Monday, April 14, 2014

Shabbat Chol haMoed Pesach

Exodus 33:12-34:26 – and Deuteronomy 10:9-12
Haftarah for Chol haMoed Pesach Ezekiel 37:1 – 14

Rabbi Dick Lampert, Emeritus Rabbi, North Shore Temple Emanuel, Chatswood, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Based on the Haftarah for this Shabbat
The Haftarah, the prescribed prophetic reading  for the Shabbat  between the first and last days of Pesach (Shabbat Chol HaMo’ed Pesach), is  one of the most moving prophecies in the Jewish lectionary. Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones is certainly a message which speaks to us today in the 21st Century although it is now about 2,500 years since it was uttered by the prophet.

For those of us who lived through the hell of the 20th Century, and for those who have only lived through that horror vicariously, it is indeed a remarkable prophetic vision.

In this vision, the prophet was taken to a valley strewn with dead bones, ‘very dry‘.
“And the word of God came to him and said, ‘Son of mortal, can these bones live?’ And I (Ezekiel) said, ‘O God, only you know!’” And God says to Ezekiel, “Son of mortal, prophesy to these bones”. And Ezekiel does so, and in response to his prophecy, the bones come together, bone to matching bone, and sinews and skin cover the bones – and God says, “Prophecy to the wind/breath – and the breath entered the reconstituted bodies and they arose and stood on their feet – an exceeding great multitude.”

And God says, “These bones are the whole House of Israel – they have said ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost – we are cut off!’  Say to them “Behold, my people, I will open your graves and will bring you to the land of Israel.” 

These words, uttered some 2,500 years ago, have, before our very eyes, come to reality. I, as a child, can never forget being taken to a cinema in Durban, South Africa, and watched a newsreel of human skeletons walking towards me on the screen – the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. I  ran out screaming. I was fortunate – this was my only experience of the horrors of the Sho’ah – but it has left this lasting impression on me for over 65 years.

Who believed in May 1945 that the graves of the European Jewish community (that is, those that had graves – so many didn’t) could be re-opened and that there could be a resurrection? Or that the ashes of those cremated brothers and sisters of ours, could be gathered from the very air that hung over Europe and reconstituted into living, vital people?

And then, just three years later, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles – Ezekiel’s vision become a reality. The House of Israel, for whom hope had dried up and was lost,  was according to God’s promise, brought back to the Land of  Israel.

That miracle has repeated itself so often in the long and tortuous history of the Jewish people that it has almost become a commonplace And yet each time the dried-up bones have come back to life and the people of Israel lives again. In the words of the Partizanenlied, “Mir zainen doh!” “We are still here!” Af al pi chen – in spite of everything – Here we are!!!

As we face the future – a future filled with the threat of Hamas, Hisb’allah and Ahmedinajad, just to mention a few of the threats we will face in 2010 and onwards - let us remember the moral of the story of the Haftarah for this Shabbat on this Festival our Freedom - AM YISRAEL CHAI - OD AVINU CHAI  - The people of Israel lives – our heavenly Parent yet lives – and the bones and the hopes of our people will spring back to life, as they always have!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Samei’ach!

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