This week we read from the second of the t’lat d’furanuta, the three [haftarot] of affliction, that precede Tishah b’Av. Here Jeremiah exhorts the people to take notice of the mortal peril they face as a result of their spiritual and religious failures. For if the people fail to repent of their wrongdoings, Jeremiah prophesies the destruction not merely of Jerusalem but of their very way of life.
There is no triumphalism in his voice, but rather rebuke mingled with sadness. The people are the architects of their own demise when they exchange worship of God for the worship false gods carved from wood and hewn from stone.
It’s an old story. The Israelites never seem able to entirely place their faith and practice in God alone; from the golden calf to the Baal and Asherah, the people are constantly finding some other “god” to worship. They are not so different from us in that respect. Our idols are no longer wood or stone, but they are no less idols. Faith in market economies, the worship of material goods, the ways in which the high street and its flagship shops have become temples to an economic god are a few examples of our own modern idolatry.
Our idols are made from the tears of child labours and polyester and our insatiable desire to own more than we will ever need.
When the markets collapse and our morality is challenged by economic imperatives is the time when Jeremiah’s question might resonate for us most loudly. As we reflect during this time before Tishah b’Av, perhaps this is the question we ought to be asking ourselves.