The Jewish calendar and the Parshah of the week are always deeply connected, and it is never coincidental that a particular portion is read at a particular time of the year.

The two Parshahs we read this week, Matot and Massei, are no exceptions. They are always read during the Three Weeks of mourning when we recall the destruction of our Holy Temple. I am not going to focus on these latent connections but prefer to look at the Haftarah and the message of the Prophet Jeremiah1 which is also especially chosen for this week.

One thing is certain: the prophets of old didn’t mince their words. They were the original preachers who pounded their pulpits with fire and brimstone. Here, Jeremiah castigates the Jewish people:

Listen to the word of G‑d, O' House of Jacob … What wrong did your fathers find in Me that they distanced themselves from Me and went after [gods of] emptiness and became empty themselves?2

They are guilty on two counts, laments the prophet:

They have forsaken Me [G‑d], the spring of living waters, [and furthermore, they did so] to dig for themselves wells, broken cisterns that hold no water.3

What is Jeremiah saying?

If they exchanged G‑d and Torah for some other noble, exalted philosophy, or for another highly principled ideology, at least there might be some imagined justification. But for what have they exchanged the lofty moral truths of G‑d and Torah? For futility, emptiness, and nothingness. A terrible double blow.

If we pursue emptiness, we risk becoming empty-headed ourselves. If we have no higher purpose in life, then our lives will be filled with nothing more than empty materialism. People like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are giving their billions away. Their single-minded focus on amassing wealth has been more than vindicated by their unprecedented philanthropy, which, I must say, is simply breathtaking. But materialism for its own sake, with no higher purpose whatsoever, is futile and empty and can only lead to becoming vacuous.

Some generations sinned by denying G‑d. Philosophical and ideological rebels, they were atheists or agnostics who genuinely struggled with their faith. We believe that every Jew believes, but some never dig deeply enough into the recesses of their own souls to tap into their inner faith, and they may remain non-believing. We believe they are wrong, but, to their credit, they are searchers for truth. Jeremiah, however, wept for a generation that did not search for anything deeper at all. They had no appreciation of conceptual principles and ideals. It was a generation that worshipped nonsense and empty escapism.

Generations ago, Jewish parents cried bitter tears because they lost their children to communism, socialism, hippie-ism, or other anti-establishment ideologies. The tragedy of our time is that we are losing our youth not to any form of political activism or social consciousness, but to emptiness and futility, to drugs and raves. At least the misguided rebels of old believed in a cause. Right or wrong, they were trying to build a better world. Today, it's 'to hell with the world, pass the beer!'

Jeremiah pleads with us to forsake this fling with futility and empty cisterns, and to embrace the eternal spring of living waters—the authentic truths of Torah and the way of G‑d.

Today, thank G‑d, we can also state with confidence that millions of our own generation have heard Jeremiah loud and clear. We are witnessing millions of genuine seekers of truth, particularly young people, who are embracing the authentic Jewish way of life. It is a global phenomenon, and it is nothing short of inspirational.

May we all lead our children towards meaningful spirituality and sanctity.