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 1:1-28, 3:12)
We are so irrevocably grounded in a
reality of scientific method, of replicable experiments and experiences, that the visions
of prophets have no place for us. We are
trained to find facts that can be methodically described, calibrated and analyzed --
visionaries who see angels and winged four headed animals are either believers in some
other religion, under the influence or psychotic. Yet
in the heart of the Bible explode the words of the prophet Ezekiel, whose encounters with
God and God's agents draw us into a world we could little imagine or fathom: "...The heaven opened up and I saw visions of
God" (Ezekiel 1:1).
What does it mean to experience God in a
physical way, to see the heavens filled with angels, to stand at the celestial throne
saturated with the Divine spirit? Ezekiel
allows us to enter different gates, to know that the path of Judaism is not only law or
ethics or history, but an encounter with the Divine presence, and celestial beings can
enter and sear the soul.
As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like coals of
fire, burning like the appearance of torches; it flashed up and down among the living
creatures; and there was brightness to the fire, and out of the fire went forth lightning.
The vision does not end with divine
beings, but focuses on God's physical presence. The
rabbis of the Talmud, deeply disturbed by such anthropomorphics, seek to suppress this
description of God:
Above the firmament...was the likeness of a throne...and upon (it) was the
appearance of a man. And from the loins
upward I saw the color of electrum, like fire.... And
from the loins and downward I saw fires and brightness around him. (Ezekiel 1:26-27)
God is physical. Ezekiel's gaze seems to be on God as a fully
carnal Being. This is no sweet spiritual
encounter; Ezekiel provides us with a powerful, physical, sexually imminent God. In Ezekiel, that which is strangest to our notions
must also find a home in our Jewish psyches.
In an age where truths must be sought and
found beyond the laboratory and the academic settings, the sheer eccentric craziness of
Ezekiel's vision jars the complacencies of the intellect and refreshes the soul.
Then a spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me the voice of a great rushing: 'Blessed be the glory of the Lord from his place.' (Ezekiel 3:12)
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