July 24, 2024
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The special haftarah read this week, Shemini parshat Parah, is a selection taken from sefer Yechezkel where the navi delivers his words of prophecy to the exiled nation living in Bavel. These 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 prophesize 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.

This haftarah deals directly with tumah and tahara, defilement and purification, which is the theme of our maftir reading, the laws of the purifying waters of the parah adumah. But rather than dwell upon the corruption and the immorality of the nation, Yechezkel explains to the nation that their misdeeds and sinfulness would not keep them from returning to their land. Rather, he proclaims, this very act of contamination would lead Hashem to eventually return them to Eretz Yisrael. The navi explains that, although Israel had “contaminated” the pure and holy land, their return to their land would not be a “merit-based” reward but, rather, an act meant to prevent any further desecration of God’s name amongst the nations. The return, he continues, would have the effect of sanctifying His holy name that they had defiled in the galut, glorifying God in the eyes of the nations of the world. Furthermore, the return would also have the effect of reinvigorating the spirit of the downtrodden Jewish nation. Significantly, the return to the Land of Israel and the revival of life there would lead to the purification of the people and an economic resurgence in the land. This 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 for our generation. The nevua that teaches 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 an ongoing return to the land accompanied by the predicted economic surge, the 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, the only God.

By Rabbi Neil N. Winkler

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