This is another haftara that is rarely read, because Behar is usually connected to Bechukotai and it is next week’s haftara that is read when that happens. The events in our haftara occur as Yirmiyahu’s grim prophecies have begun to be fulfilled. He has been mocked, ridiculed, and even incarcerated for insisting that the city of Yerushalayim will fall. But by the time of our haftara, the Chaldeans have brought their armies within sight of Yerushalayim and are preparing a siege or invasion.
Yirmiyahu has already seen the impending destruction many times through the eyes of prophecy. But then suddenly, he is told to expect a visit from his cousin, Chanamel, who will want to sell him a plot of land. There are different opinions among the classical commentators as to whether Chanamel was given a divine command to seek Yirmiyahu, but Radak and Malbim agree that Yirmiyahu was not only told to expect his cousin’s arrival but to purchase the land.
Yirmiyahu attempts to reason with Hashem. The land lies open before foreign invaders, and all the property rights of Israel, along with the cycle of Shemittah and Yovel, are about to be abrogated. It seems improbable that he or anybody else will profit from land they purchase. Insofar as he is a close relative, a “redeemer” of the plot in a Yovel year, it all seems a cruel joke because in the next Yovel there will be no redemption of land or people. But Yirmiyahu knows that Hashem is all-powerful and that He is not limited by geopolitical and military realities. If Hashem wishes to reverse the process of conquest and cancel the exile, it is within His power to do so.
Hashem makes clear His intention to Yirmiyahu with an additional prophecy: Yirmiyahu is commanded to deliver the two instruments of the transaction to Baruch ben Neriah and have them placed in a sealed container that will last for a very long time. It seems this transaction is not of so much relevance to the upcoming Yovel, but for a distant Yovel thousands of years in the future. Because, Hashem promises Yirmiyahu, a day will come when Jewish people will again be able to purchase and sell property in the Land of Israel, and the field of Chanamel will have to be redeemed by a close family member.
The book Kol HaTor (The Voice of the Turtledove) was written by students of the Vilna Gaon led by Hillel of Sklov. It elaborates his teachings on the process of redemption, beginning in the year 1740, or 5500 on the Jewish calendar. It is considered by many to be the first religious Zionist treatise, in part because Hillel of Sklov and his followers were among the first religious Jews to immigrate to the Land of Israel in the modern era. Ostensibly written 150 years before Herzl’s Jewish State, Kol HaTor was not published until 1968. The book deals intensively with the spiritual tasks of the two Moshiachs – the son of Yosef and the son of David – but it mostly addresses in detail the work of the Moshiach son of Yosef. The second part of the book references our haftara and the two deeds of sale that Yirmiyahu was commanded to store safely for the future.
The first deed, described as the “revealed” or public document, corresponds to the Moshiach ben Yosef because his acts of heroism and victories on behalf of Israel will be widely known and publicized, And the second – the sealed book – keeps the promise of the Moshiach ben David who will come to finish the work in concealment and no one alive at the time of Yirmiyahu could imagine or begin to understand the work to be performed.
These books were laid aside for that distant time when the two Moshiachs would reveal themselves. Perhaps not so distant for us, reading about these events thousands of years in the future. May the land and the people be redeemed speedily in our time.