Ezekiel – Chapter 22

Be a Man

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

G-d spoke to Ezekiel and said that he should judge Jerusalem, which He called a city that spills blood. Ezekiel was to tell them in the Name of G-d that they have made themselves guilty through bloodshed and defiled themselves with their idols; because of their crimes, their time is almost up. G-d will make them a topic of conversation among all the nations, who will discuss how far Israel fell and how they were punished.

The rulers of the people abused their authority and shed innocent blood. Parents were not respected and the poor, widows and orphans were oppressed. Sacrifices were treated disrespectfully and Shabbos was violated. Gossip and slander led to bloodshed and, of course, there was all the idolatry and promiscuity. Incest was committed and the laws of family purity were ignored. The people committed adultery and charged interest and in all other ways forgot about G-d. G-d metaphorically mourns over the evil actions of his people.

Can the people endure all that is about to happen to them, which G-d is going to bring about because of their actions? He has decreed it and it will happen. They will be scattered among the nations and dispersed among many lands until their impurity has dissipated and they will be brought low in the eyes of the world.

G-d spoke again to Ezekiel and told him that the people in Israel had become like the impurities in metal that need to be refined. They are like copper, tin, iron, and lead, rather than the silver they should be. (The comparison of the Jews to a variety of metals is because not all of them had fallen equally far from G-d.) G-d’s anger is the fire and He will purify them as the furnace purifies the silver.

Finally, G-d told Ezekiel to tell the people that Jerusalem is a land that was not purified by rain. (Rashi quotes the Targum to explain that they did not have sufficient merits to protect themselves from punishment.) The false prophets conspire to reassure the people with baseless promises of peace, but they are actually helping to bring about the very destruction that they deny. The Kohanim (priests) were responsible to instruct the people in the ways of Torah, but they neglected to do so. The Kohanim did not distinguish between ritual purity and impurity, as they are supposed to do, and they turned a blind eye to desecrations of Shabbos. The princes of the people are compared to wolves shedding blood for the sake of personal profit. Those false prophets smooth over all of these misdeeds claiming to represent G-d, which they do not. The people of the land rob and oppress, rather than helping the needy among them because there were no leaders to correct their behavior. G-d waited for someone to stand up and “be a man” but no one ever did, so He poured out his anger upon them in payment for their evil deeds. (Compare with Avos 2:5, “in a place where there are no men,” i.e., leaders, “strive to be a man.”)

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