11 The word of Hashem came to me: What do you see, Yirmiyahu? I replied: I see a branch of an almond tree.
vai-HEE d’-var a-do-NAI ay-LAI lay-MOR mah a-TAH ro-EH yir-m’-YA-hu va-o-MAR ma-KAYL sha-KAYD a-NEE ro-EH
יא וַיְהִי דְבַר־יְהֹוָה אֵלַי לֵאמֹר מָה־אַתָּה רֹאֶה יִרְמְיָהוּ וָאֹמַר מַקֵּל שָׁקֵד אֲנִי רֹאֶה׃
1:11 I see a branch of an almond-tree
In his first vision, Yirmiyahu is shown an almond branch, makel shaked (מקל שקד) in Hebrew. Hashem explains that the branch symbolizes His watching over His word to perform it. The Hebrew word he chooses for ‘watch,’ shoked (שֹׁקֵד), also means ‘to hasten.’ Yirmiyahu deliberately chose this word since it is similar to the word for ‘almond,’ shaked (שָׁקֵד). Commentators give two explanations for this wordplay. First, just as the almond tree blossoms quickly, so too Hashem will hasten to punish Israel. Furthermore, the almond tree is the first to blossom in Eretz Yisrael. When all else is dead, the almond trees awaken the countryside from its winter slumber. So too, although the people are spiritually dead, God’s word, like the almond blossoms, will awaken the nation.