field of wheat

For years, the Prophet Jeremiah told the people of Judea that the Temple would be destroyed, and they would be exiled.

Jeremiah’s message didn’t go down at all well. He was shunned, imprisoned and threatened, and even his own family in Anatot, his home town, tried to bump him off by poisoning him. But God protected him through all these trials, and sure enough, Nebuchadnezzar showed up in 689 BCE, and laid siege to the rebellious city of Jerusalem.

As the Bablyonian army tightened their squeeze on the nation of Israel, and on the King Tzidkiyahu, even the most resolutely ‘optimistic’ fake prophets fell into despair, and stopped trying to pretend that Jeremiah was a psycho conspiracy theorist who was somehow following the wrong Rebbe.

There’s only so far you can stretch credulity, even when you so desperately want to believe that everything is going to turn out totally for the best, and that all there is left to do before Moshiach shows up is to ‘polish the buttons’.

But then, at that point in time when Jeremiah’s dire warnings were literally manifesting before the eyes of the Jewish nation, God comes to him again, and tells him something pretty strange:

“Prophet Jeremiah, take a break from all that End of Days stuff for a bit, and go buy your cousin Hanamel’s field in Anatot.”

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As you might expect, Jeremiah is a little taken aback by this.

I mean, Jerusalem is about to be totally sacked and destroyed, the Jewish people is about to be cruelly exiled from their land for at the next 70 years, and here’s God obsessed with contracting a real estate deal.

What’s with that?!?!

But, Jeremiah buys the land for seven shekels and 10 silver pieces (bargain!), and then tells his servant Baruch ben Neriah to place the bill of sale in an earthenware pot, where it will be kept safe and “endure for many years.” Why?

“For thus said Hashem, Master of Legions, God of Israel: ‘Houses, fields and vineyards will yet be bought in this land.’”[1]

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What can we learn from this, we who sit here watching the world tip upside down, and chaos and madness encroach from every direction?

I’ve been asking myself that a lot recently, as I find myself way more caught up with gathering potatoes than gathering diamonds at the moment.

(There’s a Rebbe Nachman story about that, which is basically that a man goes to a faraway land to collect diamonds, but when he gets there, gets confused and starts collecting potatoes instead. The parable is obvious.)

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The last few months, I have literally been working like a dog to try to get books out, and self-help courses out, because at some point, I want to be able to buy my own ‘field’ in Jerusalem and finally settle down under my own fig, under my own vine.

In the course of doing that, I’ve been finding it very hard to hang out at the prayers of the Rav as much as I used to; or to sit at the Kotel, or even to recite my daily tikkun haklali. All my time is going on redeeming the field, i.e. acting as though that normal part of the world is going to continue, regardless of all the madness going on around me.

I honestly don’t know what to think about it all.

At the same time, I’ve spent so much of the last two decades trying to mend my ways, and to listen to Hashem’s messages about moving to Israel, quitting my job to focus on raising my kids, working on my emuna, trying to have a bit of humility….

It’s really not like all I’ve been doing the last few years is trying to redeem the field, anything but.

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When I was mulling all this over in hitbodedut, and talking to God about the crazy pace of life at the moment, and my seeming inability to hang on to so many of the spiritual diamonds I put so much effort into collecting over the last few years, He reminded me of Jeremiah and the field.

Sometimes, even in the middle of the madness, you still have to try to continue to do ‘normal’ things, and still to think about tomorrow, even though tomorrow is so very uncertain. I spent years paralysed by ‘geula anticipation’, thinking there was no point doing anything except making teshuva and learning Torah.

Was that wrong?

Probably not. Probably, almost definitely not.

But in the meantime, life continues, life goes on, and that’s also a reality I have to accept and integrate into my lifestyle. So many of our young people are dropping out of school, and getting depressed, and feeling unable to overcome their tremendous apathy and ennui because they feel there is no point.

There is no tomorrow. Why make an effort, why wake up on time, why try to progress or achieve anything?

I have a lot of sympathy for that outlook. I suffered from it myself for so many years. But these days, I’m in a different space. A space where while I’m still searching for diamonds, I’m also appreciating that you can’t eat them. Sometimes, you need a potato.

Sometimes, the way you serve Hashem is by redeeming the field.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] See Jeremiah 36:8.

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Photo by Polina Rytova on Unsplash

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2 replies
  1. michal rus
    michal rus says:

    thank you

    this helps bring me a little more balance in the redeeming of the “field” and in the redeeming of the “soul”

    Hashem has recently been bringing me numerous messages to be sure to behave with respect and kavod to the body Hashem gave me…to recognise the tremendous abilities i have to serve Hasehm within this body, to feed it well, rest it properly, exercise it, to keep it well, and more so to take note of the amazing truth: we can truly only do mitzvos inside this body..! with this focus, this week i have been better to my body bH, and i have had more moments of mindfullness (kavana) that whn im working, cooking, ironing, putting children to sleep, bringing them to school, setting a table for a meal etc….these are all ways that i am “redeeming the field” of my body and elevating these seemingly simple actions by doing them “with Hashem” and infusing them with energy of the gratitude of being a mini creator united with my Creator with the simple pleasure of having a moment of togetherness with Hashem (true we always are connected, but the awareness is often lacking on my part)

    so….thank you for sharing this post of the mixture of the importance of teshuva for geula, and the redeeming of the physical field and how they go hand in hand BH

    may Hashem bless us all with the complete geula with sweetness and mercy today!!

    Reply
  2. Rivka Levy
    Rivka Levy says:

    This is beautiful, thanks for sharing Michal Rus.

    I also learnt the hard way around 6 years ago that if I totally ignored my physical needs – even to pursue a totally ‘spiritual’ lifestyle – that this actually was not what God wanted, and when the inevitable crash happened it could have totally pulled me away from yiddishkeit.

    Baruch Hashem, God was holding on to me…. but the message of equilibrium, and of honoring the body as being the container for the soul and medium by which it operates in the world, and also of valuing our ‘small’ mitzvot that are actually so very big are very important ones to share and to emphasize, so thanks for doing that so eloquently.

    Reply

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