Haftarah Parshat Behar – outside of Israel
May 28, 2016 / 20 Iyar 5776
It is not easy being a prophet. Jeremiah’s entire career, already from the days of his youth, was that of a prophet of the destruction of the nation, its capital, and the Temple. God had drummed this message into his mind and he had made it known to his people, often resulting in his persecution by the king and his disbelieving brethren. One can only imagine then what his reaction would be when confronted by a prophecy demanding that he redeem a familial plot of land when the nation is on the brink of the destruction: “The word of the Lord came to me, saying: ‘Behold, Hanamel, the son of your uncle Shullam, will come to you and say, Buy my field in Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’” (32:7)
The contradiction in messages must have been bewildering even to a prophet totally committed to God. Jeremiah even clues the reader in when his predicament is resolved: “And just as the Lord had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the prison compound and said to me, ‘Please buy my land in Anathoth, in the territory of Benjamin, for the right of succession is yours, and you have the duty of redemption. Buy it.’ Then I knew that it was indeed the word of the Lord.” (6:8)
Y. Hoffman points out that this passage gives us insight into Jeremiah’s internal struggle, namely, what to make of the conflicting messages. Could this later message possibly be a prophecy? His cousin’s request affirmed that God, indeed, wanted him to purchase the property despite the nation’s pending fate. (See Jeremiah, Mikra L’Yisrael, p. 619) With this affirmation, Jeremiah willingly heeds God’s words.
How do these contradictory prophecies abide together? How could Jeremiah justify his act of faith under these circumstances? Jeremiah confronts God directly with this anomaly. He outlines for God His abilities as a Creator, His redemptive history in Egypt, and His restoration of the people to their land but also reminds Him that the people’s upcoming exile is justified by their behavior. With this said, Jeremiah plaintively asks how a return to the land after exile could ever be justified?
God’s answer says it all: “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too wondrous for Me?” (6:27) God’s answer to Jeremiah is that He is everything that Jeremiah has attributed Him. Can it be otherwise? Indeed, in the war between despair and hope can it really be otherwise.