me trom your bowels in the manner of other women who gve birth? Have your ways been per haps ike the ways of all laithless women, and did you cast your eyes upon another? As one who has
been faithless to her husband, why do you not drink the bitter waters? Or do you mean to brazen out
your guilt? Whence do we know that Jeremiah spoke thus ? Because it is written: "
Yet thou hadst a har lots torehead deremiah 3:5). When his mother heard his reprimand, she asked: "What makes this
infant speak thus? Surely on aceount of no sins of mine? Jeremiah opened his mouth and said:
T speak not of you, mother: I assure you, mother, not of you. I prophesy of [Mother) Zion -of [Mother Jerusalem. IPesikta Rabbati 26:31
The roar with which Jeremiah enters the world is presented as expression of his
excruciating pain. From the very moment of birth he is aftlicted by his unbearable destiny; "I am the one who will announce destruction lo the whole world Since
God has appointed him to be a prophet while still in the womb (1:4), the Rabbis have no difficulty with portraying his prophetic career as beginning the minute Jeremiah
issues forth into the light of day. Immediately, however, he perceives his mission as
a punishment so severe that some terrible crime must have brought it about. Since he is a newbom babe, the responsibility cannot be his. And so he immediately accuses
his mother, holding her accountable for his fate.Quickly, though, he explains that he is not speaking of her but rather of Imma Zion." He is presented as acutely aware that his mother is not to blame, his people are
These three midrashic texts portraying Jerusalem in the form of Mother Zion are unique to the Rabbinic exposition of the Book of Jeremiah. It is easy to understand why. Of all the prophets, Jeremiah's empathy and identification with his city and people is the strongest and most profound. By metaphorically presenting Jerusalem as Jeremiah's mother we can more fully understand his intense loyalty to her in the ace of her repeated disappointments and betrayals.
The Rabbis began the Pesikta passage with a comparison between Job and Jeremih
Both bewailed their birnh as a result of the unbearable pain life forced them endure. But, whereas Job is generally viewed as the epitome of suffering, the portra
of Jeremiah's pathos presented in this midrash is perhaps even more painful. Job'
suffering is personal, and despite his protestations, he endures and is granted a sec
ond life. Jeremiah, in contrast, is unconsolable, and bewails the suffering which he is forced to unwillingly inflict upon those closest to him.
The textual springboard for the Pesikta is Jer 20:14-18, wherein Jeremiah fulmi.
nates about his ineluctable fate, using words unmatched in their harshness:
Accursed be the day that I was born! Let not the day be blessed when my mother bore me! Accursed be the man who brought my father the news and said. 'A boy is born to you', and gave him such joy! Let that man become ike the cities which the Lord overthrew without relenting! Let him hear shricks in the mom-
ing and battle shouts at noontide! Because he did not kill me before birth, so that my mother might be my grave, and her womb big [with me| for all time. Why did I ever issue from the womb to see misery and
woe, to spend all my days in shame? This image conflates the death wish with the healing and comfort offered by the
mother's womb." Such imagery is described by Freud as follows:
To some people the idea of being buried alive by mistake is the most uncanny thing of al. And yet psy cho-analysis has taught us that this terrifying phantasy is only a transformation of another phantasy which
had oniginaly nothing ierifying about it at all, but was qualified by a certain lasciviousness the phan tasy. I mean, of intra-uterine existence.
The womb/tomb metaphor accentuates the analogy with Job, with which the midrash
began. Job, too, speaks of returning to the womb when he is clearly talking about death:He said, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I retum
there: the Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the
Lord." Job 1:21). The irony in Jeremiah's use of this metaphor, is, of course, that God has informed him that he has already been singled out for his mission in utero.
Even staying in the womb will not save him from his excruciating destiny as the prophet of doom.
The preceding midrashic homilies depict Jeremiah's relationship with his city and people in the early stage of his career - when he labored at upbraiding the nation and
warning them of the fate that awaited if they would not mend their evil ways:
Pesikta Rabbati 26:9, the character of Imma Zion"0 appears once again, this time after her tragic fall. Jeremiah is now older and sated with tragedy: he finds no co fort in the fact that his predictions of disaster have come to pass. And so, his re tionship with Mother Zion is different in this scene.
Jeremiah said, As I ascended the mountain to Jerusalem, 1I looked up and saw a woman sitting alone mountain top, wearing black garmenis, her hair disheveled, screaming, imploring someone to cont 1, to0, screamed and asked: *Who will comlort me?" I appronched her and spoke to her. I said, 1you
a woman - spenk to me; il you are a spirit - be off with you, She answered, "Don't you recognize me?
I am the woman who had seven children. Their father disappeared, und before 1 was able to cry over him,
I was told that my house colapsed nd killed my seven sons. I do not know for whom to our and iear out my hair. responued, "You are no worse than Molher Zion who was reduced to grazing land or the
beasts of the field. She said, "T am your Mother Zion; I am the mother of seven, as it says: "She who bore
seven is forlorn" (Jerenminh 15:9). [Pesikta Rubbati 26:91. There are several notable similarities between this midrash and Jeremiah's midrashic encounter with his mother the Sotah. Just like the Sotah was customarily dressedin
black and her hair was disheveled, so too, this mysterious woman. He desperately seeks solace; how ironic to chance, unawares, upon a mother figure likely to afford it to him. Whereas in the initial passage Jeremiah does not recognize his mother until
he uncovers her hair and looks at her, here, even with her hair uncovered, she is still unknown to him. In both midrashic texts, his obliviousness is pronounced. In this
passage he gives it verbal expression, asking the woman whether or not she is a spirit or real. In fact, she is a spirit, of sorts: "I am your Mother Zion"
In a subseguent passage, Jeremiah says that her fate will be like that of the
restoration of Job. bringing the midrash to a happy ending But what is of con- cern to us is the final stage of the relationship between Jeremiah and Mother Zion which is played out in this midrash. By rights the prophet has finished his mis- sion. The punishment has been administered, history has requited him. He is free to go back to Anatoth and never encounter this nation again. Yet Jeremiah hap-
pens upon Imma Zion and is naturally drawn to her. He offers her comfort: just as Jeremiah stood by his mother the Sotah, so he will stand by his people to the bit ter end.
These midrashic dramatizations do much to develop the picture of Jeremiah's mother, and understandably so. Jeremiah, the celibate prophet" had no wife and no daughter. While he, like the other great prophets of Isracl," speaks of the people's infidelity in terms of the adulterous wife and wayward daughter. the midrashie texts develop the image in terms of his mother. The mother-son relationship is the
most psychologically powerful of the three. Ernest Jones has argued that "The cen- Lral conclusion based on psychoanalytic research is that the religious life represents
a dramatization on a cosmic plane of the emotions, fears, and longings which arose in the child's relation to his parents. These midrashic accounts give expression to this notion.
In the initial midrashic homily, Jeremiah is depicted as bcing closely associated
with a woman of questionable moral standing, that woman being his mother the Sotah. In another midrashic tradition, the Rabbis link Jeremiah to a diflerent "woman of ill repute" - Rahab the harlot, who is presented as being an ancestor of
the prophet. Whereas, at first glance, their clear exegetical agenda is to glorify Rahab"" the righteous gentile, by having her merit illustrious progeny, it can be understood in our context that they are ugain making a slatement about Jeremiah's
LEVY identity and self-perception. Consider the following passage from Pesikta de-Rai Kahana 13:12: -Rab R. Samuel b. R. Nahman said, there were four who canme irom debased lamilies Israel mocked Jere miah and said: "Is he not from the sons of Rahab the Harlot?, so scripture had to distinguish him: . words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah' (1:1).
ere. : "The
In this midrash it is not that Jeremiah happens upon the knowledge of his mother's infamy by chance; it is hurled at him by the people. They ridicule him by way of his tainted pedigree and his forebears' questionable status. The ignominious slurs are intended to discredit his own standing. The student of the midrash is left to ponder how this skeleton in Jeremiah's closet was supposed to have impacted upon him. Did he view it simply as a personal assault, or as yet another penelratung and indelible stigma causing him additional insecurity? As the people call his integrity into ques tion, does he begin to question it himself? Or was the opposite the case? Was it pre. cisely Rahab's shameful status, and by extension Jeremiah's, which yielded greatness? Did memories of moral imperfection propel Jeremiah to overcompensate in the ethical sphere? Or was Rahab consciously or otherwise a heroine in Jeremiah's mind's eye, a sterling example of the successful actualization of far-reaching spiri- tual potentiality? Let us consider the rabbinic embellishments of these ideas. R. Samuel b. Nahmani taught. "But if you do not dispossess the inhabitants of the land, those whom you allow to remain shall be stings in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land n which you live: so that I will do to you what planned to do to them (Num 33:55). The Holy One Blessed be He said to Israel, T told you: "You must proscribe them the Hitites and the Amorites..."(Deut 20:17), and you did not do t, rather Only Rahab the harlot and her father's fam- 1ly were spared by Joshua (Josh 6:25). therefore Jeremiah came, and he was from the descendants of Rahab the Harlot, and does things to you like stings in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and so the ext had to say The words of Jeremiah. [Eicha Zuta 1:34].
Israel will be castigated for their crimes and harassed incessantly by Jeremiah the son of Rahab, the pagan thorm whom they spared. Iniquity breeds iniquity; througn their negligence in sparing idol worshipers they have been enticed by them. and brought punishment upon themselves.
Might the midrash be implying. though, that it is Jeremiah's punishment as well This midrash lures us into the prophetr's unconscious. How, in the view of this midrash, does the prophet understand his link with Rahab? Is it simply that ido worship, a consequence of her survival, will be Jeremiah's ongoing challenge; e trap in which his people will be constantly ensnared? Or, in terms of personal se reflection, is Rahab a ghost, reminding Jeremiah of his negative origins, a constane thorn in his own side, the sting in the eyes of this great seer of Israel? Is she blemish on his coat ot arms? Due to her, will he always remain manqué'? Will ne psychologically, on some subconscious level. perceive of himself as part idolater, a a prophet unworthy of sanction?
Is Jeremiah an incarnation of Rahab, and is he, therefore, in some way responsio for the guilt of his people? Is he the thorn in the side of the people as was she could it be that he Will be the survivor, as was Rahab, and so his subconscious ic ings of guilt are compounded, knowing that he will live as others will die? Throug
assuming guilt, Jeremiah again dissolves all barriers between himself and his
charges. Powerful is the prophet who feels the guilt of his people; more powerful still is one who identifies with that guilt; more powerful yet is one who holds himself per- sonally responsible for it.
These midrashic nuances conjure up shadows past, and yield negative reverbera- tions in the tortured prophetic soul of Jeremiah. However, the opposite is also true. Rahab is a symbol of much which is positive. The triumph of Rahab's spirit may
have, nonetheless, inspired Jeremiah to hope against hope. Tikva Frymer-Kensky. makes the following observation: But it is an important message. and Rahab is the oracle who declares that God has given Israel the land. She is the first of the prophets who appear in the historical books to announce to Israel the paths of their
history and the first of the women who declare and pronounce the will of God. The lines of women and
prophets begin with Rahab and converge again at the end of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles in the figure of Huldah the propheless, who announces the destruction of Judah.
Rahab is approached on the eve of the destruction of Jericho by Israelite spies. Rather
than assuming an adversarial posture she gives reverential expression to her heartfelt preparedness to submit to the will of the God of srael. She is thereby awarded life and posterity in the land. Frymer-Kensky depicts Rahab as the first oracle of God's will and Huldah as the last. In contrast, the Rabbis stress the link between Rahab and her descendant Jeremiah." Rahab acknowledges the initial phase of entry into the land in keeping with Divine will and directives; Jeremiah, in the final stages, will
bring this saga to a close. He will loudly bewail the discordance between the will of God and the devastating reality the people have created. He will eulogize all ideals
and lay all dreams to rest. The attribution of Rahabite ancestry to Jeremiah highlights another profound
tragedy in the life of the prophet. While Rahab was successful in bringing about a reprieve for her family, Jeremiah, descendant of Rahab, is not even able to secure for
himself a safe haven in the land of Isracl. There is. however, a positive lesson Jeremiah might have derived from his con-
templation of his relationship with Rahab. Rahab, like Abiathar of Nob. is a survivor, who witnessed physical destruction but whose spiritual fortitude afforded her life and well being in the Land. The unlikelihood of Rahab, a pagan harlot., achieving a
total turn-about may have inspired her offspring Jeremiah to optimistically aspire to
the possibility of the spiritual rehabilitation of the wayward people of lsrael, and to cling to hope for the averting of catastrophe to the very last. Jeremiah's midrashie pedigree may once again highlight his utter suitability as prophet due to his ability to
sympathize, empathize and become one with his abject people while never totally
despairing of a possible turn-about like that of his forbearer.
Let us return to the midrashic theater, to the scene of Jeremiah bringing the poisoned
chalice to his mother's lips. Beyond the shame. pain, and pathos highlighted in the midrashie texts we have explored, there is an additional barrage of feelings by which
the prophet is overwhelmed. These include his feelings of being deceived, seduced and powerless. Surprisingly, through these emotions he was transformed froma vas-
sal of the Lord into His vessel. Once again, both by way of Seripture itself and through the prism of midrashic exposition we are afforded insight into the prophet's psyche. This time, though, the prophet's identification is not with the people Israel, but rather with the Almighty Himself.
Let us recall the midrash of Eichah Zuta cited above:
So Jeremiah - when God told him to give Jerusalem to drink. he sereamed and wailed and said to God,
Master of the universe, did you not tell me that I was appointed prophet of the nations:(:9) Now you huve Degun my prophecy to my own nation You have enticed me and I have been enticed. overpowered
me and prevailed' (20:7).
Realizing that he has been duped, Jeremiah flies into a rage knowing that he
has been deceived by God. The midrashic drama is a heartrending illustration of Jeremiah's most searing confession.
You enticed me, O Lord, and I was enticed: You overpowercd me and You prevailed. I have become a con- Stant laughingstock, everyone jeers at me, For every lime I speak, I must cry out, must shout, "Lawless-
ness and rapine! For the word of the Lord causes me constant disgrace and contempt. I thought, T will
not mention Him, no more will I speak in His name- but [His word] was like a raging fire in my heart.
shut up in my bones; I could not hold it in, I was helpless. T heard the whispers of the crowd-Teror al around: Inform against him!' All my [supposed) friends are waiting for me to stumble: "Perhaps he can be
entrapped. and we can prevail against him and take our vengeance on him .. (20:7-10).
While Jeremiah's other confessions*" poignantly move the reader, here we are jolted by violence. Not only by the violence of God seducing and overpowering the prophet but by the frightening mode of cxpression Jeremiah uses to descrnbe his experience.
This confession is about assault. It begins with a description of Jeremiah being physically assaulted by Pashhur, the priest and chief officer of the House of the Lord. and proceeds to describe the violence and scon of his mocking adversaries. He is a constant target of their contempt. They seek his nuin and await any opportunity for revenge. His response to Pashhur and to the belligerent multitude is to verbally
return the assault. But his most intense wrath is directed not against the people or
even against Pashhur but rather against God, whose unconscionable coercion has placed him in this baleful position. He wishes he could suppress and contain his
prophetic impulse, but he cannot banish God's controlling voice.
A close reading of the passage highlights the prophet's intense superego. He has bcen duped and experiences anger and impotence, but he is unable to shirk his
responsibility. He feels that long ago he had been tricked into becoming a prophet,
and now again he has been deluded. All of God's assurances and reassurances have
come to naught." Jeremiah, under attack, reacts to the collapse of trust in God's promised protection. Yet he confessional framework into which this prophecy fits makes it clear that the prophet's protestation is, in fact, his supplication: "Indirectly,
implicitly, this accusation is his appeal. There is none in this prayer if it be not in the
words with which it opens: "Thou hast enticed me': "Thou hast overpowered me.' If this is a plea by indirection, as indeed it appears to be, the plea is for release from an
imposed task which has proved too burdensome to bear."
But the image ol seduction 1s powertully suggestive. There is something else
going on here, something far more intimate. A union is being forged between
wmiah and God."" John Skinner describes the process which takes place in hanter 20 as one in which force of circumstance actually compels Jeremiah to reject his nation. This phenomenon, in tum, catapults the prophet directly to God: "Dis-
wned by men and driven in upon himself, he found in the truth of his rejected prophecy an indissoluble link of communion between his own soul and God. Amid
all his tribulations and the defeat of his lifework, it was a blessedness of which noth
ing could rob him that the God of Israel, had spoken to him, and received him into His fellowship. And in this individual response to the voice of God he discovered an
earnest of that instincive and universal sense of the divine in which he recognized
the permanent essence of religion."**
This 'fellowship is described at this stage in Jeremiah's prophetic career, since he
finds himself in a 'crisis of confidence'. His utter vulnerability has been exposed
through engendering direct altercations with the people and has, consequently, brought
about what Michael Fishbane calls a reunification of his will with God's: This remarkable prayer reveals a tragic moment wherein a prophet despairs but cannot fully
rebel. Jeremiah struggles to suppress God's voice within him. But his realization that God's word is in his bones, and his recognition of divine protection in v. I1, point
to the reunification of his will with God's. Jeremiah's spiritual restoration lies in the full acceptance of his unique task in the world: to be a faithful and trusting divine
messenger. So much for what is explicit in the Biblical text. I would like to suggest that while
in canonical context the incident with Pashhur. which serves as an introduction to the
confession probably took place c. 605 BCE" in the midrashic context the seduction is placed at the very outset of his prophetic career, precisely because it is the psychi- cal disintegration which results from becoming the object of God's forcefulness that obliges Jeremiah to become one with Him, and it is this which transforms him into
the prophet of God.
Jeremiah's identification with God may be understood in psychological terms as his identification with the aggressor. Let us consider several explanations of this idea. Among the classic psychological defense mechanisms. Anna Freud desernbes identification with the aggressor as follows: "Identification with the aggressor is suc-
ceeded by active assault on the outside world, which moves the person from passive to active role, this is a preliminary stage in the development of the superego. 1his
defensive measure is a projection of self criticism and guilt."
eremiah s ministry required of him to actively assault the outside world. Jeremiah,
Pphet, assumed the admonitory role as the superego of the people Isracl. But by
ying with God he could avoid some measure of self-criticism and guilt. Were
ne more similar to Elijah, exclusively defending the honor due the Father he may
V met with total success. Unfortunately, as the prophet who defended the honor
uc the son as well as the Father, self-criticism and guilt always ingered.
SClark Moloney describes Jeremiah's identification with the Lord in far more
erms: "Rather than kenosis being an emptying from the God (authoritarnan) adi
system into the self-system, I conceive it as being exactly the opposite: the memorial
selt-system empties into the memorial authoritarian-system. God does not, I feel, become man. but through the experiencing of God in theophany and related occur
rences man becomes God or, through experiencing an inspiration, becomes God-like in the sense of becoming able to comprehend or achieve what was fomerly felt diffi-
Cult or impossible. It is the sudden release of bound energy noted above which consti-
tutes the sense of emptying, and the ashes of light.
The possibility of the prophet becoming God-like through divine inspiration is, in
truth, anchored in the biblical text itself. We have already mentioned the verse in which Jeremiah descríbes himself as pour-
ing out wrath upon the people (6:11). In yet another passage, the prophet describes the unbearable heaviness of being which again turns him into a divine instrument.
Oh, my suffering, my suffering! How I writhe! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart moans within me,
I cannot be silent; for I hear the blare of horns, my soul is the alarm of war (4:19).
This alarm of war is the vehicle employed by God Himself against His enemies: "When I will sound the alarm of war against Rabbah of the Ammonites, it shall
become a desolate mound" (49:2). We see that Jeremiah's soul has now metamor
phosed into the clarion call of the Lord of hosts. At first blush, it may appear audacious to claim that seduction yields total identifi-
calion of the prophet with God. The overpowering of the prophet by the Lord has
turned him into the aggressor. But midrashic hyperbole goes beyond this claim and describes a remarkable degree of interchangeability between Jeremiah and the Lord.
Not only does Jeremiah take on the role of God; God, as it were, takes on the role of
the prophet. This touching interchange is found, not in the context of the God of
wrath but in the context of the God of mercy. One such example is the midrashic
treatment of Jeremiah 8:23: "Oh that my head were water, my eyes a fount of tears
Then would I weep day and night for the slain ol my poor people.
Oh, that my head were water, my eyes a tount of tears: Then wOuld I weep day and night tor the slain
of my poor people (Jeremiah 8:23) Jeremiah wails through the Holy Spirit and says, Bitterly she
weeps in the night (Lamentations 1:2). Who eried? Israel eried; some say: Jeremiah cried. TEichah
Zuta 1:17]
In context, it is clear that the verse from Jeremiah relers to his own tears. A second
voice is introduced into the midrash by way of the verse from Lamentations. The
tears of the prophet blend with those of the people. This midrash has condensed the
image: Jeremiah and his people cry as one. But remarkably in Eichah Rabbah "Oh,
that my head were water" is ascribed not to Jeremiah but to the Almighiy Himsel:
Oh that my head were water and my eyes a source of tears'. Who said this verse? If you say Jeremiah, did
he not eat and not sleep. rather who said it? He who neither cats nor drinks as it says (Ps 121): *Behold the
Guardian of lsrael neither sleeps nor slumbers. |Eichah Rabbah 1:52].
The midrash debates whether Scripture describes the pathos of Jeremiah or that of God. The conclusion is that God has replaced Jeremiah as the devastated lamenter of
the people. The identification is complete.
When God takes on the role of the prophet he also takes on the experience of the conle. Alan Mintz lakes this process one step further, making the following obser fion:"This is an audacious appropriation indeed, and it is made possible by
confidence the Rabbis had in the powers of their exegetical instruments.... Transformed at the moment of the Destruction, the figure of God switches from the monitory enforcer ot punishment to the dazed sufferer whose suffering derives in
art from His own pain over the loss of His children and in part from his empathy with their affliction."
The possibility for which this interpretative ingenuity allows is astonishing. Not only does Jeremiah 1dentity with God, God identifies with Jeremiah. Jeremiah iden-
tifies with srael, and so does God. Jeremiah has risen to astounding spiritual heights in his role as a prophet. What he has not been able to accomplish is inspiring thee peo- ple to identify with him or with the Almighty. Regrettably, without such spiritual
momentumn, they cannot be saved. Jeremiah's relentless attempts did not succeed,
and so, try as he did, his mission failed.
We are reminded of the words of Lord Macaulay: "It is difficult to conceive any situation more painful than that of a great man, condemned to watch the lingering agony of an exhausted country. to tend it during the altemate fits of stupefaction and raving which precede it's dissolution and to see the symptoms of vitality disappear
one by one, till nothing is left but coldness, darkness and corruption." How does the
prophet deal with this devastation? How does he endure, overcome by disappoint-
ment, grief and failure? Jeremiah himself explains:
When your words were offered, I devoured them: Your words brought me the delight and joy of knowing nat Your name is attached to me, O Lord, God of Hosts (15:16).
he words of God have consumed the prophet and will consume the nation - in a dif icrent. destructive sense. Yet Jeremiah gladly devours and assimilates them. They allow him a degree of happiness, which he could not experience with his tamily or
his nation. Hence, the name of the Lord is upon him and provides him with his sin- gular identity. The Divine word serves as his touchstone with the eternal covenant
nd becomes his ongoing point of convergence with the Almighty. This union will Dring the battle-weary prophet a modicum of solice.
hppoint you this day over nalions and kingdoms: To uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to over throw, to build and to plant (1:10).
CDurdensome task which was assigned to Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah was rly outlined in terms of destruetion and dissolution. Yet beyond the discourse
e and predictions of doom, contained within it were constructive elements
ding and planting. It is not only Israel who undergoes this process; we Jeremiah himself experiencing the same. He is broken down and disman-
Sy vehement attacks both physical and spiritual, as graphically described in ure. Yet it is the Rabbinic portrait of Jeremiah which focuses upon how those
whns in his life builu his character and planted within him seeds of strength thbossomed into greatness. The midrashic images of the banished priest and
gtimate son illustrate the process of psychic disintegration that allowed
Jeremiah of Anatoth to 'champion the honor due the son in a way no other prophet
could. His seduction by the Master of the Universe, which the Rabbis place at the
early formative stage of his prophetic career, produced a prophet who was not
merely an intercessor, but a full partner with the Almighty. The prophet under
mined, whose realities were denied, became a prophet who denied the realities of
others. It was this process which gave rise to a giant among the prophets, a prophet
of pathos and of wrath, of tears and of fire, whose love. justice and truth inspire and
guide us to this very day.
My thanks to Dr. Ora Elper and Dr. Pesach Lichtenberg for Iheir useful comments. I owe a special debt of
gratilude Io my esteemed colleague and dear friend Prof. Moshe Halevi Spero whose important insights
served as an invaluable catalyst tor this paper
Other prophets who share glimpses of their personal struggles include Eljah, Jonah and Amos. in terms of the breath and depth of his own torment. howevet, Jeremiah most resembles Moses. he
parallel is developed by the rabbis in Pesikta de-Rab Kahana 13:6 [ed. Braude & Kapstein, 1975].
Pp. 256-257. Moses, tor example, is commissIoncd at the buming bush and told;: "Come, therefore, I will send you
to Pharaoh and you shall free My people, the Israclites, from Egypt" (Exodus 3:10). His mission is
clearly delineated, yet he is never given the title "prophet of redemption'. The closest parallel to
Jeremiah is Samson. Scripture 1s explicit as to who he is, in addition to what he will do. "For you are
going to conceive and bear a son, let no razor touch his head, 1or the boy is to be a Nazirite lo God trom
the womb on. He shall be the irst to deliver Israel trom the Philistines Judges 15:5). And yet the
dissimilarity is also pronounced. Samson's identity and calling are not reported to him irectiy. but rather to his mother who is instructed to begin the process of raising a Nazirite, in uiero.
In addition to the epithet "prophet unto the nations (navi lagoyim), the overarching terms of the task
are outlined in 1:10: "Sce. I appoint you this day over nations and kingdoms: To uproot and to pull
down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.
For a general introduction to the midrasthic literature, sec Holtz (1984). pp. 177-211; Wright (1956). Mekilta de-Rabbi ishmae! (ed. J. Z. Lauterbach. 1961]. Tractate Pisha. pp. 8-9. In his chapter "The Prophets as Persons', Bob Becking (this voume) relates to Jeremiah's divided loyalties, drawing the
following conclusion: "He himself was unable to restore this balance and therefore he had to go
through seasons of trustful resolution and periods of bitter alienation"
The prophet Ezekiel is identified as Ezekicl ben Buzi HuCohen (the priest) and it is generally agreed upon that he was a member of a priestly family who served in the sanctuary in Jerusalem. This is used
to account for his interest in the Temple and his knowledge about its ordinances. lt is unclear how old
Ezekiel himself was when he was exiled in 397 and if he served as a priest prior to that time. Jeremiah,
on the other hand, is identilied only as Jeremah ben Hilkaih, leaving open the question as to whether
or not his father was an officiating priest in the Temple. Targum Jonathan on Jeremiah (the Aramaic
translation composed in the carly centuries of the common era) suggests that Hilkiah was a Temple
priest; ct. Hayward (1987). p. 4/, n. 1. The Rabbinie midrash Pesikta de-Rab Kahana 13:12. Ied.
Braude. pp. 262-263| similarly suggests that his father was an ofliciating priest. The 13th century
Provencal Jewish Biblical excgete JoNeph Kimhi (quoled in is son David Kimhi's commentary to
Jeremiah 1:l, published in standard Rabbinic bibles) goes one step further and identifies Hilkiah with
Hilkiyahu the Priest mentioned in 2 Kings 22:4 , as the priest involved in refurbishing the Temple a
the request of King Josiah. The same notion is found in the commentary of Don Yizhak Abravanel to
Jeremiah 1:1. Perush al Nevim Ahronim. Jerusalem: Toruh Vadaat, 1954). p. 304; ef. church fathers
Clemens Alexandrinus (ea. 250) (1908), Stromata 1:21 and Hippolytus on Susannah 1:1 who considers Susannah the daughter o hkian he high priest to be the sSIster of Jeremiah: ef. Louis GinzberE
D. p. 384, n. 10. Shemuel Tevin in his article, "Mishpachot U'Minagot Bemamlechet Yehuda h 1. Tarbiz 12 (1941) p. 258, presents a cogent argument distinguishing between the two ue demonstrates that the high priest during the time of Josiah was a scion of the priestly house dok whereas Hilkiah the Tather of Jeremiah, who was alive during the time of Josiah, was not the Zadok
riest. In fact it is indeed doubiful that he served in the Temple at all since he was from the pncs high priest
line of Abiathar and nence one otne danished priests of Anatoth. Cf. S. Yevin, "Anatoth, Encyclope dia Mikrait [Heb.J voi. S, Pp. 16l-l02. For a comprehensive genealogical outline of the respective priestly families, see Myers965). Pp. 164-168. The possibility that Jeremiah's family of Anatothite ests became official Temple priests after the Josianic reforms is explored by Holladay (19860), Pp. 16. One additional theory, Suggested by S. Abramski, sees Jeremiah as an official priest in Jerusaiem and not a descendant o E S pricsUy lamily irom Anatoth, see "The Connection Betwcen Shiloh and Jerusalem: Echoes or Evenis and Historiosophy' [Heb.] in the B.-Z. Luria Festschrift (Jerusalem: The Society for Biblical Research in Isracl, 1979). p. 337.
Eg. Pesikta Rabbali 29 ed. wilam 6. Braude, 1968]: *... Jeremiah said: Master of the Universe, what iniquitues have I commitcd hat no other prophets before or after me were charged with destroy ing your lemple but 1!"
Albrecht Alt, 'Anatoth , Palestinajarbuch des deutschen evangelischen Institutes fuer Altertumswis senschaft Jerusalem 22(926). pp. 23-24, suggested that the biblical Anatoth is what is today called Ras el Harubeh, which is a few hundred meters southwest of contemporary Anata. For more recent studies, see Biran (1985), Nedelman (1992) and Yevin (1971). See Haran (1972). p. 164, n. 34; Kimhi (1952). Pp. 61-65. A dissenting opinion is voiced by Abramski (See above, n. 6).
Ya'acov Gil (1988). "The Story of Eli and Samuel in the Book of Samuel [Heb.]. Beth Miqru, 33, 74-75. Cf. Psalms 78:60.
See W. Holladay (1964), Jeremiah's Self-Understanding: Moses, Samuel, and Psalm 22. Journal of Biblical Literature, 63, p. 163. In fact there are those who choose to explain Saul's massacre not as related to Ahimelech's assistance
to David. They propose that the priests from the house of Eli fled Shiloh and settled in the vicinity of Nov and Givah, lands belonging to the family of Saul; see Schley (1990). Saul's actions were intended to banish the Elide priests and reclaim the ancestral lands for the tribe of Benjamin. See also Regev (1988). pp. 53-66.
In 29:27 the people use this pejorative term about the stark raving mad prophet, whom they wish to Silence.
CI. 2:8,4:9, 13:13. See chapter 29 for parallel allegations hurled against false prophets. Note that even when Jeremiah contests his initial calling on the grounds that he is a mere youth. he is Teprimanded with the words: "And the Lord said to me: "Do not say. T am sull a boy (:7) - ie. aenying him the ability to achieve any self-definition whatsoever and undermining this aspect of his
identity as well. sgnation a prophet unto the nations' is presumabily intended to describe Jeremiah's role in pro
nghe downfall of the nations (see chapters 46-51) .Yet the Rabbis ofter an altemate reading: raclis now no different than the other nations see. See Sifre on Deuteronomy. Shoftim 175 led.
nkelstein. NY: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1969), p. 221. dy (see ubove, n. 12) makes the following observation: "These references to birth and mother are puralleled in the extant pre-Jeremianie prophetie lnterture
937). pp. 309-345; Moloney (1954) and Searles (1979). p. 3. abbinic comment in Erodus Rabbah 1:24 that the intant Moses also had the voice of a lad,
T n keeping with the parallels betiween the two prophets. This transl is based on the reading 'shelo beavonotai'. and is prelered by M. Ish Shalom, Pesikta
Vilna, 1880) chapter 26. p. 129, note 11, and Pesikta Rubbati 26 led. Braude. p. 526, note 4. erent reading is oflered by Leo Prijs, Die Jeremia-homilie Pesikta Raubbati Kupitel 26 (Berlin. Mainz. 1966). p. 31. note 28: sheto b'onato 'Before his time, referring to the precocious moral sense of the neonate Jeremian.
2 Underlying this portrayal is Hosea 2:4. For the relationship between Jeremiah and Hosea Lalleman-de-Winkel (2000). pp. 231-233. Pesikta Rabbati 27:9 depicts Jeremiah as convinced that
some personal crime has brought his fate upon nim. "For an early parallel to this midrashic metaphor, cf. The Book of the Apocalypse of Baruch the son of
Neriah 3:14 [in R. H. Charles (1977). p 4821: "And I said: O Lord, my Lord, have come into the
world for this purpose that I might sce the evils of my mother Not (so) my Lord. in T have found grace
in Thy sight. first take my spirit vehemently constrain me: torcannot resist hee, and my soul, more-
over, cannot behold the evils of my mother. But one thingI will say in hy presence O Lord. What, therefore will there be after these things for if Thou destroyest 1hy ciy. and deliverest up Thy land to
those that hate us, how shall the name of Israel be again remembered? In this passage Jeremiah's
mother, the land, and the city are one. Jeremiah struggles with not being able to see the evils of his
hother yet not being able to restrain himself from prophesying against her.
he irony, in Jeremiah's case is that he was singled out in utero, ct. saah 49:1.
C1 1SE. where Jeremiah's mother alone is pitied: "Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me - a man o contlict and strife with all the land! I have not lent, and have not borrowcd yet everyone curses
me Gerhard von Rad says in The Confessions of Jeremiah': "Onc can say with caution, which here should
D the first commandment of the interpreter, that physical death per se does not increase suffering rather provides a release" (in L.. Perdue and B. Kovacs [Eds.] [19841. p. 344). See also Mintz (1982),
P serviceableness of the image of Jerusalem as an abandoned fallen woman lies in the precise oin it ariculates. An image of death would have purveyed the false comfort of finality: the
dead have finished with suffering and their agony can be evoked only in retrospect. The raped and defiled woman who survives, on the other hand, is a living witness to a pain that knows no release."
Freud (1955). p. 244. Elsewhere Job counterposes womb and grave: "Why did You let me come out of ihe womb? Better had
I expired belore any eye saw me, had I been as thoughI never was, had I been carricd trom the womb to the grave (Job 1O:18-19). See also Job 3:10-12: "Why did I not die at birth, expire as I camne forth from the womb? Why were there knees to receive me, or breasts for me to suck? For now would I be
Iying in repose, asleep and at rest." CI. also the chapter of Moshe Halevi Spero, in this volume.
The mother/womb image to describe the tomb/death is movingly used in Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus) 40:1: "A great concern has God assigned. a heavy burden to the sons of mcn, from the day man comes forth from his mother's womb until he returns to the Mother of all the living The image of the bereaved mother as personilication of Zion has its source in Isaiah 49:21, and is also used in the apocryphal Book of Baruch 10:16. See Mintz (1982). pp. 8-9.
Mishnah Sotah 1:5, 6; cf. also Heinemann (1982).
"Jeremiah told her, Your aflictions are like those of Job; Job's sons and daughters were taken from him as were yours, Job's riches were taken irom him as were yours, Job was cast to the dump heap as were you. Yet just as I returned and comforted Job so too will I comfort you. Job's sons and daughters were doubled; so too will yours be doubled, his riches were doubled so will your be, I raised him from the dumps and you too will be raised trom the dust (Isaiah 52:2). Zion, you were built by man and
destroyed by man, but in the future 1 shall build you, as it says, "He will build Jerusalem and gather the
exiles of Israel" (Psalms 147:2). Amen. May happen specdily in our day that the Holy One, Blessed Be He will uphold he verse, "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and coming with singing to Zion, crowned with joy everlasting they shall atain Joy and gladness while sorrow and sighing flee (Isaiah 35:10).
In keeping with the divine command recorded in l6:1-9. Cf. Falk (1972). E.g. Hosea 1:2-3 (wife); Isaiah 3:16, 4:4 (daughters).
See Diamond ando'Connor (999) and Bauer (1999). 6 Quoted in C. G. Schoenfeld (1962). God the ralher - and Mother: Study and Extension of Freud's
Conception of God as an Exalted Falher. American Inago 19 13), p. 230.
See a plethora of sources cited by Ginzberg (191). p. 386, n. 14 See Frymer-Kensky (1997).
skita de-Rab Kahana 13:14 AS Benjamin was the last of the tribes, so too Jeremiah was the af the prophets. But didn t Hagal, Zachariah and Malachi follow him? R. Leazar.. . said: Theirs aahrideed prophecies. R. Shmuel b. Nahman said: Their prophecies were rehashed traditions. see
also wicuer (1975).
Ecclesiastes Kabbah S:4 asserts es Rabbah 5:4 asserts that Kahab saved not only her own family but two hundred tamiles
related to her lamily by marriage. resounding contrast oeween Kanad s success and the failure of Israel is expressed in Pesikta de
ahana 13:4: R. Joshua of Sikhnin, citing R. Levi, began his discourse with the verse "A Servan that dealeth wisely sha have nule over a sorn that doeth shamefully; and shall have a pat of the inheri- 1ance among the breihrenroverDs 4. The words, "A servant that dealeth wisely appiy t
Jeremiah: the words shall speak in prophetic parable of a son that doeth shamefully mean that Jeremiah had in mind Israel who brought shame on themselves through service to idolatry. R. Abba bar Kahana
applied to Israel the verse ou are not as the harlot who made her deeds comely" (Ezekiel 16:31). and
then said: Let the descenduntO a snameess woman who made her deeds comely. present himself and reprimand the son or a comeiy woman who made her decds shameless. You find that all those words of
Scripture which are used tnbute lo Rahab contain reproach of Israel. Thus Rahab is quoted as saying
Now therefore, I pray unto you, swear unto me by the Lord, since I have dealt kindly with you"
Joshua 2:12); and of Israel t 15 Said, "Surely they swear falsely" (Jeremiah 5:2). Rahab is quoted as
saying "Save alive my tather and my molher Uoshua 2:13); but to Israel it is said, "In thee have they
made light of father and mother EZekiel 22:7). OT Rahab it is said, "She had brought them up to the
roof" (Joshua 2:6); but of Israel it is said, "They that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops
(Zephaniah 1:5). Of Rahab t is said that she hid them wilh the stalks of ax doshua 2:0); but o
Israel it is said, "Who say to a stock: Thou art my father (deremiah 2:27). Rahab is quoted as say1ng.
"Get you to the mountain" Joshua 2:16); but of 1sracl it is said, "They sacrilice upon the tops of the mountains" (Hosea. 4:13). Rahab is quoted as saying "Give me a true token" (Joshua 2:12 but of
Israel it is said, "Truth they speak not" (Jeremiah 9:4), You thus see that all those words in Scripture
which are used in tribute to Rahab contain a reproach of Israel" Another midrashic depiction of Jeremiah's fecling of being deceived by God is given in Pesikta Rab
bati 26 (ed. Braude, pp. 534-536): "In that time the Lord said to Jeremiah: "Rise. go to Anatoth and
buy the field from thine uncle Hanamel:' "Thereupon. Jeremiah thought in his heant: "Mayhe (God means to tun Jerusalem over to its inhabitants and allow them to carry on their lving as usual with it. Hence
[to assure them of His intention), the Lord says to me: Go, buy the field for thyself. In the mean ume, the prophet Jeremiah left Anatoth to come back lo Jerusalem. FHc litted his eyes and saw the
Smoke of the temple rising up. So he said in his heart: "Maybe Israel has returned in penitence to bring
oCings and now the smoke of incense is rising up. But when he climbed closer and stood upon the
ne saw the temple overtuned into heap upon heap ot stones and the wall ot Jerusalem broken
OWn. Thereupon he cried out to God, saying: "Thou hast enticed me, and i was enticed; Thou hast
Cme me, and hast prevailed Jeremiah 20:7)."
4ich include 4:19, 6:11. 11:18-23, 12:1-6, 15:5-21, 16:15-21. 17:9-18. 18:18-23; ct. Polk (1984).
Sness of prophetic rhetoric caused classical commentators lo take issue with the metaphor of
ucer, the imagery was considered provocative to the point of sacrilege. See e-8. the com-
ry o 15th century Spanish Jewish exegete Don Yitzhak Abravanel ad loc.: "The sixth question: It
ave enticed me, God and T have been enticed. How Can the prophet ascnbe to the exalted
God o cement and seduction, contemptible actions based upon lies and decel is reminiscent of
what [Ezekiel 14:9] said: 'And if a prophet is seduced and does speak a word [to such a
tne Lord who seduced that prophet; I will stretch oul my hand agaunst him and destroy him
enticement in Ezekiel refers to false prophets; cf nE My people Israel." Indeed, the prophetic entccme
Kings 22:22-23. Moderm commentators also made an eltort lo mOdity he hairshness of Jeremiah's
n See, for example, Clines and Gunn (1978), who transiate ne vese 1ou ed to persuade
ovem prOphet] and I was persuaded; You [i.e. your argumens) provea oo strong Tor me, and you
e In contrast, A. J. Heschel stresses the full violence with which this image is commu-
g precisely what the prophet had in mind: "The meaning of this extraordinary confession
me to be a
becomes clear when we consider what commentators have failed to nolice, namely, the specific meaning of the individual words.. The words used by Jeremiah to describe the impact of God upon his life are Tdentical with the terms for seduction and rape in the legal terminology of the Bible." (Heschel, 1962.
P 114.n.5)% cf. Sheldon Blank (1949). The Confessions of Jeremiah and the Meaning of Prayer. HUCA 4P. S46. Michael Fishbane notes the structural analogy between Jeremian and Jacob. The latter pre-
vanled over man and God; the former was overwhelmed by both (Fishbane, 1979, p. 99). Fishbane (1979). pp. 94-95. Blank (1949; see n. 44). p. 347.
eschel (962), pp. 114-115, talks not of entering into fellowship with God but of betrothal: "And yet,
the lite of Jeremiah was not all misery, tension or pressure. He also knew the bliss of being engaged to uod, the joy and delight of being as it were, a bride. Thy words were found, and I ate them, Thy
wOrds pecame to me a joy. the delight of my heart, for I am called by Thy name. O Lord. God of hosts.
eremah 15:l6), The words joy' and 'deligh' ocur four other times in the book of Jeremiah, and aways in connection with nuptial festivities (7:34; 16:9; 25:10; 33:11). The bearing of a name was a sgn ol betrotha. Let us be called by your name the unmarried women called to a man (isaiah 4:1).
he prophet s situation was one of betrothal to the Lord, to the God of hosts." "Skinner (1963). p. 219. Fishbane (1979). p. I02.
Bright (1965), 175. Freud (1937). p. 173. Cf. Merkur (1985). pp. 13-14, who suggests a different explanation to account for Jeremiah's identification with the aggressor.
Moloney (1954), p. 129. Mintz (1984). p. 58.
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