Haftarat Vayigash: A United Nation


[Yechezkel 37:15-28]

 

We are a Nation who loves unity and hates dispute.  To our great distress, we have been torn apart by dissention for a long time.  In our Haftarah, the prophet Yechezkel comes to comfort us: "Harmony will return.  The word of Hashem came to me, saying: Now you, son of man, take for yourself one piece of wood and write upon it ‘For Yehudah and for the Children of Israel, his comrades,’ and take one piece of wood and write upon it ‘For Yosef, the Tribe of Ephraim and all the House of Israel, his comrades.'  Bring them close to you, one to the other, like one piece of wood, and they will become united in your hand.  When the children of your people say to you, saying: ‘Will you not tell us what these things are to you,' say to them, ‘Thus said Hashem G-d: Behold, I am taking the wood of Yosef which is in the hand of Ephraim and the tribes of Israel, his comrades, and I am placing them and him together with the wood of Yehudah; and I will make them into one piece of wood, and they will become one in My hand’” (Yechezkel 37:15-19). 

 

The terrible divide between Yosef and his brothers ended after numerous evils.  The father’s beloved son, a young genius who absorbed only theoretical wisdom, inherited his brothers' criticism for himself: "Yosef brought a bad report to their father" (Bereshit 37:2).  Fearing that they would be pushed out, as happened to Yishmael and Esav, the brothers make the horrible decision to assassinate Yosef, but before doing so engage in the lesser evil of selling him into slavery.  We have to admit that love and understanding did not reign in Yaakov's house.

 

As is known, there were continuing disputes during the course of our history between the descendant of Yehudah and the descendant of Ephraim.  After King Shaul's death, the war of inheritance continued to rage between David, a descendant of Yehudah, and the inheritors of Shaul, the descendants of Binyamin.  After King Shlomo's reign, the kingdom split into two Jewish States: the Kingdom of Yehudah and the Kingdom of Israel.

 

The civil wars between these two groups were numerous, and their fundamental fraternity did not prevent blood from flowing.  The Nation of Israel paid dearly for war between Achaz, King of Yehudah, and Pekach ben Remalyahu, King of Israel, in which one hundred and twenty thousand soldiers from Yehudah fell on the cursed battlefield (Divrei Ha-Yamim 2 28:6).  In the end, both kingdoms were exiled, one after the other. 

 

There is room to believe that all of the suffering of the joint exile would bring them closer together, but this is only partially true.  And there is certainly room to expect that the return to Israel would be accompanied by reconciliation, but things are not so simple.  A new dispute appeared between the Secular Zionists and the Ultra-Orthodox, or in the terminology of 120 years ago – the new settlement and the old settlement.  The Zionists worked for the sake of the national revival of the Jewish Nation in its Land, while the Ultra-Orthodox were interested solely in faithful observance to the laws of the Torah.  Intense mutual enmity reigned between the two camps and no less severe was their separation due to of lacking of caring and a big dose of misunderstanding.

 

In his eulogy for Dr. Theodore Herzl, Maran Ha-Rav Kook explained that these two streams are spiritual descendants of Yosef – a man of standing, statesmanship and economic wisdom – and Yehudah – a holy person responsible for the inner treasures of the Nation of Israel.  According to his opinion, a spark of Mashiach ben David (Messiah, descendant of David, who is from the line of Yehudah) is hidden within the Ultra-Orthodox and a spark of Mashiach ben Yosef (Messiah, descendant of Yosef) is hidden within the Zionists (see Sukkah 52a-b for a discussion of the two Messiahs).  The premature death of Theodore Herzl, the great leader of Zionism, contains to some extent the death of Mashiach ben Yosef following his severance from Mashiach ben David.  Maran Ha-Rav Kook emphasized that this dichotomy is a disaster for both camps, and it is essential that everyone work for the sake of national unity.  Detached from religion, the Zionist movement will find itself as a body without a soul.  And Faith without a base in historical reality will turn into a virtual floating in air (Ma'amrei Ha-Re'eiyah, pp. 94-99).  Today we can rejoice because we have progressed in the right direction of bring these ideals together - but much work still remains to be done

 

We now find ourselves in the final battle and we are not so distant from a joyous tomorrow: "And speak to them: Thus said Hashem G-d: Behold, I am taking the Children of Israel from among the nations to which they have gone, and I will gather them from all around and bring them to their soil.  I will make them into a single nation in the Land in the mountains of Israel's hills, and a single king will be king for them all; and they shall no longer be two nations, no longer divided into two kingdoms again" (Yechezkel 37:21-22).