Shabbat Hol Hamoed Sukkot
(Ezekiel 38:18- 39:16)
October 6, 2001
Rav Huna taught in the name of Rav that on the Shabbat during Pesach we read Ezekiel’s prophecy of the “Dry Bones” while on the Shabbat during Sukkot we read Ezekiel’s prophecy about the “coming of Gog”. (see Megillah 31a) Rav Hai Gaon, the 10th century Babylonian sage, reported an early tradition about the reason for the selection of these two haftarot. He explained that the “resurrection of the dead” represented by the prophecy of the ”Dry Bones” will occur during Pesach while God’s victory over the evil forces of Gog will occur during Sukkot. (see Tur Orach Hayyim Siman 490)
Ezekiel’s prophecy recounts a future war when a king named Gog, from the kingdom of Magog will assemble an army to attack Israel. God will intercede to save Israel, laying waste to Gog and his armies. God’s victory over these evil forces will cause His name to be exalted and sanctified in the eyes of the nations of the world.
“Thus will I magnify Myself and sanctify Myself and I will make Myself known to the nations and they will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 38:23)
This prophecy was interpreted by Abrabanel, the Spanish statesman and Bible scholar who lived at the time of the Jewish expulsion from Spain, as a prophecy about the ultimate future battle between the two major civilizations which he himself had encountered, Christianity and Islam. It seems to me however dangerous to make such an assessment. A more poignant message of this haftarah may be that God’s name will be exalted when the values that He represents are honored in the world. The misrepresentation of God’s values in the world desecrates God’s name rather than exalts it. Religious people must take great care in making this distinction. Those who have falsely represented God’s teachings have reaped havoc in the world and are guilty of the ultimate idolatry.
Ezekiel’s message that ultimate redemption will bring about the recognition of God’s name in the world, also serves as the basis for the prayer in which Jews both exalt the majesty of God and express their sensitivity to life and peace – the Kaddish. These are values which ultimately exalt God’s name in the world. May God’s name be exalted in justice, human life and dignity and peace during these troubled times.