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Shabbat Hol Hamoed Sukkot 5772

Haftarah Shabbat Hol Hamoed Sukkot
(Ezekiel 38:18-39:16)
October 15, 2011
17 Tishre 5772

The festival of Sukkot is linked in rabbinic consciousness with the ultimate redemption of Israel and the world. The haftarah for Shabbat Hol HoMoed (the intermediate Shabbat during the holiday of Sukkot) reflects this association. It describes the battle with an evil enemy known as Gog who will violently invade the land en masse and then be decisively defeated by God. God’s dramatic victory will be of eschatological proportions. The world will tremble and there will be fire and brimstone (38:19-22). As a result of His victory, God will be universally recognized, as Ezekiel’s prophecy notes: “Thus will I manifest My greatness and holiness (hitgadilti v’hitkadishti), and make Myself known in the sight of the many nations. And they shall know that I am the Lord.” (38:23)

Rabbi Joseph Kara, a younger French contemporary of Rashi, captures the intended message of this verse: “I (God) manifest My greatness in the world with the wonders that I perform against Gog; for when the nations see My heroic strength, they will recognize My status as God and will exalt and sanctify Me, and the nations will know that I am God and there is none else.” In other words, God’s ability to carry out the ultimate redemption will bring about His ultimate recognition.

Alas, since the time of Ezekiel until our day, this ultimate redemption (hopefully in a much less dramatic and violent way) has yet to happen. Belief that God will ultimately redeem the world and will be universally recognized remains in the optimism of our faith. No where is this faith more present than in our recitation of the Kaddish prayer, that opens with the Hebrew words – “Yitgadal v’yitkadash” (Great and exalted) adapted from Ezekiel’s prophecy. It is possible that the recitation of Kaddish as a memorial for the dead was adopted to affirm our faith at a moment when we feel least “redeemed” and by acknowledging our confidence in God’s redemptive power, we retrieve the religious optimism to restore our lives.

This same idea follows us as the seasons move from summer to fall and then to the winter darkness. God’s redemptive power reminds us that even in the winter darkness, spring is still around the corner.

About This Commentary

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.

The United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem offers students of all backgrounds the skills for studying Jewish texts. We are a vibrant, open-minded egalitarian community of committed Jews who learn, practise and grow together. Our goal is to provide students the ability and desire to continue Jewish learning and practice throughout their lives.
Rashei Yeshiva: Rabbi Joel Levy & Dr. Joshua Kulp.
Rabbi Joel Roth, Rosh Yeshiva Emeritus . 

Sponsors – The Conservative Yeshiva would like to thank the following for their generous support of the Haftarah Commentary:

  • Underwriters:  Rabbi Michael and Erica Schwab.
  • Special Friends: Rabbi Ron Androphy, Rabbi Jeffrey and Tami Arnowitz, Rabbi Martin Flax, Rabbi Barry Dov Katz, Rabbi Ben Kramer, Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, Rabbi Robert Pilavin, Rabbi Micah Peltz, Rabbi David Rosen.
  • Friends: Aaron Dworin, Rabbi Robert Eisen, Rabbi Jay Goldstein, Rabbi Rafi Kanter, Rabbi Dennis Linson, Rabbi Mark Mallach, Rabbi Marvin Richardson z”l,  Rabbi Joel Roth, Rabbi Ronald Roth, Rabbi Neil Sandler, Rabbi David C. Seed, Mel F. Seidenberg in honor of his grandchildren and two great grandsons,  Rabbi Ari Sunshine.