Haftarat Behar: Historical Patience

[Ashkenazim/Sefardim: Yirmiyahu 32:6-27
Yemenite Jews: Yirmiyahu 16:19-17:14]

The Talmud tells us that only those prophecies that contain messages for all generations were recorded for posterity (Megillah 14A). So it is clear that this Haftarah - in which Hashem requests from the prophet Yirmiyahu to buy a field in during the collapse of the Kingdom of Yehudah - must also contain a message for us.

Hashem tells Yirmiyahu: Your cousin will ask you buy his field because of his financial hardship, and you should do so (Yirmiyahu 32:6-7). But why should he? Soon no kingdom will even exist?! And Yirmiyahu himself had been warning the Nations for years that all sorts of treaties made with surrounding nations lacked any meaning! The only possibility for salvation would be the ethical and spiritual integrity of the Nation – something which, barring a miracle, seems impossible based on the Nation’s current state. But as we know, miracles do not interfere with free will. Yirmiyahu had been predicting the impending disaster for so long that those with a surface view saw him as a prophet of doom, and Babylonia, the enemy of Israel, saw him as a friend. All seemed lost. Hashem therefore had to specifically instruct him to buy the field. But why? It is true that one should help a relative who is mired in financial difficulty by buying his field, but this is with the purpose of working Eretz Yisrael. But here the future was so bleak. What is the point?

At this time Yirmiyahu was in prison - not because of any criminal act, but on account of a "Divine" transgression. His imprisonment resulted from his firm and harsh prophecies, which did not find favor with the political leadership of that period. In order to circumvent his prophecies as well as protect the prophet from the Nation's revenge, King Tzikiyahu bowed to political pressure and imprisoned him. In fact, following his prophecy regarding the destruction of the Temple, Yirmiyahu was saved from a public lynching at the last moment by Achikam, who was from a pro-Babylonian party (Yirmiyahu 19).
Yirmiyahu was thus in prison when his cousin visited. "Just as Hashem said, my cousin Chanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard. 'Buy my field at Anatot in the territory of Binyamin since it is your right to redeem it and possess it. Buy it for yourself'" (ibid. 32:8). Despite the bizarre nature of the Divine command, the prophet remained a loyal servant and sealed the deal while in jail. "I knew that this was the word of Hashem and I brought the field at Anatot from my cousin Chanamel and paid him seventeen shekels of silver" (ibid. v. 8-9). A deal is a deal, and it had to be completely legal: "I took the deed of purchase -- the sealed copy containing the terms and conditions, as well as the unsealed copy – and gave this deed to Baruch ben Neriah ben Machseyah, in the presence of my cousin Chanamel and the witnesses who had signed the deed, and of all the Jews sitting in the courtyard of the guard" (ibid. v. 11-12). This was not some mystical ceremony but an actual business deal.

After he fulfilled Hashem's will, the prophet expressed his surprise and pain: "See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city. Because of the sword, famine and plague, the city will be handed over to the Babylonians who are attacking it… And you told me Hashem G-d: 'Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed, and the city being overtaken by the Babylonians'" (ibid. v. 24-25). Is this really the proper time for such a deal? The Nation of Israel is in mortal danger!?
Hashem answers that while Jerusalem will indeed fall to the Babylonians, it is only a temporary tragedy: "I will gather them from all the lands where I banish them in My furious anger and great wrath, I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be My Nation, and I will be their G-d. I will give them one heart and one path to fear Me for all days for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them… I will rejoice in doing them good and will plant them securely in this Land with all My heart and soul" (ibid. v. 37-41).

We must be armed with historical patience. A person cannot stop history from unfolding, despite the difficulties involved. Yirmiyahu was able to accept the Divine plan when he understood that our historical path has direction and meaning.

As we said, only the prophecies required for later generations were recorded (Megillah 14a). The same questions which Yirmiyahu asked are also asked in our time. Many people today are concerned about the demographic demon of the non-Jews in Israel. But the lesson learned from Yirmiyahu is that we are obligated to elevate ourselves above this confused thinking. We must continue to build ourselves in our Land and implant ourselves in it, to buy fields and houses, without consideration for the seemingly unsolvable problems. They will be solved in the future and we will then see with our own eyes the fulfillment of the eternal prophecy of Yirmiyahu:"For this is what Hashem of Hosts, the G-d of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land' (ibid. v. 15).