Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
JEREMIAH CHAPTER 31
Verses 1-19 of this beautiful chapter of comfort, repentance and reconciliation are read in the synagogue as the Haftara on the second day of Rosh HaShanah (the New Year).
V 1: "The people that survived the sword found favor in the wilderness, as I led Israel to its place of tranquility." This verse alludes to the Exodus and entry to the Land: Israel survived the sword of the Egyptians, who conspired to kill their male children, and that of the Amalekites and Canaanites, and were led to the Promised Land. In the same way as Israel found favor in the past and God showed them His eternal love with the redemption from Egypt , so too will He show them this love at the time of the future redemption.
V 5: "For there will come a day when the watchers will call out on Mount Ephraim , 'Arise and let us go up to Zion .'" Whereas in the time of Jeraboam ben Nevat the Ten Tribes did not go up to the Temple in Jerusalem, the time will come when Ephraim will be restored to their territory and make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The "watchers" (NOTZRIM) are those who guarded the Torah (Rashi, Targum Yonasan). They will be the first to call to their brothers and sisters to repent.
Vv 7-8: In the future redemption God will gather in the exiles from the very ends of the earth. "With weeping they will come." (v 8) - this will be because of their prayers and repentance (Rashi ad loc.). "For I will be a Father to Israel , and Ephraim is My firstborn": the Ten Tribes submitted themselves to the leadership of Ephraim, who was the son of Joseph - firstborn to Rachel. This verse indicates that the Ten Tribes will return and be restored to their original glory.
V 9: "Hear the word of HaShem, O nations." The entire world will recognize that the restoration of Israel is the work of God alone.
V 10 is recited daily at the climax of the Blessing of Redemption (GEULAH) in the evening service after KRI'AS SHEMA.
V 14: "Thus says HaShem, a voice is heard on high." The future redemption will come about in the merit of the indomitable spirit of Rachel, mother (or rather grandmother) of Ephraim and guardian of all the Twelve Tribes. She can never forget or abandon her exiled children. "Why is Rachel's voice heard above all others? Because the patriarchs and matriarchs went before the Holy One blessed be He to try to conciliate Him after Menasheh set up a graven image in the Sanctuary. But He was not placated until Rachel entered and said before Him: Master of the World - Whose mercy is greater, Yours or that of flesh and blood? Surely Yours is greater. But did I not bring my own rival into my house? For Jacob worked only for me, yet when it came to my wedding, they brought my sister under the canopy and not only did I keep silent, I even revealed to her my secret signs to Jacob. So too, if Your children have brought Your rival into Your house, You should keep silent!!! He said to her: Your defense of them is well spoken, 'There is a reward for your accomplishment'" (v 15; see Rashi & RaDaK on v 14).
Vv 17-19: The beautiful and moving depiction of Ephraim's repentance and contrition in vv 17-18 is followed by God's promise in v 19 that He can never forget His beloved child and will always love him.
V 20: "Make road markers for yourself." Just as Judah was about to go into exile with the destruction of the First Temple, the prophet instructs them to make "road markers" so that they will be able to retrace their steps back to Jerusalem when the time for restoration arrives. The "road markers" are the mitzvoth which the Jews took with them into exile and continue to observe as a sign that one day they will be restored.
V 26: "Behold, days are coming. when I shall sow the House of Israel and the House of Judah - the seed of man and the seed of animal." Rashi explains that both the good and the foolish among them will all be sown as God's seed. Targum renders: "I shall establish them as the sons of man and give them success just like an animal, which is not requited for its sins."
V 30: "I will strike with the House of Israel and the House of Judah a NEW COVENANT." It is highly ironic that this verse, which plainly states that God will renew His Covenant with the same House of Israel and of Judah with whom He originally made it, was distorted by the exponents of "replacement theology" to provide justification for their notion that the original Israel were displaced forever and that the original Covenant was somehow replaced with a "New Covenant" or "New Testament". However, it is perfectly clear from verse 32 that God's "New Covenant" with Israel is none other than the Torah that He gave to Moses. What is "new" about the Covenant is that whereas Israel "forgot" the Torah as a result of the sin of the golden calf, in the future it will be written on their very hearts and, as it states in v 33, everyone from the smallest to the greatest will know God without having to be taught by others.
Vv 34-5: Just as the laws of nature are fixed and unchangeable, so it is impossible that Israel could ever cease to be God's nation. This of course makes a complete mockery of "replacement theology".
Vv 37ff: This passage describing the future expansion of Jerusalem necessarily refers to the Final Redemption, because it was not fulfilled in the time of the Second Temple (Rashi on v 39).
Verses 6-27 of this chapter, which center on the theme of land purchase in Israel, are read as the Haftara of Parshas BEHAR (Numbers 25:1-26:2), which gives the laws of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years and the laws of the sale and redemption of land that are bound up with them.
V 1: Following the prophecies of the future redemption in chapters 30 and 31, which came to sweeten the bitter lesson of the prophesies of coming doom and calamity addressed by Jeremiah early in the reigns of Yeho-yakim and Tzedekiah, we now "fast forward" to the tenth year of Tzedekiah, just two years before the destruction of the Temple. The Babylonians are laying siege to Jerusalem , and Jeremiah is being held captive in the royal prison for prophesying that the city will fall and that the king will be taken to Babylon .
With the noose steadily tightening and the day of doom and exile moving inexorably closer, Jeremiah suddenly receives prophecy that his uncle Hanamel ben Shaloom from his home town of Anathoth is about to visit him in prison in order to ask him to redeem his field. This was in accordance with the Torah law: "If your brother goes down low and sells from his inheritance, his redeemer - his closest relative - shall come and redeem his brother's sale" (Leviticus 25:25). Sure enough, Hanamel soon arrived, and Jeremiah paid out good money to redeem the field, notwithstanding his own prophecies that all the people were soon to go into exile, making matters of land ownership in the homeland seemingly completely irrelevant.
Vv 9-14: Jeremiah carries out a halachically perfect purchase of the field (with valid witnesses, payment in silver, and a written, signed and sealed document of sale specifying all the conditions of the transaction) and then instructs his own foremost disciple, Baruch ben Neriyah (who taught Ezra) to place it in an earthenware document case "so that they will endure for MANY YEARS" (v 14). The lesson Jeremiah was teaching was that even though the situation in Jerusalem and Judea was dire, with their captors encamped all around in siege, it was still fixed and certain that in the end Judah would return and take possession of the land again.
Vv 16-25: Jeremiah's prayer is a beautiful and eloquent expression of the justice of God's ways, giving each one according to his ways and according to the fruits of his actions (v 19). He brought His people to their land, but they failed to heed His voice and follow His Torah - and now the enemy is building ramps around the city walls preparing to capture Jerusalem . And at this moment He instructs the prophet to go and purchase a field???
Vv 28ff: God answers: "Is anything too marvelous for Me?" Rashi renders: "Is the future hidden from Me?" Yes, the city is to be delivered to the Chaldeans: they are here ready to execute the inevitable punishment to requite the people for their sins. For they have indeed turned their backs on Him with their idolatry. Yet inexorable as the decree of captivity and exile is, so is His promise to gather in their exiles and restore them completely unchangeable.
V 39: "And I will give them ONE HEART and ONE WAY to fear Me, for their own good and that of their children after them." We daily wait and hope for the fulfillment of this prophecy.
Vv 42ff: The very evil that befell Israel with the destruction of the Temple and the Exile is itself the guarantee that all the promised good will also come to them in the end. Fields and properties will again be sold and purchased in accordance with the law of the Torah in Benjamin and Judah and in all the other regions of the Holy Land . Amen.
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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