to the Haftarah
of the material in the following discussion is based on that found in
"The Midrash Says on the Weekly Haftaros," by Rabbi Moshe
Weissman, published by Bnay Yakov Publications, in Brooklyn, N.Y.,
and in "Chazon HaMikra," by Rav Yissachar Yaakovson,
published by "Sinai," in Tel-Aviv.)
week's Haftarah, taken according to both the Ashkenazic and
traditions from the Book of Yirmiyahu (32:6-27) has many unique aspects.
One is that it presents a command of HaShem to Yirmiyahu that is
used in the Talmud as a model of technical information; specifically, how
to transfer property via a document, according to Jewish Law. And yet the purchase of the property in the context of the
Haftarah is on the surface absurd, with the Babylonian Army poised to
strike and destroy at any moment, but it
has nevertheless tremendous symbolic value.
For it is an act of normal commerce that will be suspended in the
Land of Israel, first for seventy, then for thousands of years after a second destruction, during the Diaspora
of the Jewish People. Yet it
is a Prophetic declaration that such acts will be resumed in the Land,
upon the Redemption of the Jewish People.
unique aspect of this Haftarah is that Yirmiyahu is the Prophet who had
the bitterest news of all to tell the Jewish People; he foresaw, then saw with his own eyes the destruction of the City of Jerusalem and
the Holy Temple. His dire
prediction of defeat is in fact what enraged King Tzidkiyahu, and resulted
in Yirmiyahu's being imprisoned in the "Chatzar HaMattarah," the
courtyard of the royal prison. Yirmiyahu
will shortly report "in tears" in "Megilat Eichah,"
the Book of Lamentations, how Yerushalayim "went from being filled
with its People to being lonely as a widow, how Israel went from being the
most powerful nation, the most dominant of states, to utter
devastation." (Eichah, 1:1) Yet
it is none other than Yirmiyahu who, in this Haftarah, prays to HaShem to avert the disaster, at the last moment, with the
"Tiger at the Gates" and, if that is not possible, guarantees,
in the Name of HaShem, ultimate comfort and consolation and redemption for
of the Haftarah
Yirmiyahu said, 'The word of the L-rd came unto me, saying: Behold,
Chanamel, the son of Shalum your uncle, shall come to you, saying: Please
buy my field, that is in Anatot; for the right of redemption is yours, to
cousin, Chanamel, had to sell the field in question because of financial
difficulties. According to
the Torah, in such cases, the closest relative is obligated to either buy
it from the impoverished relative, or to "buy it back" from a
third party who may have already purchased it.
In the language of the Torah, this obligation is called the
obligation to "redeem" the field, as is also found in the book
of Ruth, where Boaz "redeems" the field of Naomi and Ruth.
Chanamel, my uncle's son came to me in the courtyard of the royal prison,
according to the word of HaShem," and asked Yirmiyahu to redeem it,
as HaShem had said.
I bought the field,
, and weighed him the money, seven shekalim and ten
selahs of silver."
I wrote down the sale in a deed, had the seller sign it, and called
witnesses to testify to the sale
took the deed of purchase that was signed, according to the appropriate
laws and customs, and had it ratified by the judges," (thereby
creating a "galui," to verify the sale in the event of the death
of the witnesses, which in this
case was extremely likely.)
has thus gone through all the required legal steps for the purchase of
property, creating the "shtar," or deed; however
absurd that may be in this case, under these circumstances!
"I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, my student and assistant, in
presence of my uncle Chanamel,
and in view of the winesses who signed the deed,
in view of all the Jews who were in the prison yard."
that Chanamel has been promoted from a "ben-dod," a
"cousin" to a "dod," or "uncle."
We'll try to explain this below.
commanded Baruch in their presence, 'So says the L-rd of Hosts, the G-d of
these contracts - the deed of purchase, the contract with the signatures
and the one that publicly confirms the sale - and put them in an
earthenware vessel, so that
they will be preserved for a long time."
so says the L-rd of Hosts, the G-d of Israel, Do
not despair because the Kasdim are about to conquer the Land .
time will yet come when Jews will again buy houses, fields and vineyards
in this Land."
Prayer of Yirmiyahu
after I had delivered the deed of the purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah,
I prayed unto the L-rd, saying:"
"Ah L-rd G-d! Behold, You have made the heaven and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm; there is nothing too hard for You."
shows mercy unto thousands, and repays the sins of the fathers unto the
Great and Mighty G-d,
Whose Name is the L-rd of Hosts."
that Yirmiyahu refers to HaShem as the "Great and Mighty G-d,"
whereas in Devarim (10,7) Moshe refers to HaShem as the "Great,
Mighty and Fearsome" G-d. Why
did Yirmiyahu drop "Fearsome" from his description of HaShem?
We will attempt to deal with this problem below as well.
in counsel, and mighty in deed; your eyes are open upon all the ways of
men, to give to each according to his ways and according to the fruit of
above segment of Yirmiyahu's Prayer expresses the fundamental Jewish
belief in Reward and Punishment on an individual level.
made signs and wonders in the Land of Egypt
brought out Your People, Israel, from the Land of Egypt with a strong hand
and an outstretched arm
that the term for "outstretched arm," "zeroa netuyah,"
is purposely misspelled as "ezroa netuyah," perhaps because
Yirmiyahu now saw that same "zeroa" "netuyah al Yerushalayim," "outstretched
against Jerusalem" he purposely
changed the spelling to mitigate the force of that punishing arm,
and in fact said it in such
manner that it sounded like "ezra," the word that means
"help" in Hebrew.
You gave them the Land that You had sworn to their fathers to give their
descendants - a Land flowing with milk and honey."
they came and inherited it but they
didn't obey You, and they didn't follow the ways of Your Torah, and all
this has happened to them -
is quite likely that when he said "all this" Yirmiyahu referred
to the advancing Babylonian army and the "men on the mounds" of
earth whose purpose was to scale the walls.
the 'men on mounds of earth' have come to capture the city, and the city
is as good as given over into the hands of the Kasdim, who have battled
for it, because of the sword, and the famine and the pestilence; And
that which you said that the City would be captured has
happened, and You see it. "
you say to me, 'Buy the field with silver and bring witnesses - and the City
is given into the hands of the Kasdim!"
this was another last-minute attempt to arouse the mercy of HaShem, to
restore normal activity to Yerushalayim - instead of visiting destruction
upon her, via the Babylonians/Kasdim!
answer that ends the Haftarah at first seems inscrutable:
HaShem's Word came to Yirmiyahu as follows: 'Behold,
I am Hashem, the G-d of all flesh. Is
there anything impossible for me?' "
in the verses following the Haftarah, the meaning is made clear.
Just as I am capable of inflicting terrible, but
deserved, punishment, so am I capable of pouring out blessing
without limit, once the sins have been atoned for.
32:36-41describe the general blessing:
now therefore, this is what HaShem says concerning this City, about which
you say that it is given into the hands of the King of Babylon by the
sword, and by the famine and by the pestilence:
Behold, I will gather them out of all the countries, where I have
driven them in My anger, and in My fury and great wrath; and I will bring
them back into this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely; and they
shall be My People, and I will be their G-d.
And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear Me
forever, for the good of them, and of the children after them.
And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that
I will not turn away from doing good for them, and I will put My fear
in their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me.
And I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this Land, in truth, with all My heart and all My
as far as normal business practices, which you see as being interrupted
forever, I say this to you (verses 32:42-44):
so says HaShem, 'Just as I brought all this great evil upon this People,
so will I bring upon them all
the good that I hereby promise: Fields
will be bought in this Land
of which you say, 'It is desolate, without people or animals, given into
the hands of the Kasdim! Jews
will buy fields with money and make contracts,
sealing them and summoning witnesses as of old, in the land of
Binyamin, in the suburbs
of Yerushalayim, in the cities of Yehudah, in the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the plain and in the cities of the South: for
I will bring back their captivity, says HaShem!"
of Chanamel from Cousin to Uncle
Verse 32:7 and 32:9 of the Haftarah, Chanamel is clearly Yirmiyahu's
cousin. Yet in verse 32:12, Chanamel
is referred to as "my uncle!?"
are various answers given to this question.
One I haven't seen is as follows:
Chanamel may refer to HaShem, Who is forced by the sins of Israel
to "sell them and their Temple and their City" to their enemies.
But He intends ultimately to redeem them all and restore them to
their former greatness.
word "Dod" means both "uncle" and "beloved"
in Hebrew, as we see in "Shir HaShirim," the Song of Songs, in
such expressions as "Domeh Dodi LiTzvi
," "My Beloved is
like a deer" (Song of Songs 2:9) or "Dodi li va-ani lo
"My Beloved is Mine and I am His" (Shir HaShirim 2:16).
The reason for this is that it was common in ancient times for
uncles to marry nieces.
HaShem wanted to retain the status of the "Beloved" of Israel,
despite his inflicting of harsh punishment that was, so to speak,
"forced" upon him by Israel's misdeeds.
praises HaShem in the Bible as "Gadol," Great, "Gibbor,"
Mighty and "Nora," Awesome or Fearsome, based on his
incomparable miracles in Egypt and in the desert.
in the Haftarah, omits "HaNora," the Fearsome One.
Why does he deviate from the pattern laid down by Moshe?
The answer is that one of the meanings of "Nora" is
"intimidating," or causing fear.
As the Babylonian Army was preparing shortly to sack and burn the
Temple and Yerushalayim, he could not see fear in them; rather, only
brazenness and disrespect. Therefore,
he did not feel that he could honestly use that word in describing HaShem.
Daniel omits "Gibbor," Mighty, because that word means that
HaShem overcomes Israel's enemies. With
the Jewish people languishing in Exile, Daniel didn't feel that he could
honestly describe HaShem under those historical circumstances as "Gibbor."
"Anshei Kenesset HaGedolah," in their formulation of the Prayers
for the generations of Jews who would carry forward the Jewish faith for
thousands of years in Exile, restored both missing adjectives, with the
shows His great "Gevurah," Might, by
controlling His anger and allowing wicked nations to afflict the
Jewish people, when necessary. Similarly,
He shows His "Noraut," His fearsomeness by preserving Israel
throughout its Exile as a "sheep
for All Generations
main criterion for inclusion of prophetic writing in the TANACH is that it
have meaning "L'dorot," for all generations.
The question has arisen regarding Yirmiyahu's Prayer.
aspect of the answer to that question is the verse where Yirmiyahu says, "There
will again be buying of homes and fields and vineyards in this Land."
(Yirmiyahu 32:15) He may be
teaching that the Jew should never, even in the face of the most dreadful
punishment, brought upon himself by his sins, or the sins of vast numbers
of Jews, give up his faith in HaShem.
There is no room for "ye-ush," despair, in
lesson was, and is, especially meaningful for those who survived the
Holocaust, who endured suffering beyond imagination, and to those who
observed it from afar, and those who have learned about it.
his book, Logotherapy, Dr. Victor Frankl (no relation), a survivor,
explains that the way to survive the "camps," was to cling
tenaciously to something of meaning in one's life. For many Orthodox Jews, and other Jews, to cling to their
faith despite the horrific questions and contradictions, probably saved
the lives of many "campers" (sic).
we, who have observed the re-creation, immediately following the
Holocaust, of the State of Israel, should ponder the question of a
relationship, and whether our "uncle" or hopefully,
"beloved," is returning to his home.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU