|May 1, 2010
Zadok: The Zadokites were a line of priests who served in Jerusalem. Zadok originally served as a bearer for the Ark of David. According to the book of Kings he supported King Solomon in the war for succession. Biblical genealogies inform us that the priests of the Zadokite line served in Second Temple times up to the Hasmonean rebellion.
At the time when our ancestors were deciding what books should be included in the Prophetic Canon the book of Ezekiel was a hot topic. The Talmud informs us a number of people desired to have it excluded from the Canon because of the unusual mystical nature of its first chapter which describes Ezekiel's vision of a heavenly chariot. Those familiar with early American folk songs will recall a musical interpretation of this chapter in the spiritual “Ezekiel saw the wheel.”
The Talmud also informs us that a number of people wished to have it excluded from the Canon because Ezekiel's vision of the Priesthood differed so radically from the version found in the book of Leviticus. This morning's haftarah was written fourteen years after the Temple's destruction in 572 B.C. E. It substitutes the Zadokites for the Cohanim and gives them exclusive rights in the Sanctuary. All other priests were accorded secondary responsibilities. If you wish to compare the two views of priestly responsibility compare this haftarah with Leviticus 10:9-11 and Leviticus 10: 21-22. Some commentators explain the elevation of the Zadokites over the others as a reaction to the priestly corruption that existed
On the other hand Ezekiel is sensitive to the people in office. This is worth remembering. He instructs the priests not to defile themselves through contact with the dead while at the same time recognizing that exceptions are called for in certain family situations. Ezekiel understood that family matters should take precedence over public situations. This reflects, at least in my eyes, a basic Jewish value.
Today of course the priests retain at most symbolic status but public officials and people in positions of responsibility often violate a professional or a public trust and place professional status and gain over family and personal responsibly. More often than not we hear stories about public figures with troubled families. One wonders if the drive for personal success takes too much precedence. It is so easy to lose one's spiritual balance.
One of my teachers, the late Rabbi Irwin Zimet, once told me, “that the one thing he had never heard anyone ever say was that he regretted not spending enough time in the office.”
Our ancestors could have selected this haftarah for this morning's reading for more than historical reasons. They too, were sensitive how easy it was for public figures to become corrupted and to abuse their positions of authority and responsibility. Perhaps they selected this haftarah to challenge them and to challenge those who would follow to remember this message and to behave differently. Perhaps they wished us to consider ourselves a member of a “nation of priests” and to allow the mantle of priesthood to rest upon each of our shoulders. The manner in which we conduct our professional lives and the balance we create between work and the time we devote to our loved ones, can be easily be disrupted. This morning's haftarah helps us to remember that not to forget it.
This week's Haftarah commentary was written by
Rabbi Charles Simon,
Executive Director of the FJMC and author of
"Building A Successful Volunteer Culture: Finding Meaning in Service in the Jewish"
Jewish Lights Publishing.
Translation of the Haftarah may be found here: http://www.jtsa.edu/PreBuilt/ParashahArchives/jpstext/
The FJMC weekly haftarah commentary is one of the few haftarah commentaries available on line. The USCJ through its Fuchsberg Center in Jerusalem has also been posting a weekly haftarah commentary for a number of years. We highly recommend it. If you are interested you can find a link on the left side of our weekly commentary and click through.
In 2003 the FJMC commissioned a Sefer Haftarah, a scroll consisting of all the Haftarot which follows the Haftarah order that appears in the USCJ and Rabbinical Assembly Torah translation and commentary Etz Hayim. The FJMC Sefer Haftarah visits a different synagogue in North America every week.This scroll contains vowels and cantillation and allows the haftarah reader to experience the Haftarah in a more personal way. FJMC also produces individual personalized Haftarot for those who wish to recognize a special occasion. Scrolls of Haftarot have been in use since the early middle ages.