Passover- Intermediate Shabbat

Pesach Shabbat sig

Ezekiel 37 : 1-14

Ezekiel- A prophet among the Israelites exiled to Babylon. He prophesied there from about 592 – 572 BCE.

Did you ever hear the gospel song, “Them bones, them bones, them dry bones…”? That gospel song was written based on this Shabbat’s haftarah.

Ezekiel the prophet recounts that he was lifted up by God and placed in the middle of a valley full of bones. Ezekiel and the Lord have a conversation in which God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones and then God will fill them with the breath of life. That is indeed what happens. Ezekiel prophesies and he hears noise and rattling. The bones come together and become covered with sinew and flesh. Then breath comes from the four winds and the bodies rise up and live . God tells these resuscitated people that  He will put His spirit in them and they will live in their own land. The bones represent “the house of Israel” and when they are ready God will bring them back to Israel.  He says, “And I will put my spirit in you, and you shall live.”

The painting at the top of the page (if you click on it , it will enlarge) is based on a fresco painting from the Dura Europas Synagogue. It shows Ezekiel at the Valley of the Dry Bones, in time lapse illustration (is time lapse a new or an ancient concept?) being carried by the hand of God. The Eastern looking Ezekiel with flowing curly hair is wearing embroidered crimson robes and deep green trousers. All the hands, faces, and bones shown in the painting really illustrate the scene presented to Ezekiel the prophet.

The painting is one of many found in Dura Europas, Syria. It was a small trading city in eastern Syria near the Euphrates River. The ancient synagogue was completed around 244 BCE, and its walls were covered by incredible frescoes or tempera paintings that illustrated stories from the Torah, the Prophets, and other books of the bible. The paintings were discovered during archaeological excavations in 1932. 58 paintings were found, and it is believed that originally about 100 Biblical scenes were painted on the walls.

Doura Europos synagogue courtyard.jpg  

The frescoes are wonderful.  It’s always fascinating to see the depictions of biblical figures wearing clothing and using objects specific to an ancient time we aren’t familiar with.

This particular story is appropriate for a Passover reading. In the story of the Exodus the children of Israel walk through the desert and God takes them to their own land- the Land of Israel. In Ezekiel chapter 37 God tells the people whom He has revived that He will take them to the Land of Israel.

It makes one think of other such parallel stories from throughout our difficult Jewish history.

Back to “Them bones, them bones, them dry bones… If you like old gospel songs and good harmony check out some of the renditions on youtube.

And have a Happy Pesach.

Remember to share this post with your friends, relatives and students!

And have a Happy Pesach.ers.


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6 responses to “Passover- Intermediate Shabbat

  1. Marjorie Gann

    It struck me as so sad that there was obviously once a vibrant community of Jews in Syria who could decorate their synagogues with beautiful frescoes, and now there are none. And, of course, that now, two millennia later, Syria is a land of destruction, not creation. They will need God’s help to revive their dry, and living, bones today. Thank you, Laya, for alerting us to what was once there in Dura Europas. Marjorie Gann

    • Thank you, Margie, for your comments. The beauty and culture of Syrian Jewry lives on in Israel and other parts of the world, but it’s tragic that the Jews couldn’t live there in safety and peace. And of course now…what is there to say?

  2. Debra

    Wonderful!  Made me think/worry if the frescoes have survived the latest onslaught in Syria. Hope your Seders were lovely.  

    Shabbat Shalom,



    This week’s column — Mom’s 10 Commandments, A One-Act Play   Check out this month’s Dear Debra advice column.


  3. Paul Kay

    The painting strikes me as resembling a scene from modern-day Syria’s war. Plus ca change plus c’est le meme chose — at least in outward appearances. On a happier note, I’m enjoying your posts and creativity. Moadim le-simcha and Shabbat shalom.

    Paul Kay sent from my iPhone


    • You are right ,
      Paul. It’s always fascinating to me to read these haftarot, look at imagery that relates from another period in history, and then look at the world today. It all comes around again. Chag Sameach.

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