Haftarah: Ezekiel 37 15-28
Ezekiel (prophet) – c.622 BCE – 570 BCE.
The colourful story of Joseph and his brothers reaches its climax in this week’s parsha, VaYigash. The brothers and their father, Jacob, had survived the famine in the land of Canaan but could not survive much longer. For the second time the brothers traveled to Egypt to get food. They went with troubled hearts. They had been warned not to come unless they brought their youngest brother, Benjamin. Their fears of something bad happening to Benjamin were realized when Benjamin was “framed” by Joseph’s attendants.
The beauty/ pathos of the story unfolds from here. Judah stepped forward (VaYigash) and begged for understanding. He poured out his heart, recounting the family history to this great Egyptian before him. Judah hoped that by telling this leader of his father’s frailty the leader may accept Judah as a slave rather than take his youngest brother.
Joseph could carry on the charade no longer. He cleared all the Egyptian attendants from the room. It says, ” And no man stood with him while Yosef made himself known to his brothers. And his voice cried out with weeping, and Egypt heard, and the house of Pharaoh heard.”
Joseph forgave his brothers and the family was reunited. Yaakov/ Israel saw his beloved son and his mourning was alleviated. The brothers and their families traveled to Egypt and settled in Goshen where they lived comfortable lives. This message of reconciliation is echoed in the haftarah.
art by Laya Crust
The haftarah’s message is unity as expressed on two branches. One branch represented the nation of Judah and the other represented Joseph’s lineage. Ezekiel wrote the following phrases onto the branches: “For Judah and for the children of Israel his companions” on one, and “For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and of all the house of Israel his companions” on the other. The background of my painting is made up of significant phrase from Ezekiel’s speech. You can click on the image to enlarge it.
Ezekiel then held the two branches up in front of a gathering of the exiled Jews. He showed that the two groups could be reunited and grow together as one unified nation.
It is interesting how many ways Jews can be looked at in order to create divisions- countries of origin (Moroccan? German? Swiss? Canadian?) or Sepharadi vs Ashkenazi or orthodox/ conservative/ reform/ resconstructionist/ humanist or black kippah vs crocheted kippah vs kippah on an angle or politically right vs politically left.
Just as in the story of Vayigash and in Ezekiel’s pronouncement, we are all B’nei Yisrael- Jews. We can be united and in that way be true to ourselves and stronger as a nation. The haftarah says, “Behold I will take the children of Israel from among the nations…and bring them to their own land.” (v.21). We see it happening today. Jews from all over the world are coming to Israel. But- you don’t have to be Jewish! Come to Israel! Visit! It’s beautiful there.
May we be one people working for peace and improvement of the world.
Enjoy this holiday time,