This coming Shabbat, we have a dramatic haftarah reading from Ezekiel 37:1-14. The prophet shares the vision of dry bones coming to life. What does this vision have to do with Passover, our festival of freedom, our deliverance from slavery? The Haftarah Commentary, by Gunther Plaut, offers the following opinion on the connection between Passover and this prophecy: “The connection of the Shabbat of Pesach and the main body of the haftarah (37:1-14) lies in the theme of Israel’s deliverance: in the Torah it is delivered from slavery: in the haftarah, from death.”
The story of Passover is the celebration of the Exodus from Egypt, yet the story is incomplete without a messianic vision. Ezekiel, preaches to his people who are exiled from Israel, after many have been killed in battle; they are given a vision of the return of the dead to Jerusalem and a restored homeland.
Are there other possible connections to Passover?
One interesting connection is that we end our seder with the song “Chad Gadya”, the so-called “children’s song” that follows the chain of violence and death from one goat to God’s striking the Angel of Death. By this time in the seder, most of us are too tipsy, tired, and full to pay attention to the incredible theological message- masquerading as child’s play, sung in Aramaic. Its message of ultimate redemption echoes in the seder and is fully disclosed in Ezekiel’s prophecy of hope and restoration.
But, was Ezekiel’s prophecy meant to be real or a metaphor? Is it really a description of physical resurrection or spiritual resurrection? And how do we moderns-and particularly we Progressive Jews-find meaning in this?
The prayers for the resurrection of the dead were among the first to be excised from classical Reform prayer books. But our more recent Mishkan T’filah has put the prayer back as an alternative reading. Could it be that the last century, with its extraordinary events, reminded us that “resurrection” is possible?
In our haftarah, Ezekiel will send a shiver down your spine: “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost (v’avdah tikvateinu), we are cut off [from life]!” These words, written sometime in the sixth century BCE, resonated in the hearts, minds, and pens of our early Zionist dreamers! The rebirth of Israel is probably the most powerful cultural resurrection of the twentieth century. Ezekiel was right, “I will put My breath into you and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land” (Ezekiel 37:14). Recited century after century, this haftarah has changed from a wistful prayer to a clarion call to action.
Wishing you all a very meaningful Pesach
Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source: Rabbi Naamah Kelman )
A thought on last week’s parasha by Rabbi Yosef Solomon
He shall remove his garments and wear other garments and he shall take out the ashes.” ~ Leviticus 6:4
The first daily Temple-service was the removal of the previous day’s ashes from the Altar. Why did the priest need to change clothes? Sorry budding Kabbalists, no hidden mysticism here and not even a mitzvah! Rather just simple common-sense: since he’s likely to soil his holy garments from the dirty ashes, the priest should change into ‘overalls’. Evidently, certain clothing is unsuitable for specific pursuits. If you dress appropriately for business-meetings or social-functions, why should spiritual ones be any different? The famous proverb “clothes maketh the man” points to the fact that people generally judge others by their external reality. Judaism points in the opposite direction: judge the moment and align your internal reality by dressing accordingly.
Torah Reading Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach
Exodus 33:12-34:26 and Numbers 28:19-25
(Plaut 592; Hertz 362)
Haftarah: Ezekiel 37:1-37:14 (P1465 Hertz 1015)
With the reading, we are reminded of the age-old desire to know God. Moses implores God to let him see God. While God will not allow Moses to see God’s face, God tells Moses, “I will make My goodness pass before you…” Perhaps we experience the divine presence through the goodness we create in the world. The Torah then sets forth the thirteen attributes of God, among them that God is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. By emulating these very attributes, we create the goodness which allows us to know God.