Thoughts and Teachings: Haftarah for Be’har

This week’s Torah portion is Be’har, found in Leviticus 25.1 to 26.2.[i] The entirety of chapter 25 deals with the Sabbath rest that the land of promise is to experience. First, every seven years is to be a shemittah year in which there is to be no planting or harvesting, and no plowing or pruning (25.4-7). The promise of the LORD, in response to obedience to this command, is that the harvest of the land during the previous six years will be more than enough to meet the needs of both people and livestock. Could this really be possible? Remember these words from Ekev concerning the journey from Egypt to Canaan, “Neither did your clothing wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these 40 years,” (Deuteronomy 8.4). It would appear that the prophet was correct when he recorded the LORD’s proclamation, “Behold, I amAdonai, the God of all flesh; is there anything too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32.27). Yeshua reiterated this affirmation when He taught His disciples, “What is impossible with men is possible with God,” (Luke 18.27). Therefore, we should be comforted and encouraged; there is nothing that will ever come our way, that the LORD will not provide the wherewithal to stand in it.

Shaul stressed this fact to the believers at Corinth when he wrote, “No temptation has taken hold of you except what is common to mankind. But God is faithful—He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can handle. But with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so you will be able to endure it,” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Before becoming stuck on the word “temptation” one should realize the word could also be understood as “trial,” “test,” or “experience.” In other words, we will experience no situation in which HaShem is not able to assist us as we walk through it. The remainder of Leviticus 25 (8-54) deals with the Year of Jubilee, the fiftieth year after seven Shemittah years.[ii] But the portion does not end in chapter 25, but continues to the first two verses of chapter 26 as if the Ruach seemed to want to repeat a couple of commands that have continually surfaced throughout the holiness code,

“You are not to make idols for yourselves, nor raise up an engraved image or a standing-stone, or place any carved stone in your land to bow down to it. For I am Adonai your God. You are to keep My Shabbatot and have reverence for My Sanctuary. I am Adonai,” (26.1-2).

No idols or idolatry keep the various Shabbatot—not only the weekly Shabbat but the other appointed times determined by the LORD—and respect the sanctuary of the LORD as it is the representation of His dwelling place among Israel; because the LORD is ADONAI!

Looking to the Haftarah (Jeremiah 32.6-22), Michael Fishbane observes that “At that time Jeremiah was confined to a royal compound, charged with uttering a seditious oracle about the fall of Jerusalem and the exile of its king. The purpose of the prophet’s action was to dramatize on the eve of the destruction the future restoration of the nation to its homeland.”[iii] If Jeremiah could have looked forward, he may have wanted to ask Shaul exactly where was the LORD and how was He going to get him out or through this experience. But then again, maybe not. From prison, prompted by the Ruach HaChodesh, Jeremiah sent his servant Baruch to buy a field from his family’s holdings as he (Jeremiah) had the right of redemption concerning it. Baruch bought the land. The deeds were signed, sealed and delivered, then buried “in a clay jar, so they may last many days,” (32.14). The only way this action makes any sense at all is in the knowledge that even though exile is coming, restoration is affirmed. Then, Jeremiah began his prayer to the LORD,

You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm—nothing is too hard for You! (32.17)

Just as sure as the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt with a mighty, outstretched hand, so He would bring them back from captivity and exile, and restore them to the land of promise. Jeremiah, the prophet of the exile is, above all, full of hope. Time and time again he articulates the LORD’s promises. Three chapters earlier, (though there were no chapters, but rather a continuous scroll), Jeremiah penned this from the Ruach,

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.’ (Jeremiah 29.10-11)

In Eichah (Lamentations), also attributed to Jeremiah, which is the megillah read during Tisha B’Av as we remember the destruction of the Temple(s) among other historic atrocities, we read this statement of faith,

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.
It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of Adonai. – Eichah.21-26

During the Shacharit service, we proclaim,

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe,
who guides the steps of man.”

.בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַמֵּכִין מִצְעֲדֵי גָֽבֶר

In this bracha we acknowledge the LORD guiding steps. They are not, however, just the pleasant or easy steps, but all the steps and journeys of our lives. And not only does He guide our steps but He walks along with us, even when we do not “see” or “feel” His presence. In Vayelech, Moshe encouraged Israel, as well as us today, “Chazak! (Be Strong), Be courageous! Do not be afraid or tremble before them. For Adonai your God—He is the One who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you,” (Deuteronomy 31.6). Whatever battle we might be facing, He has confirmed that He will go with us.

Shabbat Shalom

[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the Tree of Life(TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

[ii] For a general understanding of the Shemittah year

[iii] Fishbane, Michael. The JPS Bible Commentary: Haftarot (English and Hebrew Edition). The Jewish Publication Society, 2002. 144