Ezekiel – Chapter 3

Tel Aviv

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

G-d told Ezekiel to eat the scroll, which he did, finding it as sweet as honey. (He either literally ate the scroll, or perhaps he did so metaphorically, the way we “devour” a book.) G-d then charged Ezekiel with his mission, to go to the people of Israel and to speak to them. Ezekiel was intimately familiar with his mission, which he had “consumed,” and the people would understand his language, so if they do not respond, the problem would not be one of communication. They simply do not want to listen, because they are stubborn and rebellious.

G-d says He will set Ezekiel against Israel, “head to head.” But Ezekiel’s head will be like the shamir, the worm that, according to legend, cut the stones used in building the Temple. Ezekiel was not to fear, but to take G-d’s words to heart and speak to the exiles, whether or not they listen.

A wind then lifted Ezekiel and he heard a great sound: the angels calling out, “Baruch k’vod Hashem mim’komo” – Blessed be the glory of G-d from His place.” (If this sounds familiar, it’s because we say it in U’va L’Tziyon during Shacharis, as well as in V’Atah Kadosh following Shabbos.) He also heard the sounds of the wings of the chayos, the sounds of the ofanim, and other great noises. The wind carried Ezekiel, who was in bitter spirits over having to chastise his people. The “hand” of G-d came upon Ezekiel and he found himself among the exiles in Tel Aviv. (This is not the same as the modern city of Tel Aviv. The modern-day Tel Aviv got its name from the Hebrew title of Theodor Herzl’s book Altneuland; the translator got it from here.) Ezekiel sat silently among the exiles for a full week, awaiting instructions.

After seven days, G-d spoke to Ezekiel and told him that He had appointed him to speak to the Jewish people on His behalf. When G-d says that the evil ones will die, it is Ezekiel’s job to warn them. If he doesn’t, then he will be held responsible for the deaths of the wicked (see Leviticus 19:16, the commandment not to stand idly by when someone’s life is in danger). If Ezekiel warns the evil people but they refuse to listen, it will not be considered his fault.

When a righteous person sins, G-d will arrange his death. If Ezekiel does not warn such a person, he will be held responsible. If Ezekiel warns the righteous man and prevents the sin, he will have saved that man’s life – and his own soul from being responsible for an avoidable death.

G-d told Ezekiel to get up and leave the valley where he was. He did, and he saw another vision of G-d’s glory. Once again, he threw himself on his face. A spirit stood Ezekiel up and G-d spoke to him. G-d told Ezekiel to lock himself in his house and to put on ropes. G-d would make Ezekiel unable to speak, so that he would not at this time chastise the people. Later, G-d would unseal Ezekiel’s mouth and he would tell the people that some will listen and some will refrain, because they are a disobedient people.

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