The Sky is Falling

This week’s ‘Haftarah’ (weekly Prophet’s portion) is one of a series of three ‘Haftarot’ (plural from of weekly Prophet’s portion) that placed an emphasis on the troubles of Israel. At its peak, it led to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, a day we will commemorate in a bit more than a week from now. 

The weekly Propht’s portion is found in the Book of Jeremiah, Chapters 2-3. This passage discusses all of the great wonders and miracles God performed for the people of Israel but they had sin towards Him. One of the figures of speech that Jeremiah used became a well-known Hebrew idiom and it is taken from the following verse: 

“Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 2:12).

In the original Hebrew Jeremiah said ‘Shomu  Shamaim’ {שומו שמיים} which literally means: ‘the skies/heavens will be desolated’. In Hebrew, the word ‘Shamaim’ {שמיים} means both ‘heavens’ and ‘skies’ (it is always appears in a plural – dual – form) and the word for ‘desolate’ is ‘Shemamah’ {שממה} – which means we have a sophisticated Hebrew play on words here.

This Hebrew idiom – ‘Shomu Shamaim’ – is used today in a harsh and very difficult situation, when it seems that everything is falling apart or, in other words, it feels as if the skies are falling.

The phenomenon of using clever Hebrew plays on words is relatively common in the writings of the biblical prophets. Soon we will discuss another example – from Jeremiah as well.