Chaza”l in their deep wisdom formulated this week’s haftorah in a backwards way but there is a profound lesson they intended to teach. The haftorah starts with an obvious connection to the beginning of our Torah portion in Mishpatim which discusses owning Jewish slaves. In perek 34 of Yirmiyahu the haftorah begins with the way the Jews treated their fellow slaves in the days of King Tzidkiyahu. For many years they had kept their Jewish slaves, even beyond the 7 years the Torah allows one to keep a Jewish slave involuntarily. Yirmiyahu, warning about the coming doom of the first Beis Hamikdash aroused King Tzidkiyahu to set all the Jewish slaves free and they made a great ceremony commemorating their freedom and a recovenant with Hashem and his Torah after straying from His ways. However this didn’t last long and they took back their Jewish slaves for long periods of time and strayed farther and farther from Hashem until the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash became inevitable.
However the Haftorah concludes with the last two pesukim of the previous perek: “So said the Lord: If not My covenant with the day and the night, that the statutes of heaven and earth I did not place. Also will I reject the seed of Jacob and David, My servant, not to take from his seed rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, when I bring back their captivity and have mercy upon them” (Yirmiyahu 33:25, 26). (Click here for an interesting halachic discussion on how we are allowed to go backwards when reading the Haftorah.)
The Mahar”I Kara explains the last two pesukim, “Hashem is saying, If I will not fulfill the covenant I made of guaranteeing that day and night would never stop as it is written, ‘There is still all the days of the land, planting, harvesting, cold, heat, summer, winter, day and night, they never rest.’ If they would rest then it would be as if the laws of heaven and earth would never have existed (meaning the world would cease to exist.) And as long as the covenant between day and night is fulfilled I will not hold back from the Jewish people the ability to acquire leaders from their own people. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Just as Hashem guarantees there will always be the cycle of nature and time in the world, the four seasons, day and night and the cycles of vegetation, though sometimes there are massive destructive forces of nature in the world like hurricanes, tsunamis, blizzards, earthquakes, and tornados that disrupt life so to Hashem promised the Jewish people that no matter how corrupt their leaders become He will never exchange them with non-Jewish leaders to lead His people. No matter how far off they might have strayed from Torah ideals, a Jewish leader will always be the preferred choice for the Jewish people. If this one doesn’t work out hopefully the next one will be better but it is without a doubt that even the most righteous gentile will not be a favorable fit to lead the Jews.
This is the message Chaza”l is teaching us in this haftorah when we first read perek 34 of Yirmiyahu and end with the last two pesukim of perek 33, that as big of a mistake the leaders of the Jews made prior to the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash, Hashem still guarantees the Jewish people that the best leaders come from their own people.
Throughout Jewish History and especially throughout our exile, there have always been leaders who keep the Jewish people together. The Gedolei Hador, the leading rabbis in each generation are our guidance and give us hope.