And With Kindness
“I will betroth you to Me forever, I will betroth you to Me with righteousness, with justice, with kindness and with mercy. I will betroth you to Me with faithfulness and you will know Hashem” (Hosea 2:21,22)
In this week’s haftora (Hosea 2:1-22) we learn about God’s ultimate goal for Israel. The Prophet begins by describing the unfaithfulness of Israel; how we strayed after idols and foreign powers. The Prophet goes on to tell us how God will take everything away from us and we will still seek after those strange forces that we see as the source of our blessing. But this search will be futile. We will come to realize that those forces which attracted us with offers of wealth were simply mirages. We will come to the recognition that every blessing comes from God and that there is no other source of goodness.
God will then bind us to Him with the bond of betrothal. We will stand in a relationship with God that binds us to Him and Him to us in a bond that will never be broken. And this bond will be a bond of faithfulness, a bond that leads to the ultimate closeness with God; a closeness that is described as “knowing God.”
But the knowledge of God is preceded by righteousness, justice, kindness and mercy. We need to be imbued with these qualities in order to be able to stand in this eternal relationship with God.
From the context of the passage it would seem that God will grant us these qualities of justice and kindness through the suffering of exile. In our suffering we will not only learn of the futility of serving any other power aside from God. We will also learn the futility of what these powers represent; and these idols and foreign powers represent the exact opposite of righteousness, justice, kindness and mercy.
Any entity aside from God that demands our heart in worship to itself represents greed, self-centeredness and injustice. Even when we are free from idolatry, we may still be tainted with the negative qualities that the idols represent. Under the confusing influence of our own self-interest, one may attempt to serve God with wickedness, injustice, selfishness and cruelty. Our bias prevents us from identifying our activities and attitudes as wickedness, but that is how we may be approaching God.
In the end our hearts will be opened to recognize the futility of wickedness, the emptiness of injustice and the ugliness of selfishness and cruelty. Just as our hearts will recognize that no power can help us so will we recognize that selfishness cannot bring us close to Hashem. We will learn to identify evil and we will no longer be confused into thinking that self-centeredness is righteousness.
God will cleanse our heart from evil and from confusion and he will instill into our inner beings these qualities of righteousness, justice, kindness and mercy to the degree that they will remain with us permanently. When we are imbued with these qualities then we can know Him, because living these qualities is knowing God (Jeremiah 22:16).
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal