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   by Jacob Solomon

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Do not extort your fellow… when you buy property from him (25:14)

The text of the Parasha rules that real estate must be priced fairly - according to the amount of time remaining in the Torah-ordained 50-year lease. A property with only another 10 years to go should not be priced as if it had 40 years left in it.

The text of the Haftara, on the other hand, appears to be promoting a property deal that would hardly appeal to any person of business. The Babylonian siege of Jerusalem was in full swing, and Jeremiah was held in captivity under the command of Nebuchadnezzar's Judean puppet-king, Zedekiah. Jeremiah was deprived of his personal freedom because he had prophesized what people did not want to hear: that their sins and their stubborn refusal to change their ways were bringing them towards destruction and exile.

And while Jeremiah was sitting in prison, G-d Himself told him to purchase a field from a relative who had to sell his property, thus ensuring that it would stay in the family (Jer. 32:7). Jeremiah did as he was told. He went through the legal proceedings for the transfer of land and paid what appears to have been the full price - though the Destruction took place less than two years later (Jer. 32:1; 52:1). Even Jeremiah found it hard to make of sense of being ordered to redeem land that was about to fall into enemy hands, but G-d replied that nothing 'was too difficult' for Him (Jer. 32:27). He reassured Jeremiah that however painful the Destruction and Exile were to be, He would see to it that His People would eventually return to their Land.

Nevertheless, Jeremiah was not going to be there to see it. He found himself virtually dragged over the border to Egypt (Jer. 43:7), and there is no record of his ever having come back. Why did Jeremiah pay the full price and not bargain for an appropriate reduction, within the framework of the Parasha? For the enemy were already at the gates…

It may be suggested that Jeremiah paid the full price without question to give the people a full sense of proportion when disaster was to take effect. They would then - only then - take his prophecy of impending doom seriously, although too late. But in the same way that they would have learnt to trust his 'dark cloud' they would also come to trust the fact that 'it would not last for ever'. Suffering, yes; total despair, no. For the destiny of G-d's people is 'a kingdom of priest and a Holy Nation' living in the 'Land He swore to give to your fathers'. Destruction, suffering, and exile - no matter how dark at the time - are but a comma, in the permanency of Israel, and the mission of Israel to humanity. The documents of the sale were put in a safe place (Jer. 32:14), for evidence in the distant future, when, indeed, 'fields would be bought (Jer. 32:47) by legal means in the Holy Land.

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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