By Alice Nesky
Both my Torah and Haftorah portions concern the details of sacrifice and holy rituals. In the Haftorah, the tribe of Judah’s sacrifices happened to be their children, because they somehow picked up that child sacrifice would please the Lord. This made God upset with these people, their child sacrificing and their idol worshiping. So God made sure that all of the Judah people who sacrificed their children and bowed to idols would have the graves of their leaders dug up and their bones pecked at by crows. And those who practiced child sacrifice and were not dead yet would be banished to places where “death shall be preferable to life” (Jeremiah 8:3).
Jeremiah decides to conclude his retelling of the story on a much-needed happier note. He decides to recite a poem of sorts from God, which talks about not being proud of materialistic things and to be humble in general, but only being proud in your devotion to God.
To me, the most striking line is where it says, “Let not the rich man glory in his riches” (Jeremiah 9:22). I like that line because it sort of indirectly says that trying to find happiness and/or glory in inanimate objects is not a very good strategy.
I’ve never been the most sentimental person, and I’m always handing things to my parents and saying, “I want to get rid of this,” and they’ll reply, “But it’s so special! How can you bear to get rid of it?” and I’ll reply, “Because it takes up space and I never use it.” And then I’m told, “Just keep it. It’s got sentimental value.” But if some old shirt that won’t fit me but has a picture of Alice in Wonderland on it conjures the thought, ”I should get rid of this,” that doesn’t seem like it’s making me feel all sentimental. It just makes me think that I should get rid of it and use the space for something else.
As well as not liking old things, I don’t want new ones. I would rather have time to play with my friends or go out on a scenic walk with my family. I don’t find happiness in stuff, I find happiness in simple pleasures.
Bringing it back to the poem: It talks about not “glorying” in all your physical possessions. So where do you “glory”? Well, a very viable candidate is our values. So, the poem is saying that instead of rating your worldly possessions, you should rate your values like ethics and sense of morality.
The most important things in our lives are our own behaviors and our own values, not just physical possessions.
Alice Nesky is a student at Krieger Schechter Day School.