Parashat Bimidbar

וְהִיא֙ לֹ֣א יָֽדְעָ֔ה כִּ֤י אָֽנֹכִי֙ נָתַ֣תִּי לָ֔הּ הַדָּגָ֖ן וְהַתִּיר֣וֹשׁ וְהַיִּצְהָ֑ר וְכֶ֨סֶף הִרְבֵּ֥יתִי לָ֛הּ וְזָהָ֖ב עָשׂ֥וּ לַבָּֽעַל׃

But she never knew it was I who gave her the grain and wine and oil; I who lavished silver on her, and the gold which they used for Baal. — Hosea 2:10

Shavuot celebrates two intertwined marriages, the first is between Gd and Israel, and the second is between Israel and Torah. In the haftara for Bimidbar, we read about how one of those relationships fell apart and how it will hopefully be reestablished some day. Here we read what are possibly the seven saddest words in the entire Tanakh: וְהִיא֙ לֹ֣א יָֽדְעָ֔ה כִּ֤י אָֽנֹכִי֙ נָתַ֣תִּי לָ֔הּ, ״she did not know that I had given her…״

A relationship can survive many things, but it cannot survive a lack of knowledge. Without acknowledgement of what each party gains from the other, one party could do all the world for the other, and it won’t matter. This is what happened with Gd and Israel. Gd showered blessings upon Israel, but instead of being grateful, He ruefully notes that they even attributed their success to idols and to their neighboring civilizations. The only way to prove that all was Gd’s was to suddenly take it away.

R Yehuda son of R Simon writes in Vayikra Rabba we can’t say that Israel literally didn’t know where their blessings came from. After all, we had the Torah. We knew, and we trampled it and ruined the relationship. But Hazal also, so to speak, blame Gd for this. The Gemara in Berakhot compares Israel to a kid who is given money and perfume and left outside a brothel. We were showered with more than we could ever want, but we weren’t given understanding. Ruin followed.

Radak states that the three promised betrothals at the end of the portion correspond to the three times Gd removed us from exile. In the first, after taking us out of Egypt, Gd said “I will betroth you forever,” but it was not to be.

Then Gd took us out of Babylon and said “I will betroth you in righteousness and justice and kindness and mercy.” We ruined that engagement through our actions. He writes that even from the start, as we see in the Book of Ezra/Nehemiah, that there were those who broke shabbat and those who intermarried and those who enslaved their fellow Jews and treated their brethren with the exact opposite of righteousness and justice. So that engagement, too, was broken.

But the third engagement will be done in faith, as that one will be predicated on all Jews, from the youngest to the oldest, knowing their Creator. That knowledge will sustain the people until they even merit the promises from the first two engagements that never came to be. A relationship established on knowledge is lasting.

May we merit over the holiday and the coming months to grow in our knowledge of Gd and our knowledge of our fellows and merit to maintain lasting relationships!