I am about to commit a sacrilege. I am about to engage in an enormous act of hubris. Of course, I’ve always been a gadfly, so why stop now. Might as well go out even further on a limb.
Just before our haftarah for parashat Behar begins, we find Jerusalem under siege by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah, having counseled King Zedekiah to surrender to the overwhelming forces that were laying siege to Jerusalem, has been thrown in the palace prison for his views. It’s a bit of a minimum-security, white-collar situation, for Jeremiah is free to have visitors, engage in transactions, and has his trust scribe Baruch with him.
Linking with the parasha, which teaches of the sabbatical, the jubilee, and the rules of land ownership and redemption, Jeremiah hears G"d’s word, telling him that his cousin will come to him, asking him to buy his land in Ananot. (In parashat Behar we are told that when our relatives are having financial difficulties, a close relative has the obligation to acquire the land and help his relative out, knowing that the land will revert to the original owner in the next jubilee year. The relative is obligated to try and purchase back his holdings, but, if he cannot, the land will return to his family at the time of the next jubilee year.)
As G"d had spoken to Jeremiah, his cousin does come to see him and asks him to buy his land, and Jeremiah fulfilled his obligation. Now, what’s odd about this, is that Jeremiah took a great risk. The Babylonians would likely conquer the Israelites, and the land in Ananot would be lost to him. Yet Jeremiah instructed his scribe Baruch to seal the contract and deed in a clay jar, so they would be safe for a very long time. Now that’s faith! Jeremiah was certain that Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians, yet he was also certain that a time would come when the Israelites would again occupy the land and be able to buy and sell it as needed.
Jeremiah then prays to G"d. First, he butters G"d up quite a bit. Then he praises G"d for all the wonders and miracles G"d has done for the people, and for bringing them to and giving them this land. Jeremiah then says that the people blew it, failing to heed G"d’s laws and commandments, and so G"d has brought this imminent defeat at the hands of the Babylonians-just a G"d foretold to Jeremiah. Now G"d has told Jeremiah to redeem his cousin’s land-just when the city is about to fall.
And G"d answers Jeremiah:
"Here am I, Ad"nai, G"d of all flesh – is anything too difficult for Me?"
That’s one omnipotent G"d. With a bit of hubris.
Yet there is so much in this world that needs fixing. If nothing is too difficult for G"d, then why are they not fixed? Of course, we have all sorts of apologetic answers. We can’t understand G"d fully. G"d’s time scale may be different. We can’t fathom G"d’s plan.
Yet I do not believe apologetics are the answer. We’ve known the answer, had the power all along. Just like the ruby slippers. G"d may just be waiting to see if we can do it ourselves. And end to war. And end to hatred. An end to poverty and hunger. A world of peace and harmony. Sounds impossible, maybe even for G"d?
And here is my sacrilege. We are, after all, b’tzelem El"him, in the image of G"d, a reflection of G"d. Might we not say:
"Here am I, a human being, created by G"d in G"d’s image. Is anything too difficult for me."
And it works even better if we become a community. For perhaps each of us only reflects some piece of G"d. Working together, might we not reflect all the power that is G"d? (If we take the story of the tower of Bavel, then it is theoretically possible, since G"d appeared to fear it happening, and confounded our speech.) So let us all say:
"Here we are, human beings, created in G"d’s image. Is anything to difficult for us?"
©2008 by Adrian A. Durlester
Adrian A. Durlester
Director of Education & Congregational Life, Bethesda Jewish Congregation