During the Shabbats that are within what we call the Ben HaMetzarim, the “three negative weeks,” we read from the Prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s job was to awaken the Israelites so as to avoid bringing about the destruction; however, if we know the different histories of the prophets, we know that he was unable to do this. As such, if one were to look at the life of Jeremiah and the work that he tried to do, it would seem that he failed. But if he failed, why do we read from him during these three weeks that are considered the most “negative,” or challenging of the year?
"Why do we read from Jeremiah during these three weeks?"
There’s a beautiful teaching from one of the great kabbalists, Rav Tzadok HaKohen. He says that although in Jeremiah’s lifetime everything that he revealed and tried to teach did not have the impact that he had hoped it would, that Light was actually the Light which will eventually allow the Final Redemption to come; Jeremiah’s work and revelations, therefore, did not go to waste.
Even though Jeremiah didn’t see it when he tried to awaken people to change, the Light he revealed, and what he did through his prophecy, work, and teaching, was actually more important than that of any of the other prophets. Why? Because the kabbalists tell us that the Light revealed through the prophecy of Jeremiah will be the Light we use to manifest the Final Redemption.
Knowing this, it now makes sense that we read from Jeremiah during these weeks. We don’t want to connect to the failure of those words thousands of years ago; we want to connect to the Light he revealed then, which is the Light that we receive now. Light that will enable us, and the world, to truly accomplish what that Light is meant for - the Final Redemption.
"No Light we reveal or positive action we take ever goes to waste."
Hopefully, this awakens within each one of us the important understanding that no Light we reveal or positive action we take ever goes to waste. As a matter of fact, the kabbalists teach that when our positive actions do manifest, that reveals only a tiny part of our potential, while when we invest energy in somebody or something, and it doesn’t manifest at that time as we wanted it to or hoped it would, that Light awakened is actually stronger and will, over time, reveal greater Light… just like that of Jeremiah.
Yes, every single action of a positive nature, every action of sharing, every action of assistance we do that manifests and helps others reveals a certain amount of Light. However, when we do those actions and they appear not to have manifested or helped another, that action actually reveals a greater amount of Light. It is one of the gifts we want to draw from the work of Jeremiah, and of Shabbat Matot-Masei.
And even further, we can come to the Shabbat of Matot-Masei, and all the Shabbats of the Ben HaMetzarim, asking to draw the Light we need from Jeremiah’s revelations and teachings to bring about the Final Redemption. It is a beautiful understanding.