Haftorah This Week
Welcome to Haftorah This Week, the place where you will find thoughts and
reflections by CLAL faculty and associates on this week's Haftorah.
Ezekiel was the priest, prophet, preacher of the exile in Babylonia. When his people
had all but lost hope in the continuity of the covenant, Ezekiel comforts his people with
the promise of God's forgiveness and return to Zion. Chapter 37 of Ezekiel begins with the
vision of the valley of dry bones and ends with our Haftarah. The contrast is telling.
In the first part of the chapter, the prophet banishes his people's fear that God has
completely abandoned them, that the covenant has been irrevocably broken. He shares his
vision of the resurrection of a dead nation, a battleground of skeletons that limb by
limb, sinew by sinew, are restored to life. In the second half of the chapter, the prophet
is commanded to take two sticks and to write upon them the names Judah and Joseph. In the
Torah portion, Joseph and Judah are reunited after years of estrangement. Ezekiel portrays
the national conflict between the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of
Israel with the biblical struggle for power and influence among the brothers and, in
particular, between Judah and Joseph. The prophet is commanded to join the two sticks,
"that they may be as one in your hand." The ritual of joining the sticks is to
play out the future of the return to Zion.
Thus said the Lord: I am going to take the Israelite people from among the nations
where they have gone, and gather them from every quarter and bring them to their own land.
I will make them a single nation in the land, on the hills of Israel, and one king shall
be king of them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be
divided into two kingdoms.
The juxtaposition of the dramatic revival and return of Israel to its land to the
joining of the northern and southern kingdoms suggests a relationship between the conflict
and the destruction itself. The return to Zion can be founded only upon a renewal of the
brotherhood between the children of Israel. It is not until the second destruction that
the rabbis identify internal conflict as the reason for the calamity. As causeless hatred
led to the destruction, so is it that causeless (unconditional) love and forgiveness
between brothers can restore, rebuild, and even revive.
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