Hosea was one of the prophets who lived at the time of the looming destruction of the northern state of Israel, which comprised ten of the twelve tribes. (He refers to the state as “Ephraim,” for its first ruler, Jeroboam ben Nebat, was from that tribe.) Hosea was the first of four prophets who warned of the eventual exile in similar terms, the others being Isaiah, Amos and Micah.

The beginning of the haftarah seems to be directed to the people as a whole. Although the people were very hesitant about mending their ways, G‑d still would not, nay could not, totally destroy them. After their long exile, G‑d would gather them in and return them to their land.

The people of Israel had been spending their lives in vanity, pursuing emptiness, and not in the most scrupulous of ways. If catastrophe would befall them, it could have been caused only by their own actions. “Keep lovingkindness and justice,” begs Hosea, “and hope to your G‑d always.”

The prophet reminds the people of their history—the events in this week’s Parshah. Jacob contended with his wicked brother Esau and overcame him. Moreover, he fought with an angel, and was victorious, the angel in turn pleading with Jacob to let him be. Prior to these events, Jacob arrived penniless at the home of his uncle Laban, and had to work to marry his wives. He then, however, amassed great wealth when G‑d caused the turn of events to be in his favor. If this was the history of their ancestor, the Jews could take heed and cast their lot with G‑d, and not with the emptiness of affluence or the nations they allied with.

The two Jerusalems

“In your midst is the Holy One, and I will not enter a city.”

The simple meaning of this verse, as understood by the commentaries, is that G‑d is committing here not to have His presence rest in any place other than Jerusalem. In this sense, He will not enter another city once He has promised to rest in the midst of the Jewish people. But loosely read, this verse is difficult to understand: why would G‑d not enter the city if He is in the midst of the people?

The Talmud offers a more esoteric understanding:

Rav Nachman said to Rabbi Yitzchak: What is the meaning of the scriptural verse ‘In your midst is the Holy One, and I will not enter a city’? [Surely it cannot be that] because the Holy One is in your midst, He shall not come into the city! He replied: Thus said Rabbi Yochanan: The Holy One, blessed be He, said, ‘I will not enter the heavenly Jerusalem until I can enter the earthly Jerusalem.’ Is there then a heavenly Jerusalem?—Yes; for it is written,1 ‘The built-up Jerusalem is like a city that was joined together within itself.’”2

R. Yochanan adduces from this verse in Psalms that Jerusalem has a “companion” (or prototype) in heaven, with which it is “joined together.” The verse in Hosea is thus taken to mean: There is a holy city in your midst—referring to the earthly Jerusalem; and I, G‑d, will not enter the city—the heavenly Jerusalem—until I enter the earthly Jerusalem.

What emerges, then, from the Talmudic explanation to this verse is truly inspiring:

As of this moment, G‑d’s presence has been lifted from Jerusalem. We are bereft of the Temple and all that comes along with it, and a state of galut, exile, prevails.

Now, we might have thought that while this is true in this lowly, physical realm, the reality in a higher, G‑dly plane is different. Maybe there is a place where everything is just fine.

What Hosea is conveying in the name of G‑d is that this not the case. As long as G‑d has not entered Jerusalem below, there is no place—sublime as it may be—that benefits from G‑d’s full and open presence. G‑d, as it were, puts Himself in exile, not allowing Himself any full “comfort” in any place as long as His children below have not found the same. In the words of our sages: “The Divine Presence resides among Israel, as it were, in all the misery of their exile; and when the Jews are redeemed from their exile, G‑d writes an expression of redemption for Himself, to say that He Himself returns along with Israel’s exiles.”3

There is an additional dimension to the “two Jerusalems” that can be found in the commentary of Rashba to this Talmudic passage:

“There is a great concept to be found in this passage. One should be aware that the city of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Holy Temple are all physical ‘pictures’ of very lofty and spiritual ideas. The entire Land of Israel is also included in this, for which reason it is called ‘the land of the living’ and ‘the inheritance of G‑d.’ It is for this reason that many commandments are dependent on residing in the Land of Israel.”4

Rashba further explains that this is what the Torah alludes to when G‑d tells Moses, concerning the construction of the Tabernacle, “Now see and make according to their pattern which you are shown on the mountain.” Moses was shown the concept of the Tabernacle on high, and he was to “translate” it into a physical vessel below.

Rashba then uses this concept to explain another Talmudic passage: “Whoever lives in the Land of Israel may be considered to have a G‑d, but whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who has no G‑d.”5 Living in the Land of Israel is living in a G‑dly space: every part of it is “live” and linked to G‑dliness.

The details of how the various parts of the Temple, Jerusalem and the Land of Israel reflect G‑dly ideas are explained at length in Kabbalah and Chassidus. What is certain is that living in or even visiting the Holy Land and the Holy City must come along with a strong cognizance of being “in the king’s palace” and acting accordingly.

The land of investment

“You are like a trader with false scales in his hand, who loves to defraud.”

Not a glowing compliment… Hosea admonishes the people for their love of money at the expense of spiritual integrity. Many of the commentaries, however, pick up on Hebrew word used here for a “trader”: canaan (כנען). The conventional word for a trader or merchant is socher (סוחר). This rare usage of the word canaan here sheds light on where we do find this word used frequently—as the name for the Land of Israel.

In the entire five books of Moses, we find that the land of our forefathers and the one promised to the Jewish people is called “Eretz Canaan”—the Land of Canaan. It is only in the ensuing books of the prophets that the land gets the name “Eretz Yisrael”—the Land of Israel. This is strange indeed, as Canaan was only one of the seven nations that inhabited the land prior to the Jews entering it. Moreover, Canaan, as an individual, was not a very worthy person at all. We encounter him in the Torah as being disrespectful to his grandfather Noah, which earned him a curse for all generations.6 Why would the Torah use this name, out of all possible names, for the Holy Land?

The answer given in chassidic thought directs our attention to this verse in the haftarah: Canaan also means “a merchant.” On an esoteric level, It is the spiritual idea of trade and business that the Torah has in mind when referring to the Holy Land as Canaan.

A business venture will always begin with an investment. Investing, on the face of it, is something that runs counter to the investor’s entire purpose: he now has less money, or no money at all! The only reason why the investor will engage in such a reckless act is because he knows that this temporary loss will hopefully yield a profit far surpassing the original investment.

On a cosmic level, the entire creation is an act of investment. G‑d created a world, contracting His presence to create a space which is very distant from G‑dliness, along with all the consequences that accompany this. G‑d sends a soul—a G‑dly being—down to this earth, and there it is subject to an experience which is anything but G‑dliness and holiness. What can be the purpose of such a descent?

It is an investment. The work of man in creation, both with himself and with the world around him, will yield a level of good that never could have been yielded without the initial loss. How this is, is a discussion on its own. The important thing is to understand is that this constitutes the meaning the entire project we call creation.

This meaning of creation at large was reflected in the particular land chosen by G‑d for the Jewish people. The Torah is quite elaborate in its description of the low spiritual state in the land before the Jewish entry therein. It is reminding us that this spiritually poor and lost situation is the doing of a Divine investment—the work of a canaan. It is specifically the work of eliminating evil and elevating the material world that will yield a result far surpassing anything that could have been achieved without it. In these terms, it means revealing how the purpose in the “Land of Canaan” was to yield “Eretz Yisrael.”7