16 Tammuz

Today I teach my class on the parsha shavua. Rather than teach about the Torah portion, however, I have chosen to teach on the Haftorah. That is because the Haftorah is the great signaler of the impending time period. We will read three special Haftorot during the period between the 17 of Tammuz and the 9th of Av, and then we will read an additional seven special Haftorot between Tisha B'av and Rosh Hashana. These ten Haftorot define the period of summer and the pre-High Holiday period.

The Haftorah for this week is from the first chapter of Jeremiah and a few verses of chapter two. The reader meets Jeremiah for the first time learning about how he was called by God to serve as a prophet. Although prophecy has ceased to exist, the idea of being called still exists. It is much more popular in Christianity than in Judaism, but like many practices in Christianity, it originates in Judaism. The call is the way that God notifies us that He has heard our desire, expressed within our hearts, to be close to Him.

Essentially, the religious life entails and alignment between one's own actions and behaviors and the higher purpose that God has embedded in each of us. Discovering that purpose is what is meant by the journey or quest.

Rarely do we think of Judaism as a quest, but from Genesis 12:1, what is quite clear is that Avram is questing. The word quest is related to the word question. Questioning as an inherent part of Judaism is well-known to most of us, but we usually just think of questioning as some infinite regress in which no answer ever presents itself. Questions motivate the quest, but answers also abound. Questioning in Judaism does lead to more questions, but answers arise, too, along the way.

The ultimate answer, of course, is how we live. We invest ourselves in a quest; that effort is reciprocated by the Holy One Blessed Be He. Our questing reveals to us the purpose He has implanted within us. Our recognition of that purpose and living in its light is a response to the call.

Jeremiah, of course, has a most interesting response to God's call. Like Moses, he is reluctant to undertake what God has asked of him. That is not a denial of God but the response of humility and perhaps an understanding of the challenge of coming before one's people in an effort to lead them onto a righteous path.