Inauguration of the Third
Introduction to the Haftarah
"Shabbat HaChodesh" is the fourth and final one of the special Shabbatot whose readings from the Torah and the Prophets were chosen by CHAZAL to be read in the Purim-Pesach timeframe. On this Shabbat we read as the Maftir the section from Shemot beginning "This month is for you ," (Shemot, 12:1-20), with the associated Haftarah taken from Yechezkel, Chapters 45 and 46, describing the inauguration of the "Bayit Shelishi," the Third Temple, to be built by the Mashiach.
The text of the Haftarah used by the Ashkenazim is very similar to that used by the Sefardim. Ashkenazic communities read from Yechezkel 45:16 through Yechezkel 46:18, while Sefardic communities read from Yechezkel 45:18 through Yechezkel 46:15.
This Prophecy of Yechezkel, the Prophet who was with the Jewish People in their Exile in Babylonia, must have brought comfort to those "unable to sing the song of Hashem in a foreign land," (Tehilim/Psalms 137) because it spoke of the ultimate redemption of the Jewish People.
Outline of the Haftarah
Obligation of the "Nasi" (meaning of term to be discussed below) to bring the Burnt Offerings, Grain Offerings and Drink Offerings on the Holidays, the Beginnings of New Months, and on each Shabbat. On each such occasion, he is required to bring the various sacrifices to atone for the House of Israel.
Putting of blood of a bullock upon the door-posts of the Temple and upon the four corners of the Altar, and upon the posts of the Gate of the Inner Court so shall you make atonement for the Temple.
The "Nasi" shall prepare the sacrifices of Pesach in the First Month and of Sukkot in the Seventh Month. He shall use a bullock for a Sin-Offering on the fourteenth day, a burnt offering of seven bullocks and seven rams on each of the seven days, and a he-goat daily for a Sin-Offering.
The Gate of the Inner Court facing East shall be shut the six working days, but on Shabbat, it shall be opened, and on the day of Rosh Chodesh, it shall be opened. (see diagram on Page 393 of "The Midrash Says on the WEEKLY HAFTAROS" by Rabbi Moshe Weissman; Bnei Yaakov Publications)
The "Nasi" shall enter by way of the Outer Porch of that Gate. The priests shall bring his offerings while he prostrates himself. After he leaves by the Gate, the People shall come and worship in the same manner.
On the holidays, the "Nasi" shall enter the Northern Gate and exit the Southern with the People (because of the principle "With the multitude of People is Greater Glory for the King") or enter the Southern and exit the Northern.
He shall bring a Grain-Offering and he may donate a Peace-Offering.
A Daily Offering shall be brought each morning. (see or click (if you're impatient) for later for significance of this)
The "Nasi" may give a present to his sons of his property, and it will remain with them in perpetuity (forever). But if he gives a present from his property to another member of his entourage, it should return to him at the "Yovel," (the Jubilee Year), when transferred property in Eretz Yisrael is returned to its original owner.
But the "Nasi" may not give of the property of his servants to his children; rather, only from his own, in order that My People shall not be scattered again from their inheritance!
Discussion of the Haftarah
It should be noted that this term appears in the Torah as well, in Parshat Vayikra (the first Parshah in Sefer) Vayikra 4:22, "When a ruler sins (by accident - PF)." There the term is translated "leader" or "ruler." These translations seem to be consistent with RASHI's comment there on the term "Asher," as in "Asher Nasi Yecheta," where he says that the meaning is "fortunate." Because "fortunate is the generation whose leader cares enough to bring a sacrifice on his accidental sins; how much more would he regret and repent for his purposeful sins! There the term seems to signify any kind of leader: a Judge, a Prophet or a King.
However, somewhat inconsistently, RASHI on verse Yechezkel 45:16, where the verse mentions "Nasi," says "I believe that this "Nasi" is speaking of the "Kohen Gadol," the High Priest, and likewise all references to the "Nasi" here in Yechezkel. This accords well with the description in Parshat Shemini of the Inaugural of the Mishkan, where Aharon, the High Priest, took the leading role, as it says there (Vayikra 9:7-8), "And Moshe said to Aharon, 'Approach the altar and perform the service of the Sin-Offering and the Burnt-Offering and atone for yourself and the House of Israel.' "
A difficulty with this interpretation is, "Why didn't Yechezkel say "Kohen Gadol" if that was what he meant, rather than "Nasi?" A possible answer is that perhaps the punishment received by Moshe, according to CHAZAL, for his stubbornness at the Burning Bush, when he refused initially to accept Hashem's Mission of taking the People of Israel out of slavery by himself; namely, the loss of the priesthood to Aharon, because Moshe was originally supposed to have been the Ruler and the Priest, will be rescinded in the time of the Mashiach. Then, while the priesthood will not be taken away from the descendants of Aharon, but the descendants of David, who will be the rulers, may also be able to officiate in the Temple. (?)
RASHI himself alludes to the other interpretation, when he says, "I heard in the name of Menachem (Ibn Seruk - a great grammarian and commentator on the Bible) that the meaning of 'Nasi' is King."
In that case, the King at the time of the Inauguration of the Third Temple would be none other than the Mashiach himself! Which leads to the same question posed above, from the opposite side, "If Yechezkel meant the Mashiach, certainly a special personage in Jewish History and deserving of mention, why didn't he say so?"
This is one of the most striking aspects of this Haftarah. Rav Yissachar Yaakovson in "Chazon HaMikra," published by Sinai - Tel Aviv, cites a list of six questions formulated by Don Yitzchak Abarbanel (1437-1508), together with Abarbanel's answer to them.
The Six Questions
With regard to the above questions, the Sages in the Talmud (Tractate Menachot 45a) had great difficulty to the point where Rabbi Yochanan said that we would have to wait for Eliyahu HaNavi to explain the deviations, as the Talmud occasionally falls back upon Eliyahu when it says "Taiku," "Tishbi Yetaretz Kushyot Ubaayot!" (Elijah the Tishbite will answer the questions and difficulties we are unable to answer).
R' Chisda said in the name of Rav (Tractate Shabbat 13b) that the Sages wanted to be "gonez," to hide, and not include in the sacred canon the Book of Yechezkel because of these deviations from the Torah. Were it not for the individual named Chananiah ben Chizkiah ben Goron who should be remembered for good, because he took a large quantity of oil with him up to his attic and worked on these discrepancies until he had resolved them all! But, because of our sins, we lost his solutions.
Among the Bible commentators, RADAK also says that "We have no choice, but to say that there will occur a change in the Law of the Torah in Messianic Times!"
Abarbanel and Malbim, though, are less nervous. They point out that these deviations are connected with Inaugural Sacrifices, in this case, that of the Third Temple, a long period, from Pesach till Sukkot. But every Inaugural - the Mishkan, the First Temple and the Second Temple, had unique features. The Sacrifices discussed by Yechezkel are the Inaugural Sacrifices; it is quite possible that they will be performed in addition to the regular Sacrifices.
And in this case, there will also be a good reason to extend the Inaugural Period from Pesach to Sukkot, because Pesach will be the beginning of the "Geulah," the Salvation, while the War of Gog and Magog, the war that is to precede the Final Redemption, is prophesied to occur on Sukkot.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU