Parashat Behar, Leviticus 25:1-26:2, deals with the requirements for the seven-year Sabbatical cycle as well as the year of Jubilee, which is the fiftieth year after the competition of seven Sabbatical cycles. Among the various requirements of the year of Jubilee is the redemption of ancestral property. It is this requirement that connects the Torah portion to the Haftarah (readings from the Prophets), Jeremiah 32:6-27.
Before getting to the haftarah, one needs to review the situation that Jeremiah and Judea find themselves facing. To do so, one needs to back up and read the beginning of Jeremiah 32.
The word that came to Jeremiah from ADONAI, in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. Now at the time the king of Babylon’s army was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard, which was in the palace of the king of Judah. For King Zedekiah of Judah had shut him up, saying: “Why do you prophesy and say, thus says ADONAI: ‘I will soon give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will take it, and King Zedekiah of Judah will not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but will surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon. (Jeremiah 32:1-4)
It can’t get much worse than this! Jerusalem will soon fall to the armies of Nebuchadnezzar; Judah will go into exile and the Jewish people will be cut off from their land and Temple. Plus to top things off, King Zedekiah is in total denial.
The haftarah begins with HaShem directing Jeremiah to purchase a parcel of family property (32:6-14) even though the populace is about to go into an extended exile. Why in the world would the HaShem require Jeremiah to do this, to seemingly waste money that could be used to assist his survival in exile? The answer to this quandary is found in verse 15
For thus says ADONAI-Tzva’ot, the God of Israel: “Houses and fields and vineyards will yet again be bought in this land.”
Although the coming judgment was on the horizon, exile from the land is not the end of the story. At some point in the future, Jeremiah or a descendant will be able to redeem that parcel during the year of Jubilee. And though the haftarah ends with HaShem’s judgment on Judah’s disobedience, the passage continues with a promise, that there will come a day when the corrective action of HaShem will cease, and he will once again return his people to their land.
“See, I will gather them out of all the countries, where I have driven them in My anger, My fury, and great wrath, and I will bring them back to this place and cause them to dwell securely. They will be My people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, so they may fear Me forever: for their good and for their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never turn away from doing good for them. I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. Yes, I will delight in doing good for them, and with all My heart and all My soul I will in truth plant them in this land.” (Jeremiah 32:37-41)
Judgment will surely come, but restoration is promised. The last line of the haftarah, HaShem affirms, “Behold, I am ADONAI, the God of all flesh; is there anything too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). Neither disciplinary judgment nor eventual restoration from exile are too difficult “for the God of all flesh.” Neither is HaShem’s care for his people even throughout the period of exile. In Lamentations, we read these words of comfort.
This I recall to my heart—therefore I have hope: because of the mercies of ADONAI, we will not be consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning! Great is Your faithfulness. “ADONAI is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” ADONAI is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. (Lamentations 3:21-25)
The psalmist proclaims similar assurances as he wrote,
Sing praise to ADONAI, His faithful ones, and praise His holy name. For His anger lasts for only a moment, His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5-6)
Even in the weeping and lamenting, during discipline, there is hope. Earlier in Jeremiah, again speaking of the coming judgment, Jeremiah related these words from HaShem,
For thus says ADONAI: “After 70 years for Babylon are complete, I will visit you, and fulfill My good word toward you—to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have in mind for you,” declares ADONAI, “plans for shalom and not calamity—to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call on Me, and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me, when you will search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:10-13)
For us, the message is clear, even in judgment or discipline, the Lord has a plan for our good. This may be why Sha’ul wrote, “Now we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose,” (Romans 8:28). It is important to note, Sha’ul does not say, “all the good things” or “all the comfortable things” but “all things” the good and the bad. Therefore in “all things,” let us proclaim with the psalmist,
Praise ADONAI, for He is good, for His lovingkindness endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)
Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!
* All Scripture citations are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society. Accordance edition, hypertexted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc.