By: Rabbi Daniel Fine
We are told that Hashem had handpicked Yirmiyah from his womb as a future prophet (1:5). This raises an important question. In order to have a doctrine of reward and punishment, one must have free will. There is no reward if one is merely an actor in a pre-written bechirah-less script. Yet if Yirmiyahu already had tendencies for greatness/prophecy in his mother’s womb, surely he had no free will; he had to become a holy person?
A Midrash quoted in Rashi (Bereishis 25:22) says that when Rivkah was pregnant, whenever she would pass the yeshiva, Ya’akov would kick and try to leave the womb, while whenever she went past a place of idol worship, Eisav kicked. This contradictory behaviour caused her to seek advice from Shem. She was told that she was mothering twins who had opposite futures ahead of them, as reflected by their different behaviour. The problem with this Midrash is that it seems that even before Eisav was born he had a tendency towards serving idols: surely this means that he had no free will?
This is problematic for two reasons: firstly because this lack of free will obviates the need for reward and punishment. Secondly, we are told that Eisav’s marriage to two idol-worshippers was a source of distress for Yitzchak and Rivkah (26:34-35, Rashi). But if Rivkah knew that Eisav would have ‘idol-worshipping genes,’ why view Eisav’s actions as ‘rebellious’? He was merely following the dictated set of genetic ‘rules’.
Free will does not mean that there is a completely equal pull to do good as there is to do bad. Rather, as long as it is not absolutely inevitable that one option will be chosen, free will exists. One might have an overwhelming tendency to do something wrong, but as long as it is possible to resist, one is held responsible for one’s actions, as they were made out of free-will.
Rav Efrati supports this principle through the Ramchal’s idea that after Adam HaRishon’s sin, our spiritual makeup changed to the extent that our religious souls were less potent and it was easier to be drawn into sin. Does this constitute a removal of free-will? No; free-will still exists, for it is still possible to choose either bad or good, no matter how much effort one choice requires to make. The Rambam echoes this principle too. Cited by the Chidushei HaRan in Moed Kattan (18b), the Rambam uses this principle to explain how the gemara, which says that Hashem selects a marriage partner for everyone before they are born, does not go against free will vis-a-vis observing the mitzvah to marry. He espouses similar explanations in resolving the Egyptians’ free will with the fact that Hashem had promised Avraham that a nation would enslave his offspring.
It is this free will principle that allows us to understand the Midrash about Yaakov and Eisav. Despite the fact that they seemed to have predisposed tendencies, they still had free will, for they did not have to follow these urges. The same goes for Yaakov and Yirmiyah: they had tendencies for spiritual greatness in the womb, but it was still their job to foster and develop them, not to throw them off.
By: Aron White
In Perek 2 we have an interesting Possuk.
“You have distanced yourselves from me (Hashem); You have have gone after Hevel (nothingness), and become Hevel.” (2:5)
This Passuk teaches us a vital lesson about the power of actions. The actions which we run after, and are busy with, can shift from being something we do, to becoming part of who we are. The more deeply we chase after, and busy ourselves, in something, the more that thing becomes part of us. Thus, running after Hevel can begin to define the person as Hevel.
The understanding that actions, beyond their own value, have a powerful ability to change who we are, may provide a possible explanation as to why Judaism places such a central emphasis on Talmud Torah, the study of Torah. It is easier to become engrossed, enveloped, and fully engaged in an intellectual experience, such as Talmud Torah, than it is to achieve similar heights in any other type of action. One who has witnessed the intensity of a Machlokes in the Beis Hamedrash is unlikely to witness similar intensity in one shaking a Lulav . The more fully one is engaged in the Mitzva, the more potential there is that the external actions he is performing will alter who he is. Learning Torah provides the greatest opportunity to not merely do something of higher value, but to become something of higher value.
By: Jonathan Rees
“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom” (9:23).
The Mahari Kra explains that someone who is knowledgeable in Torah, but does not keep Torah and Mitzvos adequately their learning has no effect on him, but it is a disgrace.
He reinforces this from (Devorim 6:3) that “Israel should listen to the Torah in order to keep all the Mitzvos.” We can see from here that one should always be careful to put his learning to practice.
Why is it that Torah learning must influcennce ones’ day to day life? Torah is compared to fire as it says in Parshas Vezos Habrocha (33:2) “From his right hand Hashem presented a fire of law (the Torah) to them (at Har Sinai)”. Just as fire is all consuming, learning Torah is not merely an academic pursuit, but should influence one’s life. If it doesn’t one has missed the purpose of learning Torah.
The Rambam in Hilchos Talmud Torah writes that the first judgment in Shamayim is on one’s study of Torah. Yet the gemara in Shabbos 31a openly says that the first question asked is whether one was honest in their business dealings? Rabbi Zev Leff Shlita answers that the Rambam is saying that the first question one will be asked is how much your Torah study affected you so that you automatically became more honest in your daily dealings. If one set aside time to learn each day and made the Torah part of one’s life, it is natural for them to deal with integrity in business. The questions are essentially one and the same.
There is always more Torah to learn and everyone can achieve a tremendously deep level of understanding. However, learning Torah day in and out is not enough we must make sure not to only gain a high level of understanding and wisdom from the Torah but must keep to it’s guidelines, act kindly towards others and help others in need. If one is truly able to become absorbed by the fire of Torah and let it transform other aspects of ones life- that is a true Talmid Chochom.
By: Rabbi Daniel Fine
In perek 19, we come across an oft-used phrase in Tanach. In pasuk 4, we are being lambasted for our idol worship of ‘other Hashems which you did not know about’ (‘asher lo yeda’um’). What does this phrase mean? And why is it so much worse that we are worshipping idols which we are not familiar with; is it any better if they were idols which we have worshipped in the past?
The key here is the word yeda’um. It is from the root da’as, which is translated as ‘to know.’ But it means more than that. In Bereishis (4:1), we are told that Adam and Chavah conceived (a baby). The Torah uses the words ‘veha’adam yada es chavah ishto’ (and Adam knew Chavah his wife): the root is da’as again. The concept is that da’as means an internal link and connection; one expression of which is (internal) knowledge. Therefore, when the Navi reports that the people are serving idols which they do not know (yeda’um), he is saying that the people are worshipping powers/idols which are not part of them; I.e. we were serving idols with which we have no innate internal connection with these idols – we only have an innate real, meaningful connection with Hashem.
By: Rabbi Daniel Fine
Passuk 18 of perek 26 tells us that the Beis Hamikdosh Mount will be ploughed over by its conquerors. Indeed, the Mishnah in Ta’anis tells us that one of the five reasons we fast on Tisha B’Av is because the Beis Hamikdosh Mount was ploughed over (flattened). Why is this an independent reason to fast – why is it not just an offshoot of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash?
Rav Fishman answers that the flattening of the Beis Hamikdosh Mount was a way of trying to make us forget that the Mikdash ever exsisted. The removal of any vestige of Beis Hamikdosh ruins was to ensure that we wouldn’t know what we were missing.
However, Rav Moshe Shapira gives a deeper answer. All the Avos visited the site of the Beis Hamikdash. Thus, the Rambam records that the Beis Hamikdash was the site of the akeidah, and at the start of parashas Vayeitzei Yaakov spent the night at this site dreaming of the ladder. Chazal reveal that Avraham Avinu called this site a mountain, Yitzchak Avinu called it a field, and Yaakov Avinu called it a house. What is this cryptic statement of Chazal trying to convey?
Rav Moshe explains that Chazal are revealing to us that each of the Avos continued and extended his predecessor’s life’s work. Avraham taught that religion does not mean merely meditation, but rather expressing spirituality using the physical dimension; Heaven and Earth are connected, and the spirituality emanating from Heaven must be expressed in this world. He called the site of the Beis Hamikdash a mountain, for a mountain appears to reach Heaven and yet starts on Earth.
However, a mountain is still hard to climb. Avraham succeeded in bringing spirituality down to this world, but one still had to make an effort in order to attain it. Yitzchak took this further, calling the site of the Beis Hamikdash a field. Yitzchak brought spirituality down to this world to such an extent that it now became as accessible as a field, which does not require major effort to enter. However, there was still more to do. The gemarra tells us that if a person retracts ownership of an object and puts that object in a field, in ordinary circumstances the owner of the field does not automatically acquire the object. This is because a field is not an enclosed area. A house, however, is an enclosed area which is an extension of its owner, and thus an ownerless object found in a house will automatically become the property of the owner of the house (a kinyan chatzer). Yaakov ensured that one could develop a personal connection with spirituality and genuinely feel it in a relatively effortless way just as the owner of a house acquires an object therein automatically.
It is no coincidence that we call the Beis Hamikdosh a Beis Hamikdash, for the term ‘Beis’ connotes a personal connection with the Owner of the house. Indeed, the Sefer Hachinuch explains that one who would enter the Beis Hamikdash would feel an exposure to spirituality and be uplifted, a semblance of which can still be felt today at the Kotel.
With all this in mind, we can now understand why Turnus Rufus’s ploughing over the Beis Hamikdosh mount was such a tragedy. The tragedy of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh was not merely the fact that a building was destroyed – it was the fact that the innate connection to spirituality the building projected was removed. Yet, even when the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, there was still a porthole of access to spirituality. There was still a remnant of that dimension of ‘bayis’ which Yaakov Avinu had initiated. However, when Turnus Rufus ploughed over the site of the Beis Hamikdosh, he was not engaging in a mere physical act. In completely levelling the site of the Beis Hamikdash, Turnus Rufus was attempting to close that porthole, making spirituality that much harder to access. He was turning Yaakov’s bayis back into Yitzchak’s field. This is why the Rambam finishes off by comenting that the ploughing was done to fulfill the passuk: “Zion will be ploughed over like a field.” The tragedy was that we became that much more removed from a connection to spirituality.
By: Tamara Ezekiel
In Perek 29, Hashem is speaking to Yeshaya and warning him that although he will tell them that He, Hashem is certainly angry with the people, they will not listen.
After the given warning this strange phrase appears, “Cut off your hair and throw it away; take up a lament on the barren heights, for Hashem has rejected and abandoned this generation that is under his wrath. (7:29)” The lament on barren heights is certainly comprehendible it refers to Tehillim, the regular Psalms in which we cry out to Hashem when we express love, fear or to call for help. But what is this relevance of HAIR?
The reference is to a person who made a Nazir vow and was set aside as holy. If defiled, one had to cut off his or her hair to symbolize pollution [see Bamidbar 6:1-21]”
The Jews had gone so far as to set up abominations—idols and pagan altars—in the temple of G-d (this having occurred a few decades earlier during the reign of Menashe). And they went further still, sacrificing their children : ” Of this ghastly practice, G-d says, “…which I did not command, nor did it [even] come into My heart” (Yirmiya 7:31)—seeming to imply that they believed God had commanded it. Why would they have thought such a thing? Because their worship was syncretistic—blending paganism into the true religion. The Hebrew word for “Lord” was Baal, a name that also denoted the false sun god. G-d was their King, the Hebrew word for which was Melech or Molech, another name denoting a pagan deity. Many thus believed that the Lord and King—in their mind the true God—had commanded their traditional religious practices, when these practices had actually come from paganism. God would not accept such worship even if people believed they were properly serving Him through it (see Devorim 12:29-32).
One of the meanings of the word Nazir is separation. This is the true message behind the punishment of cutting hair, meaning, After the Jewish people have polluted Hashem’s spiritual morals, practices and Derech-Eretz, and their Neshomos contain blemishes. Yeshaya instructs the Jewish people to make an effort to reconnect to Hashem. In order to reconnect with Hashem we have to detach ourselves from the physical world where the superficial e.g. hair dominate and gradually regain a meaningful connection with Him in the spiritual world.
By Ro’i Schiff
In פרק יז, פסוקים ה – ח (which we read in the Haftorah last week) the נביא compares two different people to trees:
”אָרור הַגֶבֶר אַשֶר יִבְטַח בָאָדָם…וְהָיָה כעַרעָר בָעַרָבָה וְלא יִרְאֶה כִי יָבוא טוב“ – “Cursed is the man who has faith in Man…he is like a lone tree in the desert and doesn’t see when good comes.”
Conversely, ירמיה describes:
“בָרוך הַגֶבֶר אַשֶר יִבְטַח בַה”…וְהָיָה כְעֵץ שָתול עַל מַיִם…וְהָיָה עָלֵהו רַעַנַָן…וְלא יָמִיש מֵעַשות פֶרִי” – “Blessed is the man who believes in Hashem…he is like a tree planted by water…whose leaves are constantly fresh…and which doesn’t stop producing fruit.”
What is it about trees that caused ירמיה to compare people to them? Let us look at a mishna in Pirkei Avos at the end of Perek Gimmel:
‘Rabbi Yaakov said: One who walking along and interrupts his learning and remarks: מה נאה אילן זה! ומה נאה ניר זה! “How beautiful is this tree! How beautiful is this ploughed piece of land!” he is considered as baring guilt for his soul’ – i.e. he deserves to die!
Firstly, it seems a little bit harsh; isn’t one meant to appreciate nature? Secondly, the mishna’s choice of examples of beautiful things – a tree and a ploughed piece of land – seems odd to say the least!
I once heard fascinating answer which helps us shed light on the deeper understanding of trees.
What is unique about a tree and ploughed piece of land? The answer is they both represent enormous potential; the ploughed land, ready to pant and provide food, wine, etc. and a tree for wood, fruit,shade, etc. So indeed, it is good to look at the vastness of nature. But there is one thing – Torah – which is of higher potential than all physical potential. Therefore, if you interrupt from Torah learning, and substitute it for physical potential, you are “held guilty for your soul”, since you have selected physicality over your soul’s eternally greater potential.
To expand on this idea a little bit further, the Posuk compares the one who has a lack of faith in Hashem, and thus he who puts physical potential over spirituality, doesn’t see when טוב, good, comes. The Torah is in fact called טוב (as in כי לקח טוב נתתי לכם תורתי אל תעזובו), and this is analogous to what the physical potential should be used for, namely to enable spiritual closeness to Hashem. But very often we get carried away with the physical and don’t see “כי יבוא טוב” – that the Torah is there waiting for us to grab it… However someone that believes in Hashem will be able to have a meaningful connection with Him and the Torah.
We are approaching שבועות when we read מגילת רות. Probably the most famous words from here are “Wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people…” The Malbim writes on “wherever you lodge I will lodge” the following, which ties in perfectly with what we have been discussing:
‘[Rus said to No’omi:] Do not think that I hope for any הצלחה זמניית – temporary success, that I should marry a rich man, or anything similar, but rather wherever you lodge – permanently, so shall I.’
May we merit to use our physical and spiritual potential in the correct ways, and not get distracted by the physical, temporary ‘tree-like’ pleasures, but use them to enable our spirituality in order to rebuild the Beis Hamikdash, bimheira veyameinu, Amen.
By: Elisheva Roselaar
יד. כֹּה | אָמַר ה קוֹל בְּרָמָה נִשְׁמָע נְהִי בְּכִי תַמְרוּרִים רָחֵל מְבַכָּה עַל בָּנֶיהָ מֵאֲנָה לְהִנָּחֵם עַל בָּנֶיהָ כִּי אֵינֶנּוּ: –
“So said Hashem: A voice is heard on high, extremely bitter weeping; Rachel cries over her children, she refuses to be comforted over her children, for they are not there.” (Yirmiyah 31:14)
There are two famous Midrashim concerning this passuk.
1) When Menasheh, son of Chizkiyahu and wicked king of Yehudah, placed an idol in the Bet Hamikdash, Hashem decided that he would punish and exile the Jewish people. One by one, the Avot and great leaders of history stood before Him to plead for mercy on behalf of Bnei Yisrael, but to no avail.
Then Rachel Imeinu stood up before Hashem. “Master of the Universe” she said. “You know how your servant Yaakov loved me and worked for my father for seven years in order to marry me, but when the time came, my father planned to swap me with my sister. Not only did I have pity on my sister and told her the signs by which Yaakov would know that it was me, so that she wouldn’t be embarrassed, I hid beneath the bed after they were married and answered Yaakov’s questions so that he shouldn’t recognise by her voice that it was really Leah. If I, who am but flesh and blood, could allow a rival to enter my house and was not jealous of her – why are You, Who are Eternal and Merciful, jealous of idolatry, which has no substance? Why did You exile my children and allow the enemies to do as they wanted with them?”
Thereupon Hashem’s mercy was aroused and He promised that for Rachel He would return Israel to their place.
2) Yaakov explains to Yosef that he buried her on the edge of the road by Hashem’s command. “In the future, when the people of Israel, my children, go into exile, they will pass by Rachel’s grave and cry at it. She will go and pray for mercy on their behalf, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu will accept her tefillah.”
Each of these Midrashim has a very potent message for us today. One lesson that can be gained from the first Midrash regards the benefits of staying silent in the face of insult (or not necessarily insult, but at least something which upsets us.) There is a Talmudic teaching in Shabbos 88b that “those who suffer insult but do not insult, who hear their disgrace but do not respond, who perform Hashem’s will out of love and are happy in suffering, regarding them the verse states ‘But they who love Him shall be as the sun going forth in its might’ (Shoftim 5:31)” (quoted from the Chofetz Chaim: A Daily Companion).
The second impresses upon us the knowledge that there is a grand Master Plan behind everything that happens, and that even something which at the start looks unfavourable is ultimately for our benefit.
There are also numerous suggestions by the commentators as to what the word ‘Einenu’ means. One interpretation is that it simply refers to the Ten Tribes who were not exiled with Yehudah and Binyamin, and that Rachel was mourning their loss. Or, it could denote the entire Jewish people who were now leaving their Land to go into exile. Alternatively, this word acts as a message of hope that Rachel’s children are not eternally gone – they will come back. This explanation is derived from other uses of the word ‘אֵינֶנּוּ’, such as with Chanoch, and also Yaakov’s comment regarding Yosef and Shimon (‘Yosef Einenu V’Shimon Einenu’). In both of these cases, the word ‘einenu’ signifies that the person is not dead; they are still there and will one day come back.
R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch, though, offers an entirely different explanation. He says that ‘כִּי אֵינֶנּו’ refers to Hashem – Rachel refuses to be comforted regarding her children because He, Hashem, is not there. A few pesukim earlier, the concept of ‘כִּי הָיִיתִי לְיִשְׂרָאֵל לְאָב’- ‘For I will be a father to Israel’ was expressed as an ideal for the future. This is why Rachel is crying – because her children have no Father. Only once Hashem promises that וְשָׁבוּ בָנִים לִגְבוּלָם:– ‘Sons will return to their borders’ is Rachel comforted. According to R’ Hirsch, ‘borders’ are not only the actual physical borders of Eretz Yisrael but also the conceptual borders of Torah and Mitzvot. At the point when we return to Hashem and He returns to us, will the goal of this passuk have been reached and will Rachel Imeinu finally be comforted. May we merit to see this return to our true borders and our true Father, Bimheirah V’yameinu Amen.
By: Shmuli Sagal
Perek 29 is called ‘Sefer Yirmiya’ by the Nach, in which Yirmiya expresses his advice and direction for the Jews who had been exiled to Bavel. The truth is though, that this advice was not restrictive to his time only. Rather it is the eternal message of Hashem, sent through his prophet, to every Jewish community and society who lived, live and will live outside of Land of Israel until the coming of Moshiach. The Jewish people solely belong in Israel and every other place we find ourselves we are merely visitors. Of course there have been countless places and times throughout our exiles where we have been brutally oppressed and made to feel as strangers in a strange land. But we have also enjoyed times of prosperity and security in foreign lands living within tolerant and supportive countries.
For the last 60 years Jews in the western world have on the whole been fortunate to find themselves in countries of ‘Malchus Shel Chesed’ where the host country has not only afforded us the freedom of religion but have also actively facilitated our Jewish practices and specific requirements. This kindness shown to us by our host nations is not purely a modern phenomenon (which can be explained away as being due to the relative liberalism of the modern world) but it is a repeat of what we already experienced in our ‘Golden Age’ in Spain in the 11th and 12th centuries and in the ‘Berlin is our Jerusalem’ era when we dominated the high classes of German society for an extensive period. Many of these times when the Non-Jews treated us well, it was because they saw the value in having the Jews as active citizens in their countries. They realised that which Lavan realised many centuries earlier, when he appreciated that his blessings where due to Yaacov’s presence. In all the aforementioned societies the Jews rose to the top becoming influential government ministers, leaders of the economy and highly acclaimed philosophers. This is by no means a negative thing, but rather it allowed for Judaism to flourish although in alien surroundings and enabled for it to evolve and remain applicable to the ever developing world.
However, this success we and previous generations have enjoyed even though in Golus would never have been possible if we were not recognisably good citizens. The Jews became exemplary citizens wherever they went and were a people who respected others along with conforming to that which their hosts demanded of them. The nations who realised this tremendous citizenship utilised their ‘new friends’ to the avail of their own countries and in return let the Jews remain as practicing Jews. This requirement to conform to and respect our host countries, which in return highly increases our chances of religious survival in Golus, is what Yirmiya is telling us when he says, “דרשו את שלום העיר” – “Seek out peace in the city.” It is imperative we know our differences and appreciate that our plane of existence differs from theirs, but we must also take extreme caution that we remain exemplary citizens and valuable members of the wider society. Being Jewish does not permit us to violate the law, when it is not consistent with halacha, because the halacha demands us to follow the law as ‘דינא דמלכותא דינא’. We cannot isolate ourselves and pretend that we live within our own dominion because we rely somewhat on our hosts. Acting in a fashion which creates a ‘Kiddush Hashem’ is not only a ‘good thing’ to do but also actively enhances this notion of ‘seeking out peace in the city’ i.e. ensuring that the natives see us in a positive light.
Furthermore, not only must we not be provocative but we have to also be actively positive citizens as the possuk carries on, “…והתפללו בעדה אל ה’ כי בשלומה יהיה לכם שלום” – “…And pray to Hashem for its peace, because its peace is your peace.” Every Shabbos morning when we make the Prayer for the Queen and her Government we are fulfilling these words. Yirmiya is saying that we must daven for security and peacefulness of our host nations because we will be affected by a lack of these just as much as they will be.
By: Zvi Silkoff
In Yirmiya Perek 41, we learn about the event of Yishmael ben Netanya killing Gedaliah ben Achikam. Because of this event, Chazal fixed a fast day to commemorate this event- Tzom Gedaliah, which takes place on the 3rd of Tishrei every year, the anniversary of this event. From here, the Gemara (Rosh Hashana 18b) learns out that since this fast day is one of the four that commemorate the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, from here we see how the death of a tzaddik is equivalent to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.
This begs an obvious question: Surely we should have a fast day on every day that a Tzaddik died! If their death is really equivalent to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, we should fast on every Tzaddik’s Yartzheit.
The Maharsha explains that if we fasted on the Yartzheit of every Tzaddik, then we would end up fasting every day of the year- there is no day which doesn’t have a Tzaddik’s Yatzheit on it. Rather, what makes Tzom Gedaliah different? It is the fact that this event also triggered the exile of the small numbers of Jews who had remained in Eretz Yisrael. This event, which spelled the end of any Jewish inhabitance in Eretz Yisrael for 70 years, is the reason why it is the death of Gedaliah that we fast for, as opposed to any other Tzaddik.
The Maharsha carries on, and says that Gedaliah was killed in the Aseres Yemai Teshuva. Yishmael, his murderer, should have been doing Teshuva during this period, but he was obviously not. Instead, he murdered a Tzaddik, and as a result brought great tragedy to Klal Yisrael. From here, continues the Maharsha, we learn a big lesson about the essence of the Aseres Yemei Teshuva. Although the Jewish people had just spent both days of Rosh Hashana supposedly repenting, they still managed to sin on Tzom Gedaliah. We should not be so certain that our tefillos on Rosh Hashana always work- rather we should beseech Hashem to decree a good year for Klal Yisrael, and not be complacent.
By: Yoni Barry
In the last few Perokim in Yirmiyah, we witness HaShem punishing the Baboylians for the brutality they displayed towards the Jewish people.
לג. כִּי כֹה אָמַר ה צְבָאוֹת אֱלֹקֵּי יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּת בָּבֶל כְּגֹרֶן עֵת הִדְרִיכָהּ עוֹד מְעַט וּבָאָה עֵת הַקָּצִיר לָהּ:
“For so said HaShem, the G-d of Israel; The daughter of Babylon is like a granary at the time it is threshed. A little longer and the time of harvest shall come upon her.” (51:33)
However we learnt just a few Perokim previously that:
כ. וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵיהֶם כֹּה אָמַר יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הִנְנִי שֹׁלֵחַ וְלָקַחְתִּי אֶת נְבוּכַדְרֶאצַּר מֶלֶךְ בָּבֶל עַבְדִּי וְשַׂמְתִּי כִסְאוֹ מִמַּעַל לָאֲבָנִים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר טָמָנְתִּי
“So said HaShem, the G-d of Israel; Behold I am sending, and I will take Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and I will put his throne over these stones which I have hidden…” (43:20)
Therefore it seems strange that Yirmiya elaborates in great detail the punishment Babylon would receive as HaShem preordained that this would occur.
There are two possible answers. Firstly as I heard from Rabbi D Roberts there was a difference between the punishment that HaShem had in mind for the Jewish people, and that which Bavel imposed. Since everyone has free choice, Bavel was free to treat the Jews in any manner he desired but the manner in which he did was beyond the call of duty that HaShem had planned. Thus, they are also punished for the extra suffering they caused the Jews to endure that were not part of HaShem’s ‘program’.
Additionally, at the time of Yirmiyah there were many nations in addition to that of Bavel, that could have conquered Jerusalem, but only Bavel did. Many nations may have had the desire to kill the Jews, but only Bavel did. HaShem, thus, punished Bavel because they were the only nation amongst several that did not channel their strength correctly and misguided it to kill the Jews. They did not channel their strength in the correct path and thus they were punished.
This is an important lesson for us all. If we are privileged enough to have been presented with a talent by the Creator, it is imperative that we use it for the correct reasons. For example, if we have been given an ability to sing, we have to use it to bring ourselves and others closer to HaShem, and learn not to make the same mistake as Bavel who used their talents incorrectly.