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Buying the Field in Anato

Parsha Halacha

Parshat Behar-Bechukotai/Shabbat Chazak

Buying the Field in Anatot

The Only Real-Estate Deed in the Tanach

Sponsored by Jackie and Johana Abraham in honor of their wedding anniversary 

Parsha Halacha is underwritten by a grant from Dr. Stephen and Bella Brenner and Dr. Morton Berg in loving memory of Stephen's father, Shmuel Tzvi ben Pinchas, and Bella's parents, Avraham ben Yitzchak and Leah bas HaRav Sholom Zev HaCohen

Click here for a print version of this article 

In the Torah portion of Behar, we find the laws of selling and redeeming one’s land in Israel.[1] The law is that if one sells a field which is part of their ancestral inheritance the sale is only a long-term lease because it reverts to the owner on the Yovel (Jubilee) year. In addition, the seller or his relatives had the right to redeem it from the buyer at any point after two years of the sale up to the Yovel year. If a family member redeemed it, the field would go back to the original owner at the Yovel year.[2]

For practical reasons people in those days would first offer to sell their fields to their relatives rather than to strangers since if one sells it to a non-family member the property could be redeemed within a short period of time. As such we find that when Naomi, the mother in law of Ruth, wanted to sell her field, it was first offered to her husband’s uncle, and when he refused to buy it, her husband’s cousin Boaz bought it.[3]

A sale of this sort is recorded in the Haftorah of Behar[4] (which we do not read this year[5]) which discusses the sale of a field from Chanamel, son of Shalum, to his cousin, Jeremiah the prophet (see below). The field was located in Anatot, a city of Kohanim which was the native town of Jeremiah and is likely the town of Anta, Israel.[6] Although Jeremiah himself had prophesized that Anatot would be completely destroyed[7] and the city of Jerusalem was already under siege and near destruction, G-d wanted Jeremiah to purchase the field to give hope to the Jewish people that they would indeed be returning to the land at the end of the Babylonian exile in a “mere” 70 years. 

This transaction took place in a jail where Jeremiah had been imprisoned for the “sin” of prophesizing that the city of Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians and that the king would be taken into exile where he would die. Jeremiah instructed his student and scribe, Baruch ben Neriyah, to write down the transaction, have it duly witnessed, signed and placed it in a terra cotta container to preserve it for many years.[8] 

To the best of my knowledge, this is the only real-estate transaction in the Tanach which we find was recorded in a document. The Talmud[9] learns many of the laws of writing documents from the verses describing the writing of this document.

Here is some information about the people involved in this transaction: 

Chanamel, Uncle or Cousin?

In verses 8 and 9 Chanamel is referred to as Jeremiah’s cousin while in verse 12 he is referred to as his uncle. Several explanations are offered:

  • Beloved Cousin

Radak writes that he was his cousin but that a verse can refer to a cousin as an uncle as a manner of speech just as Lot, Avraham’s nephew, is called his brother.[10]

  • One Uncle and One Cousin

Alternately, he writes that there may have been two people by the name of Chanamel: the one who owned the field was Jeremiah’s cousin while the other was an uncle who was also present at the transaction. Perhaps he is mentioned to emphasize that although he was a closer relative to the owner of the field than was Jeremiah (an uncle as opposed to a cousin) he chose not to purchase it, thus allowing Jeremiah to do so.

  • An Uncle Who Was Also A Cousin

Some say[11] that Chanamel was both Yirmiyahu’s uncle and cousin. He was a cousin as his father was Shalum, the brother of Chilkiyahu, who was Yirmiyahu’s father. He was also an uncle as Yirmiyahu’s mother was his sister. (This means that Chilkiyahu, Jeremiah’s father, married his niece, the daughter of his brother, Shalum.)

  • An Uncle Only

It has been suggested[12] that Chanamel was the uncle of Jeremiah and that verse 7 which says  הִנֵּה חֲנַמְאֵל בֶּן שַׁלֻּם דֹּדְךָ בָּא אֵלֶיךָshould be translated as, “Behold your uncle, Chanamel, son of Shalum, is coming to you.”[13] Accordingly, Shalum was also the father of Chilkiyahu (Yirmiyahu’s father). In the list of Kohanim Gedolim in the book of Chronicles[14] the names of the fifth and fourth last Kohanim Gedolim are Shalum and Chilkiyahu. If these are the same Shalum and Chilkiyahu, it would mean that Yirmiyahu was the son of a Kohen Gadol and a brother of the next Kohen Gadol (whose name was Azaryah). Support for this can be found in the Radak who writes[15]that Yirmiyahu was the son of Chilkiyahu who was the Kohen Gadol when the Sefer Torah was found during the reign of King Yoshiyahu.[16]

Chanamel Was a Prophet

According to the Talmud,[17] Chanamel and his father Shalum were prophets and descendants of Rachav the zonah (the harlot who saved the spies of Yehoshua and them married Yehoshua). The verse that says “Chanamel, my cousin, came to me as G-d had spoken”[18] should thus be understood to mean that G-d instructed Chanamel to purchase the field. Since Shulam’s name is mentioned in conjunction with that of his son we can infer that he, too, was a prophet, based on the principle that whenever the name of a prophet’s father is mentioned we assume that he was a prophet as well.[19]

Baruch ben Neriyah Was a Prophet

According to the Talmud, Baruch and his father Neriyah were prophets. They too were descendants of Rachav, the zonah. Rashi explains[20] that the Talmud infers that Baruch was a prophet from the fact that he was Yirmiyahu’s student, and we find that the students of prophets became prophets themselves (e.g., Elisha, the student of Elijah, and Yehoshua, the student of Moshe).

Or Not…

Some say[21] that Baruch never achieved prophecy despite his being worthy of it. This is because the Jewish people were not worthy of receiving his prophecies. According to the Midrash,[22] G-d said to him, “If there is no sheep there is no (need for a) shepherd. I only reveal Myself to the prophets in the merit of the Jewish people.” Although Ezekiel was prophesizing during that era despite the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylonia, he had already received prophecy in Israel before the destruction[23] when Baruch was still a young student of Jeremiah. By the time Baruch became worthy of prophesizing, the exile had already taken place.

Passing on the Deed of Sale

The Malbim writes that Baruch lived a very long life and was able to give the deed he had written to the heirs of Jeremiah so that they could take ownership of this field.[24]It is noteworthy that, according to Torah law,[25] the field should have gone back to Chanamel’s heirs at the Yovel (Jubilee) year. These laws were suspended at that time, however, due to the exile of the Jewish people from their land.[26]


May we see the fulfillment of the verse,[27] “Fields shall be purchased and deeds written… in the environs of Jerusalem… For I will restore their captives—declares the L-rd.” 


[1] Leviticus 25:25-34

[2] See Rashi on ibid, verse 13

[3] See Malbim on Rut 4:3

[4] Jeremiah 32:6-22

[5] Whenever there is a double Torah portion, we read the Haftorah of the second portion. With the exception of Acharei Mot – Kedoshim (Rama O.C. 428:8) and Nitzavim-VaYelech 

[6] See Uncovering Sefer Yirmiyahu by Rabbi Yehudah Landry, page 18 based on the similarity in name and on the geographical location given in Josephus. 

[7] See Jeremiah 11:22-23. But see Ezra 2:23 that 128 men of Anatot returned to Israel with Ezra over 70 years later. The Yalkut Shimoni, (290) explains these people did teshuvah (repentance) and were spared.

[8] It has been pointed out (Uncovering Sefer Yirmiyahu, page 246) that the Dead Sea Scrolls were also preserved in terra cotta containers, and indeed they were preserved and still legible many centuries later.

[9] Bava Batra 160a and on

[10] Gen. 14:14

[11] Rashi disputes this opinion as in Tanach we do not find that “uncle” ever refers to a mother’s brother.

[12] Uncovering Sefer Yirmiyahu, page 245

[13] According to this interpretation, the verses that refer to him as a cousin are a manner of speech. Perhaps he was closer in age to Yirmiyahu and was therefore referred to as a cousin rather than an uncle.

[14] 5:39

[15] Jeremiah 1:1. The Radak writes that Yirmiyahu was following in the footsteps of his father Chilkiyahu.

[16] II Kings 22:8

[17] Megillah 14b

[18] Jeremiah, 32:8

[19] Megillah 15a

[20] D.H. Bishleima on Megillah ibid

[21] See commentaries on Jeremiah 45 and Guide to the Perplexed, Vol II, chapter 32

[22] Mechilta quoted in Rashi on Jeremiah 45:5

[23] See here

[24] In terms of who were the heirs of Jeremiah, see Jeremiah 16:2 that G-d instructed Jeremiah not to marry or have children in his home town of Anatot as there was a decree that the townspeople would be wiped out with no survivors. I have not come across any information about Jeremiah marrying and having children, later in life. There is an Aggadah that Yirmiyahu was the father of Ben Sira whose mother became pregnant by bathing in a mikvah where Yirmiyahu had been forced to ejaculate his seed. See Taz 7 on Y.D. 195 that such a child is considered legitimate.

[25] See Leviticus 25:13 and Rashi

[26] See Arachin 32b that from the time the tribes of Reuven and Gad were exiled, the Yovel was suspended. As the verse says “You shall call freedom in the land for all its inhabitants, for it is Yovel… (Leviticus 25:10).” This means that Yovel only applies when all the inhabitants (tribes) are in the land.

[27] Jeremiah 32:44


Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom Chazak UMevorach! 

Wed, April 24 2024 16 Nisan 5784