This week's parashah discusses the mitzvah to redeem the field of a relative who was forced to sell it due to his poor financial situation. Consequently, the Haftarah (sections from the writings of the prophets, read on Shabbos and Yom Tov after the reading from the Torah) for the week relates an interesting story which occurred with the Prophet Yirmiyahu. A prominent Rabbi learned a practical lesson from the account.
The scene takes places right before the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash (the Holy Temple) in Jerusalem. The city was surrounded by the evil Babylonian forces of the wicked King Nevuchadnezzar. The Jewish populace was dying from hunger, thirst and exhaustion, and it was only a matter of time before Yehudah and all that it contained would fall to her enemies.
The Prophet Yirmiyahu had been chastising the Jewish people for decades for their sins which he said were the real reason for their impending annihilation. He chided them and encouraged them to abandon their evil ways, which even included idolatry, murder and adultery, and return to the G-d of their ancestors and His Torah. Then Hashem would be compassionate towards them and save them from the imminent doom. But the people were stubborn and adamant in their ways. Rather than succumb to the holy prophet's words of rebuke, they imprisoned Yirmiyahu in an attempt to silence him. And it was in his prison cell that Hashem spoke to His messenger.
And Yirmiyahu said, "The word of Hashem came to me, saying. 'Behold, Chanam'el the son of Shallum your uncle shall come to you, saying, "Buy my field that is in Anasos; for the right of redemption is yours to buy it"'" (Yirmiyahu 32:6-7).
Yirmiyahu was surprised by Hashem's command to buy his uncle's field. The timing just didn't seem right. He asked Hashem about it.
Now, when I had delivered the deed of the purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed to Hashem, saying. "Ah Hashem, G-d! behold, You have made the heaven and the earth by Your great power and by Your stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for You…Behold the siege works, they have come to the city to take it; and the city is given to the hand of the Chaldeans, who fight against it, because of the sword, and of the famine, and of the pestilence; and what You have spoken has come to pass; and, behold, You see it. And You have said to me, O Hashem G-d, 'Buy the field for money, and take witnesses; though the city is given to the hand of the Chaldeans'" (Ibid. 16-17, 24-25).
But Hashem explained to Yirmiyahu that, quite to the contrary, the timing was perfect since He wanted to send a very powerful message by means of this action.
Then came the word of Hashem to Yirmiyahu, saying. "Behold, I am Hashem, the G-d of all flesh; is there any thing too hard for me." Therefore, thus says Hashem; "Behold, I will give this city to the hand of the Chaldeans, and to the hand of Nevuchadrezzar, King of Babylon, and he shall take it. And the Chaldeans, who fight against this city, shall come and set this city on fire, and burn it with the houses, upon whose roofs they have offered incense to Ba'al, and poured out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger."… And now, therefore, thus says Hashem, the G-d of Israel, concerning this city, about which you say, "It shall be delivered to the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence." "Behold, I will gather them from all countries, where I have driven them in My anger, and in My fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. And they shall be My people, and I will be their G-d."… For thus says Hashem; "Just as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them. And fields shall be bought in this land, about which you say, 'It is desolate without man or beast; it is given to the hand of the Chaldeans.' Men shall buy fields for money, and sign deeds, and seal them, and take witnesses in the land of Binyamin, and in the places around Jerusalem, and in the cities of Yehudah, and in the cities of the mountains, and in the cities of the valley, and in the cities of the Negev; for I will cause their captivity to return," says Hashem (Ibid. 26-29, 36-38, 42-44).
Hashem did not want the Jews to make the mistake of thinking that the soon-to-come exile was a total rejection of them as His Chosen People. It was only a temporary punishment which would last seventy years, until their sins were atoned for. Then they would return to the Land of Israel and, once again, buy and sell fields and live normal lives. Therefore, particularly at this time of gloom, Hashem had commanded Yirmiyahu to be a sign to the people by buying his uncle's field and documenting it properly.
Two thousand years later, in 1942, in the midst of the Second World War, the Jewish Community in Eretz Yisroel faced, once again, the threat of annihilation. At the request of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hitler ym"sh"vz sent Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, "the Desert Fox", and the Deutsches Afrika Korps to slaughter all of the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine. >From the desert of El Alamein, Egypt, the Nazis scoffed that in three days the Holy Land would be Judenrein. It would be child's play compared to what they had already done and would yet do in the great strongholds of Europe. The Jews were petrified. All over Eretz Yisroel, special prayers were being said. In the wonderful book, Moshe, Ish HaElokim - Moshe, the Man of G-d, it is related how the Holy Tzaddik, Reb Moshe Mordechai Biderman, the Leliver Rebbe ztvk"l, battled furiously against the Forces of Evil to prevent them from defeating the Forces of Good.
Strangely enough, in those turbulent days, the Ponevizsher Rav, Rabbi Kahanaman zt"l, went and purchased a mountain in B'nei Berak, upon which he planned to build one of the biggest yeshivas in the world, the Ponevizsher Yeshiva. When he was asked, "Is this the time to invest in building yeshivas?" he explained his actions.
The Gemara (Megillah 14a) declares that the Jewish People had many, many more prophets than are recorded in the Tanach. However, most of them delivered messages which were only apropos to their generation, therefore their words were not written down. Only those prophecies which were also needed for future generations were entered into the Bible. "This story of Yirmiyahu," said the Rav emphatically, "was recorded to be a sign to our own generation, not to despair even at the brink of despair. When we seem to be headed for destruction, G-d forbid, that is the very time to plan for reconstruction!"
Rav Kahanaman brought many distinguished rabbis to see the mountain he had purchased and to detail for them his aspirations. One rabbi was extremely skeptical that he would succeed. He turned to Rabbi Kahanaman and asked sarcastically, "Tell me, Rabbi. How many students do you intend to have in this yeshiva?" Without hesitation, the Rav replied, "Five hundred."
The visitor said mockingly, "Sure, Rabbi. I, too, dreamed about building a yeshiva. I, too, dreamed about having five hundred students. But it turned out to be merely a pipe dream."
The venerable, giant Torah builder was not disheartened for a moment. With his typical confidence and faith in Hashem he retorted, "You are absolutely right, rabbi. It is a dream. But the difference between you and me is that you dream when you are asleep; whereas I dream when I am awake. Therefore, my dreams come true!"
If you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them. Then I will provide your rains in their time, and the land will give its produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit. Your threshing will last until the vintage, and the vintage will last until the sowing; you will eat your bread to satiety and you will dwell securely in your land. I will provide peace in the land, and you will lie down with none to frighten you (Vayikra 26:3- 6).
Rashi explains, "Perhaps you will say, 'Well, there is food and there is drink; but if there is no peace, then all this is nothing!' Scripture therefore states after all these promises 'I will provide peace in the land.' Hence we may learn that peace counterbalances everything."
Living in Eretz Yisroel, surrounded by our enemies who wish to destroy us, we can easily relate to this concept that "Peace counterbalances everything." We eagerly await the day when there will truly be peace in the Land and in the entire world. Until then, we hope and pray that we will defeat our adversaries.
The organization Tzohar, established and run by the Belzer Chassidim, is very successful, baruch Hashem, in bringing the non-committed closer to Hashem and His Torah. To their seminars, they bring exciting speakers who often electrify the audience with their true, first-hand stories of Providence. Soon they will be publishing a fantastic book of stories, related by members of the Israel Defense Forces, from which one can achieve Belief and Faith in the Guardian of Israel. Following (with their permission) is one of them.
Lieutenant Colonel Rabbi Moshe Hagar was asked to volunteer for a year to take command of Regiment 77 in Lebanon. He agreed, and he and his men were assigned the vital but dangerous job of discovering and destroying nests of terrorists which thrive there.
One morning, he told his wife that he has a gnawing feeling of impending disaster. Although he had told his men, many times, not to pay attention to these types of evil premonitions; he himself could not free himself from his thoughts.
Five jeeps were lined up near headquarters, packed with soldiers and officers waiting for the regimental commander who was still in his office. Suddenly, a car loaded with explosives pulled up next to the convoy of jeeps. A Chizbulah terrorist activated a switch and the car exploded. Many wounded screamed for help; while others could no longer scream at all. Lieutenant Colonel Hagar heard the terrible news on his two-way radio and he rushed to the scene of the disaster, together with medics and doctors who came to help the injured, as swiftly as possible.
Guy Greenfeld was one of the members of Regiment 77. For some reason, he was not with them that morning but joined the jeep convoy, planning to meet his own troop later. He was seriously wounded in the blast and was taken by helicopter to Rambam Hospital in Haifa. He was diagnosed as being fatally injured and was placed in the intensive care unit where he lay unconscious, attached to an artificial respirator. His family did not budge from the door to his room, though they were barely allowed to approach his bed. The situation was unbearable. There wasn't much hope for Guy; almost none at all.
A few days later, a senior officer phoned Lt. Col. Hager and instructed him to prepare an honor guard. The shocked regiment commander understood that Guy had passed away and asked when the funeral would take place. However, the senior officer replied that Guy had not yet died of his wounds but he was preparing for the inevitable which would surely take place within a few hours.
Lt. Col. Hager refused to accept the order. He objected to Jews giving up hope for their brother's life; even if he was in a fatal condition with seemingly no chance of survival. He explained that he had been raised to believe in the words of King Chizkiyahu who said (Berachos 10a), "I have a tradition from my grandfather's home that even if the sharp sword is placed on one's throat, he should never despair from mercy." Politely but firmly he made it clear that no one in his command would ever prepare an honor guard for any soldier who was still alive.
Every few days, Lt. Col. Hagar would visit the hospital, stand outside Guy's closed door, and say some Tehillim for his speedy recovery. He hardly ever spoke with Guy's family, but they noticed him visiting often and respected him for being so dedicated to his men.
One day, Guy's mother approached Hager and asked him why he keeps coming there since Guy is unconscious anyway and no one can communicate with him. Rabbi Hagar, a warm-hearted person, explained to her that he firmly believes in the power of the Creator, Who heals all flesh and performs miracles, to perform a wonder for them too. And he comes here to pray for Guy since it is taught that the Shechinah (Devine presence) rests above the head of those who are sick.
The next time Hagar came to the hospital, Guy's mother was waiting to speak with him again. She explained that after their previous conversation, she thought about what he had told her, and even sought out the shul in the hospital, where she poured out her heart before the Creator of the World by reciting chapters of Tehillim. She admitted that she had never held a siddur in her hand and it had not even occurred to her to speak to a creator whom she was not taught to believe in. However, in desperation, she decided to try even that. "I felt this wonderful feeling of excitement flooding me," she said, "as I spoke to the Creator." Rabbi Hagar offered the distraught mother encouragement and told her not to despair as long as there remained even a shred of hope.
A few days later, Guy regained consciousness in what was called "a medical miracle." After rehabilitation, Guy was released from the hospital and he returned to serve in the IDF. Eventually, he married and raised a family in Israel where he is a successful businessman. At least two people, Rabbi Moshe Hagar and Guy's mother, are convinced that the prayers which she recited in a moment of spiritual awakening and belief caused the miraculous recovery of her son.
May Hashem always answer our prayers for good, Amen.