|April 3, 2010
Chol Haomed Pesach - Intermediate Sabbath of Passover
This haftarah is specifically referred to and linked to this Shabbat through a reference in a volume of the Babylonian Talmud called Megillah. It can be read as a message of hope to a people who have been exiled, deported and witnessed their central religious institution being destroyed. It can be dated sometime after the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C.E. and through a vision of the resurrection of dry bones offers comfort and hope of spiritual and physical rebirth to a vanquished and vastly diminished population.
Most of us have never been taught that the exile and deportation occurred in two phases. The first phase took place in 597 when Ezekiel and upper classes were uprooted and transported to Babylon. The second phase was immediately following 586 and was involved much greater numbers.
A number of possible reasons for this haftarah's selection for the intermediate Sabbath of Passover exist and the one that resonates with me connects the haftarah to the Song of Songs through the theme of Spring, planting and rebirth. The concept of physical and spiritual rebirth appears in many cultures. It is present on the first day of Passover when we recite the prayer for dew; because dew is associated with both fertility and rebirth. On the night before we had placed an egg and green vegetable on the Passover table to demonstrate a similar symbolic value and finally during the service on the seventh day of Passover or in our case the intermediate Sabbath, the Song of Songs, a love song reminds us once again of fertility and rebirth. Why are we always thinking about sex?
In the Christian world Ezekiel's vision in interpreted differently. Like Isaiah 6, 9 and 52, or Daniel Chapter 9, this morning's haftarah symbolizes for religious Christians the reality of the resurrection and serves as a precursor to he who will return from the dead and revive the dead at the end of time. A vision of National rebirth has been re-interpreted in a new and different context.
Finally, what message can this morning's haftarah transmit to us? Could it be that even dried bones can be injected with new hope and withered love revived? Could be that even in our darkest hour the possibility exists for us to find new light, new hope and new strength. Could it be that relationships must be seeded and nurtured if we hope to keep them fertile? Could it be……?
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.