This D’var Torah is in Z’chus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, & my great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein in Z’chus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandfather Moshe Ben Breindel, and my grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta
-Miriam Liba Bas Devora
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamah of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken in terror attacks (Hashem Yikom Damam), and a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
הַפְטָרָה ֺשֶל פַּרָֺשַת בְּהַר
“Bitachon, Stage I: The Unknown”
Parshas B’Har focuses on the laws pertaining to Shmitah (Sabbatical of the land) and Yovel (Jubilee). Included in these Israel-dependent laws are the rules for the redeeming of one’s land [Vayikra 25:25-34].
This concept, redemption of land, is brought to the forefront in the Haftarah. Taken from Yirmiyah [32:6-27], the Haftarah tells about how Yirmiyah’s cousin Chanameil Ben Shalum instructed him, by G-d’s word, to buy and redeem a field in Yirmiyah’s hometown of Asanos, because he was apparently the rightful Go’eil, or redeemer, of that land. The Navi elaborates on the transaction; Yirmiyah lays out money, writes a document, gets witnesses, leaves the bill with his scribe and disciple Baruch Ben Neiriyah Ben Ma’aseiyah who puts it in a earthenware vessel for safekeeping.
This “connection” between the Haftarah and the Sidrah is a simple one. But, is there perhaps something more fundamental here than the technical laws of redeeming land? What theme of Parshas B’Har is brought out in this account? Moreover, what is the significance of this story altogether? Why do we care that Hashem commanded Yirmiyah to redeem a field?
So, the Navi actually elaborates on the significance of this transaction. Hashem explains that this sale symbolizes that there will yet be houses, fields, and vineyards bought in this land again [32:15], that the Galus from the Holy Land will eventually come to an end.
Yirmiyah would respond in prayer to Hashem, describing Hashem’s wonders from Creation, to the Plagues against Egypt, to the Exodus, and back to the Promised Land [32:16-26]. And in Yirmiyah’s prayer, he faithfully declares that nothing is “Yipalei” [יפלא], too foreign, far removed, or hidden from Hashem [32:17]. Indeed, this lesson should be familiar as it is the exact one which Hashem taught Sarah Imeinu in response to her cynicism about the idea that she might bear a child in her old age [See Bereishis 18:14].
Now, although it certainly appears as though Yirmiyah is reinforcing this age old lesson, Yirmiyah himself seems to almost forget it moments later as Yirmiyah begins to lament about how the people didn’t listen to Hashem, that Hashem has exiled them as planned, by way of sword, famine, and pestilence, and how, despite all of that, Hashem told him to redeem the house in Anasos [Yirmiyah 32:23-25]. In essence, he turns around and challenges Hashem; “How could you tell me to redeem the land inhabited by the Kasdim while out nation is experiencing perpetual exile?” Yirmiyah, having experienced the harsh exile, seems to express a loss of hope. And in response, Hashem responds with the closing line of this Haftarah [32:27], “Hineih Ani Hashem Elokei Kal Basar HaMimeni Yipalei [יפלא] Kal Davar”-“Behold, I am Hashem the G-d of all flesh! Is anything removed from Me?”
The obvious problem here is not G-d’s reaffirming of His lessons in faith, but in Yirmiyah’s apparently fluctuating “mood.” Yirmiyah himself said at the beginning that nothing is removed from G-d. All of a sudden, Yirmiyah needs to be reminded of the very lesson that came out of his own mouth. What happened here?
Thus, it could be that Yirmiyah wasn’t actually challenging G-d’s abilities, but G-d’s plan. In his prayer, Yirmiyah admitted to Hashem’s abilities. But, what he might be saying is as follows: “Hashem, I know what You can do. You have taken us from Exile to Exodus. If that’s the case, what is Your plan now? How is it that You plan on making my redemption of the house meaningful when, right now, we are in Galus? Show me Your magic.” If that’s Yirmiyah’s argument, what is G-d’s response?
Hashem responds by saying, “You agree that nothing is removed from Me, don’t you? So, relax and understand that, indeed, I do have a plan. There is a method and system here to explain both the current suffering and the eventual Redemption.” Indeed, after the Haftarah actually finishes, the Navi does continue Hashem’s speech in which Hashem proceeds to explain the reasons for the suffering and how the eventual redemption would unfold [See 32:28-44]. The point though is that Yirmiyah is praying that G-d demonstrate what Yirmiyah knows He can do, to which G-d replies that indeed, He can do anything and will do something about the current situation.
We might suggest similarly that that perhaps Yirmiyah knew, in concept, of G-d’s ability to do everything He wanted, but he did not know it in practice and experience. And isn’t that the case for most religious people? Perhaps he, like many of us, hadn’t truly witnessed a full redemption, so that in his time, he did not recognize fully that still, even today, nothing is removed from G-d. Indeed, much like Hashem’s rebuke to Sarah, Hashem responded by telling Yirmiyah that even today, he should not think that the plan for Redemption was abandoned. Just like the Exodus that Yirmiyah admittedly believes once happened, there will be a Geulah in modern times too.
Rashi, in the same vein, reads G-d’s response as if He was saying: “Do you think the future happenings are hidden from Me?” In other words, the past, we know is not hidden, because it happened, and Hashem demonstrated that He had it under control. Yirmiyah’s faith in “the past” is not the issue. He had “Emunah,” a genuine belief in what G-d has proven to be capable of. It was perhaps the “Bitachon,” trust in G-d’s security for the present and future, which Yirmiyah was being challenged to accept. Bitachon requires that you realize that even when it hasn’t happened yet, even as it is yet hidden, Hashem still has everything under control.
This concept of Bitachon is something that needs constant growth, as demonstrated by Yirmiyah’s own speech, where, on the one hand, he can say that nothing is removed from G-d, while on the other hand, he can challenge G-d under the pressure of exile. Because, even the things we know in concept or based on traditions of the past, are often lost in practice so that, indeed, when the going gets tough, we forget for even an instance that Hashem is still there, now and forever. We can sort of “know” a little bit, yet still shutter in “fear of the unknown.”
More than a Haftarah about redeeming of a field, this Haftarah brings out a major theme in the Sidrah which really teaches us the first lesson in Bitachon.
The whole concept of Shmitah, which means to leave one’s land and source of sustenance fallow for an entire year, teaches us about Bitachon. Shmitah challenges us to make the ultimate sacrifice for Hashem’s Torah, sitting back when we’d be more emotionally comfortable to work the field and retrieve our own food supply. Shmitah means letting Hashem provide for you. And even when Hashem assures that everything will be okay—even when know in concept that Hashem is capable of providing for us, the Torah still anticipates our personal “fear of the unknown” as the Torah writes [Vayikra 25:2], “V’Chi Somru Mah Nochal BaShanah HaShevi’is Hein Lo Nizra V’Lo Ne’esof Es Tevua’seinu”-“And when you shall say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year? We have not sown and we have not gathered in our produce!’”
And that’s the ongoing question: “What will be?” “How can I know for sure?” As much theoretical faith as we may have, there will always be this question which casts a shadow of doubt, challenging our Bitachon. There will always be questions. That is because the first lesson of Bitachon is that for us, indeed, there is “hiddenness.” One way or another, we have to live with the “unknown.” The light at the end of the tunnel is hidden. We can even know that it’s there like Yirmiyah did, but we won’t see it, because again, to us, it is hidden. It remains unknown. In the same way, our sustenance seems “hidden” and “removed” during Shemitah. And certainly, our Geulah seems hidden from the perspective of our Galus.
So, yes, Perhaps the answers in life, to us, are “hidden” and “removed,” but to have Bitachon means to understand that the answers are never hidden from Hashem, and that’s apparently all that should matter to us.
May we all be Zocheh to stand up to our “fear of the unknown,” to keep strong in our Emunah and Bitachon by realizing that nothing is hidden from Hashem, including our final Geulah and the coming of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos!
-Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg 🙂
הַפְטָרָה ֺשֶל פַּרָֺשַת בְּחֻקֹּתַי
“Bitachon, Stage II: Baruch HaGever”
Parshas B’Har and its Haftarah, as we explained, are representative of the first stage of Bitachon. Bitachon means to accept that which is hidden from us and move forward with the simple trust in the guarantee that Hashem will be there for us when we need Him. Parshas B’Chukosai, B’Har’s partner Sidrah, we will now suggest, represents the second stage of that process. With that in mind, for the Haftarah for Parshas B’Chukosai, we revisit Yirmiyah.
In this Haftarah we have, not a story about redeeming land, but a lyrical passage of prayer and reflection [16:19-17:14]. The Navi starts off with as Yirmiyah declares Hashem as his “Stronghold” and “Refuge on the day of distress” and describes the world’s eventual regret for ever turning toward idolatry. He acknowledges the falsehood of all idolatry and questions how a person can even make a god.
Then, Yirmiyah digresses to describe the “Sin of Yehudah” which, he says, is written with an iron pen on the tablet of their heart and on corners of their idolatrous altars.
So, where is Yirmiyah going with all of this? It sounds as though he is merely denouncing idolatry, both that of the nations and of the B’nei Yisrael, a common theme in Navi. But, what does his denunciation of idolatry have to do with our unique Sidrah?
Nothing yet. But then Yirmiyah continues [17:5], “Koh Amar Hashem Arur HaGever Asher Yivtach BaAdam V’Sam Basar Zero’o U’Min Hashem Yasur Libo”-“So says Hashem: Cursed is the man who [merely] trusts in man and places mortal flesh as his strength, and from Hashem, his heart turns away.”
With this point, Yirmiyah elaborates on exactly what it is that causes a person to turn toward idolatry. It is apparently rooted in man’s tendency to place his trust purely in manpower, the natural forces of the world, chances, human manipulation of these forces and odds, etc. That is apparently a major part of what makes idolatry so attractive, for idolatry allows you to choose your own values, create your own religion with your own “god,” and ultimately live by your own rules. Another aspect of this lifestyle means that you rely on yourself and anything else that you think can naturally give you what you need. Since you do not trust in a G-d you can’t see, you turn away from Him and leave your trust in the work of man.
Explains Yirmiyah, this person will ultimately dwell like a single tree in a desert, alone in parched land that is salty and uninhabited [17:6].
On the contrary Yirmiyah declares [17:7], “Baruch HaGever Asheir Yivtach BaHashem VaHayah Hashem Mivtacho”-“Blessed is the man who trusts in Hashem, and Hashem will be His security.” Says Yirmiyah, this individual will be like a fruitful tree planted near water, remaining fresh and intact in the times of drought [17:8].
So, what exactly is Stage II of Bitachon?
Parshas B’Har, we said, was about taking the plunge for Hashem despite the questions. We’re charged to relinquish our land during Shmitah and Yovel and just rely on Hashem, as He said He would provide us with what we need. Yes, we have questions and doubts, but Bitachon, we explained, means to live with those questions, and keep moving forward. That’s a part of life.
Stage II, B’Chukosai, is apparently the result, the blessing that we can look forward to once we’ve accepted Bitachon. Indeed, the Torah promises [Vayikra 26:3-5], “Im B’Chukosai Teileichu…V’Nasati Gishmeichem B’Itam V’Nasnah HaAretz Yevulah V’Eitz HaSadeh Yitein Piryo…ViShavtem LaVetach B’Artzechem”-“If you will walk with My decress…then I will give your rain in its proper time, and the land will give forth its produce, and the tree will give forth its fruit…and you will dwell securely in your land.”
Notice the parallel between Yirmiyah’s blessing and Hashem’s guarantee here. If one faithfully walks in accordance with Hashem’s Torah, he will be fruitful, refreshed, and secure.
But, again, the idea of B’Chukosai is the results—both of Bitachon and the lack thereof. Because, if one thinks about it, no differently than the Haftarah, B’Chukosai itself has a Tochachah (Admonition) which elaborates on the cursed life of he who does not display that trust in Hashem, to follow His commandments.
The obvious challenge with this “Stage II” is life and its experiences. Sometimes, we don’t always see the fruits of our labor or the blessing that comes with Bitachon. Even if we’ve taken the plunge for Hashem, the questions and doubts which we still experience from “Stage I” may continue to haunt us. We wonder where exactly can we find the man who was truly blessed by the Bitachon he placed in Hashem. The blessing that comes with trust in G-d and trusting less in manpower just runs contrary to how we intuitively think.
However, maybe, we’re slightly misunderstanding Bitachon. It could be that, yes, Bitachon, on some level, does breed tangible blessings, for example, with our produce, as the Torah promises. But, perhaps, the truest blessing of Bitachon is even more fundamental and natural. Think about it. The person who puts his trust purely in the forces of the natural world logically has to rely on the limitations of the natural world. He relies on manpower alone which can only succeed so long as the man retains that power. It’s a cursed life because it’s a limited life. It’s a life of lonesomeness. It’s a life where when things don’t look good, you can be sure that, in fact, they aren’t good. Hope will be lost. However, he who not only displays the trust, but his attitude and actions manifest this Bitachon in Hashem is blessed in that whatever he goes through, Hashem is always with him so he never has to worry in the long run. Thus, he is a stable tree which will not be shaken when the going gets tough. In the time of drought, he remains refreshed, ready to move forward.
This other result of Bitachon might be hinted to in our Sidrah as well, and is perhaps the actual meaning of the word Bitachon. Hashem says that if we follow His Torah, “ViShavtem LaVetach”-“then you will dwell securely.” “Vetach” might not only mean “security,” but a sense of security. In fact, “Vetach” is obviously related to the word “Bitachon,” telling us that if we have “Bitachon,” an accepted sense of security, we are guaranteed, more than anything else, Bitachon, perhaps the greatest blessing in its own right. Because, yes, Hashem can give us produce, He can give us food. He can even give us physical security. He can give us a lot of things. But, if we have Bitachon, we can achieve not only the physical blessings, but the intellectual and emotional sense of security which is the only thing that can actually keep us going despite every other problem we may have in life. That confidence and encouragement is a natural result and blessing of Bitachon.
Coming full circle, perhaps this dual interpretation of Bitachon and its blessings are alluded to in Yirmiyah’s words. “Baruch HaGever Asheir Yivtach BaHashem VaHayah Hashem Mivtacho”-“Blessed is the man who trusts in Hashem, and Hashem will be His security.”
Notice how Bitachon is referenced twice in this verse: (1) Blessed is the person who has Bitachon in Hashem, and (2) Hashem will be His security. What this verse might be telling us is that since the person has Bitachon in Hashem, naturally, he ultimately has Hashem as security, above all else—above the blessings of food, water, shelter, life itself, he Hashem providing him a constant sense of security.
So, in the end, if B’Har, Stage I of Bitachon was to live with the questions and push forward, Stage II is crystalizing that Bitachon so that we’re not only taking the leap of faith, but allowing ourselves to appreciate the blessings that come with that Bitachon—not just the tangible blessings of fruitfulness, but perhaps the even greater sense of Hashem’s security.
May we all be Zocheh to true Bitachon and its blessings, have Hashem as our constant source of every form of security, and Hashem should allow us once again to dwell in the Holy Land, LaVetach, in the days of the Geulah with the coming of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos!
-Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg 🙂