The Pre-Requisite of Unity for Redemption
Yechezkel 37: 15-28Some general background on the "Haftarot"
Who was Yechezkel?
According to "Seder Olam Rabbah," an important source for the dating of events in Jewish History, Yechezkel was a contemporary of the Prophets Tzephaniah, Yirmiyahu and Uriah, and they all prophesied around the time of the Destruction of the First Beit HaMikdash and the Babylonian Exile. According to the Talmud (Bava Batra 14:), Yechezkel was the son of Yirmiyahu, but he was called "ben Buzi," "son of the insulted one," because the Jewish People foolishly didnt listen to Jeremiah but insulted and abused him.
Yechezkels special mission was to raise the spirit of the Jewish People in Babylon, where they tasted their first bitter taste of Exile. The Zohar, cited by Y. Y. Chasida, in his "Otzar Ishei HaTanach," a compendium of information about Biblical personalities, says of Yechezkels famous Vision of the Divine Chariot, the "Maaseh Merkavah," the following:
"The Prophet Yechezkel was trustworthy, and everything that he saw was true, and it was with the permission of the Holy One, Blessed be He, that he revealed everything that he saw, and all of it was necessary. For when he would tell his fellow Jews that 'your Master and all of His Hosts have come to live with you in the Exile,' they didnt believe him, until he was forced to reveal everything that he saw. "I saw this and I saw this; once the Jewish People saw this, they rejoiced. And when they heard those things coming from he mouth of Yechezkel, they didnt feel their Exile at all, for they knew that the Holy One, Blessed be He, had not abandoned them, and the Divine Presence was with them in Exile."
An Explanation of the Haftarah
Yechezkel is commanded by Hashem to take one stick and to write on it "For Yehudah and all the Children of Israel his friends," and to take another stick and to write upon it "For Yoseph the Tree of Ephraim, and all the House of Israel his friends." Then he is to bring the sticks together, until they become one.
When the People would ask him the meaning of this symbolic act, he is to say that G-d will re-unite the Kingdom of Yehudah, the Tribes of Yehudah and Binyamin, and the Kingdom of Israel, the Ten Lost Tribes. And that Hashem will gather the Jewish People from all the Lands of their Exile and bring them to the Land of Israel, and make them one united nation. David would be their King again, and they would observe the commandments of the Torah.
Hashem would make a Covenant of Peace with them, and He would restore the Holy Temple. His Divine Presence would return to them; He would be their G-d, and they would again be His People. And all the nations of the world would know that it is Hashem Who makes His People holy, by virtue of the fact that His Temple was established among them forever.
A Link to the Parshah
A clear link to the Parshah is that just as in Parshat VaYigash, Yoseph is reconciled to his brothers, led by Yehudah, and their family is thereby re-united, so would, in the Period of the Redemption of Israel, at the "End of Days," the Kingdoms of Yehudah and of Ephraim be reconciled to each other. First of the "Anointed Ones" to appear in History would be "Mashiach ben Yosef" who, according to Jewish Tradition, precedes "Mashiach ben David." Afterwards, the Family of Israel would be re-united in Jerusalem under the rule of "Mashiach ben David."
A contrast between the two estrangements is pointed out by Rabbi Y. Yaakovson in his "Chazon HaMikra." Most commentators agree that in the case of Yoseph and his brothers, there was a very clear element of guilt, though the emotion which motivated the crime of selling Yoseph into slavery, sibling rivalry aggravated over and over again, was quite understandable. It would seem that Yehudah rises to the occasion, in his dramatic confrontation with Yoseph, offering to substitute himself for Binyamin, to fulfill his sacred vow to his father, and performs complete "Teshuvah," or Repentance. (And yet, even so, in the Prayers of Yom Kippur, we find an elegy for the Ten Martyrs, which clearly implies that their martyrdom was required to expiate the crime of the brothers).
On the other hand, the break between the Kingdom of Yehudah and the Kingdom of Ephraim arose out of an economic and political disagreement, at first potentially solvable by negotiation, until the fire of conflict was fanned by a "great" sinner who had the potential to be a great man, Yeravam ben Nevat, the first King of Ephraim. It was allowed to simmer and fester, and convert "brothers" into "enemies."
It was a manifestation of "Sinat Chinam," Hatred Without a Cause, which would become endemic in Jewish Life and, according to the Talmud in Gittin, cause the Destruction of the Second Temple, and our Exile from our Land, the historical phenomenon which only began to be lifted with the establishment of the State of Israel a half-century ago.
Rabbi Yaakovson also cites a disagreement in Masechet Sanhedrin between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Eliezer as to whether the Ten Tribes will come back. Rabbi Akiva is of the opinion that they will never return. What would this Prophecy of Yechezkel then mean, according to Rabbi Akiva?
We are forced to say that Rabbi Akiva had a more global, more universal view of the re-unification of the People of Israel; namely, that the Destiny of Israel must be to re-unite in order to merit the Coming of the Mashiach and the Restoration of the Temple.
All forms of "Sinat Chinam" would have to be uprooted, for that was the Cause of the Destruction of the Second Temple; and it may have been responsible for the failure of Rabbi Akiva's and Bar Kochbas attempt to create the Kingdom of Mashiach, for the Talmud says that the reason for the death of the 24,000 student-followers of Rabbi Akiva was that they spoke ill of each other. But Hashem would help us with this difficult task by making a Covenant of Peace with us and within us.
Rabbi Moshe Weissman, in his work, "The Midrash Says on The Weekly Haftaros," asks what is the necessity of Hashem promising, in verse 37:27, to restore His Divine Presence - has He not already in verse 37:26 promised that he would restore the Temple to the Jewish People forever! He answers, with the Abarbanel, that the existence of the Temple does not necessarily imply that the Divine Presence is also there. For the Second Temple stood for hundreds of years and was a Spiritual Center for the Jewish People without the full Divine Presence.
The Jewish People is today split and polarized in many, many ways, in clear violation of the ideal description of our national character at its best, "Behold how good and how pleasant is the dwelling of brothers together!" May Hashem come speedily to our aid and fulfill the verse in which He promises "And I will make a covenant of peace with them," (Yechezkel 37:26) so that peace will be within us, and we will be able to embrace our brothers with love, and work hand-in-hand to reconcile our differences.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU