Haftarah Parshat Tazria – Shabbat Rosh Hodesh – Shabbat Hahodesh (Ezekiel 45:16-46:18)
April 9, 2016 /Rosh Hodesh Nisan 5776
This Shabbat, Shabbat Hahodesh, is the last of the four special Shabbatot which the sages of Talmudic times set up to precede Pesah. In the special Torah reading for this day, we are reminded to prepare the special Korban Pesah, the sacrificial lamb that was eaten on the night of Pesah in Temple times. The special haftarah recounts Ezekiel’s prophesy of some of the rites for the Temple when it will be reestablished. This description includes details like which gates will be closed on weekdays and open on festive occasions: “Thus said the Lord God: The gate of the inner court which faces east shall be closed on the six working days, it shall be opened on the Sabbath day and it shall be open on the New Moon.” (Ezekiel 46:1)
The gate mentioned here was a relatively minor gate which did not need to be open on weekdays since the other gates were sufficient to accommodate the crowds. On Shabbat, the New Moon and festivals, it was necessary to open even the minor entrances to the Temple in order to control the crowds. The fact that some of the entrances to the Temple were less extravagant than others resonated with the sage who composed the following midrash who saw in it an important religious message: “Thus said the Lord God: The gate of the inner court which faces east shall be closed on the six working days, it shall be opened on the Sabbath day and it shall be open on the New Moon.” (Ezekiel 46:1) [This can be compared to] a king of flesh and blood whose dignity is maintained if he enters through a large and important entrance and not by entering into a small and insignificant entrance. The Holy One Blessed Be He, on the other hand, prefers to enter through an unimportant entrance. For example, ‘And God appeared to him (Abraham) at the Oaks of Mamre, he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot. (Genesis 18:1)” (Adapted from Tanhuma Parshat Ki Tisa 15)
This midrash saw in this verse an indication of God’s humility. Of course, its purpose in teaching this was to inculcate in God’s followers this very same quality. If God does not require fanfare so, too, His followers should not find it necessary. The truly religious person would find emulating this quality a challenge worth pursuing.
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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