July 15, 2024
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Parshat 

Vayakhel-Pekudei

Shabbat HaChodesh

This Shabbat, we read from two sifrei Torah: in the first Torah we read the parsha itself, and in the second we chant the maftir designated to be read on this Shabbat HaChodesh. As we have mentioned in the past, the rabbis of the Talmud arranged that the haftarah of any Shabbat upon which we read from more than one Torah must connect to the maftir reading. As a result, we read the haftarah taken from the 45th and 46th perakim of Sefer Yechezkel that touches upon the laws of Korban Pesach, which is the theme of the Maftir reading as well.

Upon closer analysis of this selection, however, we realize that the haftarah’s mention of the laws connected to the future Korban Pesach makes up very little of the text. The haftarah includes discussion of those gifts that were to be given to the “nasi” (a disagreement among parshanim as to whether it refers to the kohen gadol or not) as well as the limitations placed on the nasi regarding what he may bequeath to his children and what he may not. But the primary focus of Yechezkel HaNavi’s message is the different rituals that would take place in the future Beit Hamikdash, rituals that include those of the Korban Pesach as well as the details regarding those sacrifices that would be offered on the holiday of Pesach. Yechezkel also details the unique services that would be followed in the Beit Hamikdash on Shabbat and on Rosh Chodesh. He also includes a process of purification of the Temple, a rite that would be followed twice a year, before Pesach and (according to Rav Dovid Tzvi Hoffman) before Rosh Hashanah. Indeed, some of the special sacrifices include offerings that seem to depart from the Torah’s sacrificial laws and are explained by the Rambam (and Malbim) as being sacrifices of Chanukat HaMikdash, consecration of the newly built Holy Temple, and therefore one-time offerings meant to be given for that special time only.

Given the wide range of topics that are covered in this perek, we might be hard-pressed to find an overarching theme that connects them all. However, when taking an overview of the haftarah, we uncover a possible reason that underlies Chazal’s choice of this reading, a thought that highlights a more subtle theme, and that theme ties into this Shabbat, especially this year. The navi presents to us a higher level of ritual observance that would be followed in the future Temple, a level that requires a renewal, a rebirth of our mitzvah observance. These laws presented by Yechezkel remind us that we must purify the Mikdash regularly. We are told that cleansing the Temple, and indeed the Temple service, is not something that is done only once or even only once a year. Rather, we are reminded that it is incumbent upon us to constantly refresh our service to Hashem and regularly cleanse our actions with our fellow men. Only in this way can we hope to retain our position as a “mamlechet kohanim,” a nation of God’s attendants, and a “goy kadosh,” a holy people. We purify our service before the year (both Nisan and Tishrei), before each Rosh Chodesh and even before each Shabbat.

It is precisely this idea, that our relationship with Hashem requires regular rejuvenation—even every new month and new week—that makes this haftarah so relevant to this Shabbat, the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh Nisan, a confluence of different “beginnings”: the beginning of the new week, of the new month and of the new year.

It is precisely this triple renewal that we mark this week. And it reminds us never to allow our relationship to turn stale and never to take it for granted. As the love between a husband and wife, we too must keep our connection to God fresh and exciting. So when we sit around our Seder table and re-enact the Paschal sacrifice of so long ago, we will remember that we are also reliving the very beginning of our relationship with Hashem when we sat around a table and partook of the Korban Pesach in Egypt.


Rabbi Neil Winkler is the rabbi emeritus of the Young Israel of Fort Lee and now lives in Israel.

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