Haftarah Parshat Vayegash (Ezekiel 37:15-28)
December 27, 2014 / 5 Tevet 5775
Ezekiel’s reality was disheartening. He lived the exile at the hands of the Babylonians first hand, prophesying in distant Babylonia. His reality was overwhelmed not only by this exile but also by the disintegration of the nation into two parts, the northern kingdom, Israel, and the southern kingdom, Judea. Even this disheartening remembrance was a distant memory since the northern kingdom had long ago been exiled by the Assyrians. His aspiration was for the nation, his people, to once more be united, that Israel and Judea should again become one nation restored from their exile, united under one king from the house of David, who had founded the idealized monarchy.
Ezekiel, the master of symbolic acts, presents this message before his people in a divine prophecy: “The word of the Lord came unto me: ‘And you, O mortal, take a stick and write on it, Of Judah and the Israelites associated with him; and take another stick and write on it, Of Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all of the House of Israel associated with Him’. Bring them close to each other, so that they become one stick, joined together in your hand… and you shall declare unto them: ‘Thus said the Lord God: I am going to take the Israelite people from among the nations they have gone to and gather them from every quarter and bring them to their own land. Never again will they be two nations and never again will they be divided into two kingdoms. Nor will they ever again defile themselves with fetishes and their abhorrent things and by their other transgressions…” (37:15-23)
Most commentators postpone the actualization of this prophecy to messianic times, recognizing the enormous difficulty in realizing it. In our day, when gathering the Jewish people back to its homeland no longer seems totally preposterous, the unity of the Jewish people seems the greater difficulty. Rabbi David Kimche (12th century Provence) quoted his father as saying that Ezekiel’s two stick were joined by a miracle. One can only sense that it was not only Ezekiel’s symbolic act which required a miracle. It is clear that a people so fraught with division would also require God’s active participation to form a single nation.
On a good many issues, Ezekiel was of the opinion that human beings were incapable of going it alone – that God’s active hand was required to make things happen. Many of us see God’s hand in the redemption of the Jewish people in our day. Wouldn’t it be something if Ezekiel’s prophecy would happen as well? It would be practically miraculous.
This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
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