The navi Yechezkel delivers his words of prophecy to the exiled nation living in Bavel. His prophecies deal with the events that were—or would be—taking place during his time, including the punishments that would befall the enemies of Israel. He also prophesies of “Bayit Shlishi,” the future, eternal, Beit Hamikdash and its service. Understandably, however, he spends time revealing to the nation those sins that caused them to be exiled and a plea for them to return to Hashem.
The special haftarah read this Shabbat deals directly with tuma and tahara, defilement and purification, which is the theme of our maftir reading, the laws of the para aduma. Yechezkel explains to the nation that the return to their land is not a “merit-based” reward but, rather, an act meant to prevent any further desecration of God’s name amongst the nations. The return would have the effect of sanctifying His holy name before the nations of the world and also of reinvigorating the spirit of the Jewish nation. Significantly, the return to the Land of Israel and the ongoing life there would then lead to the purification of the people and an economic resurgence in the land. The prophecy ties in closely to the message of the very next chapter of Sefer Yechezkel, the vision of the dry bones that would be brought back to life with a new spirit infused into them.
And yet, although the haftarah is remembered for its message of purification, it is the other message that is especially moving in this generation. The nevua that reassures us of our return to the land also explains that only once we are back can the complete purification take place. We have seen in our own time the fruition of the predicted economic surge and blossoming of the desert as well as the rebuilding of the once-desolate cities.
We now look forward to the resurgence of our spiritual values, a resurgence that has already begun, so that we will be able to witness the realization of the prophet’s final words v’yad’u ki ani Hashem, the world will know that Hashem is the One God.
By Rabbi Neil N. Winkler
Rabbi Neil Winkler is the rabbi emeritus of the Young Israel of Fort Lee and now lives in Israel.