It is written “they have abandoned Me and have not observed My Torah” (Jeremiah 16, 11)

G-d says “if only Me they would abandon but My Torah they would observe.” G-d declares that it would be better not to believe in G-d but to observe Torah.

What is the source for this Midrash?

  • Generally this is understood to mean, "It would be better if they abandoned observing the Torah, but still studied it."
    – N.T.
    Mar 27, 2022 at 6:27
  • 1
    How do you know? Mar 27, 2022 at 8:24
  • Simple answer is general usage. IIRC Ramchal interprets it this way in Derech Hashem
    – N.T.
    Mar 27, 2022 at 18:08

1 Answer 1


Eicha Rabbah Petichta 2

רַבִּי הוּנָא וְרַבִּי יִרְמְיָה בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי חִיָּא בַּר אַבָּא אָמְרֵי, כְּתִיב (ירמיה טז, יא): וְאֹתִי עָזָבוּ וְאֶת תּוֹרָתִי לֹא שָׁמָרוּ, הַלְוַאי אוֹתִי עָזָבוּ וְתוֹרָתִי שָׁמָרוּ, מִתּוֹךְ שֶׁהָיוּ מִתְעַסְּקִין בָּהּ הַמָּאוֹר שֶׁבָּהּ הָיָה מַחֲזִירָן לְמוּטָב.

Rabbi Huna and Rabbi Yirmiyah, quoting Rabbi Hiyya Bar Abba say: (Jeremiah 16:11) "They deserted Me and did not keep My Torah" "If only they deserted me but kept My Torah! As they busied themselves with it, the illumination within it would have brought them back to goodness." (translation; Sefaria)

  • The full verse of Jeremiah 16:11, that the Midrash is commenting on, says: "ואמרת אליהם על אשר עזבו אבותיכם אותי נאם ה' וילכו אחרי אלהים אחרים ויעבדום וישתחוו להם ואתי עזבו ואת תורתי לא שמרו" ("say to them, 'Because your fathers deserted Me —declares the LORD— and followed other gods and served them and worshiped them; they deserted Me and did not keep My Torah'").
    – Tamir Evan
    Apr 3, 2022 at 3:26

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