It’s a typical human response, though one would hope that G"d would be above that. As we have seen on many occasions, sadly, G"d in not above demonstrating the worst of human-like behavior. It’s the dual nature of b’tzelem El"him I’ve pointed out before. If we are b’tzelem El"him, the El"him is btzelem anashim.
Part of me wants to be very unhappy with a G"d that exhibits all our own foibles. Part of me wants a G"d who is above jealousy, who won’t act in a typically destructive macho fashion when cuckolded. Yet these are precisely the sorts of images that Hosea gives us.
Cuckolded and spurned, G"d promises to wreak havoc on Israel.
What’s different about G"d’s response as compared to one that is typically human, is G"d’s constant ability to forgive. While G"d is not above inflicting retribution, in the end, G"d will restore the relationship in love and with love.
V’kharati lahem b’rit bayom hahu im khayat hasadeh v’im of-hashamayim v’remes ha-adamah; v’keshet, v’kherev umilkhama eshbor min ha-artez v’hishkavtim l’betakh. V’eirastikh li l’olam. V’eirastikh li b’tzedek uv’mishpat uv’khesed uv’rakhamim. V’eirastikh li b’emunah v’yada’atet Ad"nai.
"On that day, I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds of the sky, and the creeping things of the ground; I will banish bow, sword and war from the land. I will let them lie down in safety. I will espouse you forever. I will espouse you with righteousness, justice, and with goodness and mercy. And I will espouse you with faithfulness. The you shall be devoted to the L"rd." (Hosea 2:20-22)
Now that’s a G"d (and a relationship) I can get into. Long term, consistent, loving, fair, just, kind, merciful.
Bold of me to say this, but I think Hosea (and the later rabbis who expounded on his words) went astray in their analogy. We don’t need the example of a bad relationship. We already know what those are like all too well. We should not see in the people Israel’s relationship/covenant with G’d some sort of analog for a loving marriage between two human beings. Instead, we should see an example for what such a relationship could be/ought to be. Minus the yucky parts, of course.
Odd that I, one who takes pride in his efforts to redeem so-called irredeemable texts, has, at this moment, decided that perhaps this text shouldn’t be redeemed. I neither need nor want my relationship with G"d to be compared to a marriage gone bad. Why can;t we skip all the retributive stuff? Why must G"d punish? Why must G"d seek vengeance? Why must G"d be so jealous?
Jealousy has poisoned so many relationships. Even our ancestors knew this well. So why does it figure so prominently in our understanding of G"d?
I know, I’ve said it myself many times in defense of Hosea–that the intent was to shock, to be over-the-top, to use deliberately difficult and troubling imagery to get our attention. I, myself, love to play the gadfly.
Yet there are times when a loving, understanding, forgiving, whisper can be so much more powerful than screaming, shouting and beating the drum.
This year, Hosea, I’ve decided I am going to ignore the yucky parts. I don’t need to think of people in terms of cheating on their G"d, and that G"d becoming jealous and lashing out as a result. The sort of relationship I want to strive for, the sort that is exemplified by this G"d, whatever G"d is, is the one as described here by Hosea at the end of this chapter. the end of this haftarah.
Sure, you gotta take a little bad with the good. All good and all perfect is no fun and boring. However, I don’t have use for a deity that insists on a lot of bad just so we can appreciate the good. I know you’re trying, G"d. After all, you have commanded us to observe the Shabbat. Every seven days, we can have that v’eirastikh li feeling. Be nice to have it every day, but I’ll settle for once a week if that’s the best I can get most of the time. Just don’t force me to live through months, years, decades, centuries, or millennia of bad just because You’re jealous and having a temper tantrum. Stick close to me, I’ll stick close to you. Whisper.
©2009 by Adrian A. Durlester