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Sweetening a Decree

Sweetening a Decree

The Prophetess Chuldah

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In the eighteenth year of the righteous king Yoshiyahu’s (Josiah’s) rule, he ordered extensive repairs to the Temple complex. As the high priest, Chilkiyahu, was inspecting the premises to determine the work required, he discovered a hidden Torah scroll. (According to some authorities, this was the original Torah scroll written by Moses himself.) Instead of the Torah scroll opening to the beginning of the Torah, the scroll opened to the verses in which G‑d curses the Jews for abandoning His commandments.

Yoshiyahu was very distressed with this finding, and sent the Torah scroll to the prophetess Chuldah for further investigation. He inquired whether these frightful verses applied to his generation.

The sages of the Talmud question Yoshiyahu’s action. Why did he probe this matter with Chuldah the prophetess? Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) was the preeminent prophet of his time; why did Yoshiyahu ignore Yirmiyahu and dispatch his agents to Chuldah instead?

The Talmud replies: He sent his emissaries to Chuldah because women are more merciful than men.1

This does not mean that Chuldah would report bad tidings as good, because it is forbidden to modify a prophecy in any way. Rather, this meant that if she did receive a distressful prophecy, she would exert herself in prayer to overturn the terrible decree to good.2

Footnotes
1.
Megillah 14b.
2.
Maharsha and Ben Yehoyada ibid.
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