Bein HaMetzarim – In the Narrow Straits
Adapted, with thanks, from article in HaMizrachi Parsha Weekly: Parshat Matot 2022
Worth a read. May the Final Geulah / Redemption come quickly.
BEATINGS OR BLOSSOMS?
Rabbanit Shani Taragin (Educational Director, World Mizrachi)
During the twenty-one days “Bein HaMetzarim” (In the Narrow Straits) between the 17th Tammuz (17th July) and Tisha B’Av, (the 9th of Av – 7th August) we read the prophecies of Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) and Yeshayahu (Isaiah) foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem in the three haftarah readngs. The first is the first chapter of Yirmiyahu (1-2:3) who is inaugurated as a navi (prophet) forty years prior to the destruction of the first Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple).
Hashem asks him “What do you see?”
Yirmiyahu answers “I see a rod (makel) of an almond tree (shaked)” whereupon Hashem responds: “You have seen well for I shall bring My word quickly”.
Rashi explains that the almond rod is indicative of the quick pace of the punishment Hashem will bring and quotes a midrash aggada (Kohelet Rabba 115b): Just as the almond blossoms for twenty-one days until fruition, so too Hashem will bring punishment in the twenty-one days between Shiva Assar B’Tamuz (17th Tammuz – when the walls around Jerusalem were breached) and Tisha B’Av (9th Av when the Mikdash / Temple was destroyed.)
The same verb –“shakad” is employed in these words of comfort; Just as Hashem brought the makel / rod of striking – quickly as a shaked (a blossoming almond), so too He will bring redemption and rebuilding with similar alacrity and intensity. The employment of the same verb underscores the message of consolation; at times we are meant to anticipate the beatings of galut (exile) and punishment, and at other times we are meant to see the blossoming of fruit and redemption.
The divine question of Hashem to Yirmiyahu – “What do YOU see?” reverberates today, and is meant to echo in our hearts and minds particularly during these three weeks of national mourning. What do WE see? What do we anticipate? Rods of retribution or blossoms of redemption?
Are we deserving of the fruitful almonds and blossoms of planting in the Land or are we to be wary of impending strikes for not properly following HaShem’s Word?
The answer we learn from Yirmiyahu’s vision of the almond rod is – what we see is up to us! This is the season wherein we determine what will blossom and ensue from our actions. Let us take these twenty-one days Bein Hametzarim (in the Narrow Straits) to see and process our spiritual and national state with clearer vision and understanding so we may merit beautiful blossoms and fruit of redemption!