Ezekiel – Chapter 36

Soon Turned Out, Had a Heart of Stone

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

After speaking to the various other nations, Ezekiel is now instructed to address Israel. G-d said that since the enemies of Israel rejoiced in capturing the land, He has a message for them. The other nations looked forward to Israel’s destruction and everybody slandered them. That’s why G-d directed His anger towards Edom and those other nations. G-d reacted with anger over the derogatory treatment Israel received; the other nations will themselves be disgraced. But what of Israel?

Ultimately, the land of Israel will blossom and bear fruit for her exiles, who are about to return. Large numbers will arrive, building up the cities and settling in them. The land will be populated as it formerly was and, in Messianic times, things will be even better than they had been before. The people will return and the land will no longer mourn for her exiled “children.” The world looked upon Israel as a harsh land – the Canaanites were destroyed, and then the Jews – so G-d will see to it that no one else shall be lost there. Other nations will no longer disparage Israel.

G-d spoke again to Ezekiel and said that the Jews had defiled the land with their sins, like a woman is ritually impure at the time of menstruation. (Remember, the relationship between G-d and Israel is described as a marriage and marital relations are not permitted when a woman has her monthly period.) G-d became angry with them because of their violence and idolatry. He punished them accordingly, scattering them throughout the nations. Their presence in other lands was a chillul Hashem, a desecration of G-d’s Name. G-d is redeeming Israel not because they have earned it, but to save His own Name from further desecration. When He brings the Jews back to Israel, it will be a kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of His Name.

G-d will gather the Jews from all the nations and return them to Israel, where He will metaphorically sprinkle them with water and they will be cleansed, like those becoming purified from the ritual impurity of corpse defilement. G-d will give the nation a new heart and a new spirit; He will replace their heart of stone (which is cold and unyielding) with a heart of flesh (which is receptive). G-d will help the people be inclined to walk in His path and do His will. Then, they will dwell on a fertile land where He will be their G-d and they will be His people. They will not know famine or hunger anymore and they will regret their former evil ways.

G-d says that on the day He cleanses the Jews of their sins, repopulates the land and builds up the ruins, the other nations will remark that a once-desolate land has bloomed like the Garden of Eden. As G-d has spoken, so He will do. The people will multiply like the flocks of sheep that would be brought to Jerusalem for the festivals.

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