From Slavery to Freedom

Shabbat Pesach

Then He said to me, “Human being! These bones are the whole house of Israel; and they are saying, ‘Our bones have dried up, our hope is gone, and we are completely cut off.’ Therefore prophesy…then you will know that I am HaShem – when I have opened your graves and made you get up out of your graves, my people! I will put my Spirit in you; and you will be alive. Then I will place you in your own land; and you will know that I, HaShem, have spoken, and that I have done it, says HaShem. (Ezekiel 37: 11-14)

This portion was specifically chosen by the rabbis to be the Haftarah reading for Shabbat Pesach. With other more direct allusions to Passover existent in the Biblical text, the choice of this specific portion does seem to be a bit odd. So what is the connection between this week’s Haftarah reading and Passover?

With a careful re-reading of the text one quickly notices familiar themes of redemption, renewal, and the ultimate promise to bring the Jewish people back to our Promised Land. These themes are echoed in numerous passages from the Torah in relation to the Exodus from Egypt.

Therefore, say to the people of Israel: “I am HaShem. I will free you from the forced labor of the Egyptians, rescue you from their oppression, and redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as my people, and I will be your G-d. Then you will know that I am HaShem, who freed you from the forced labor of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Exodus 6:6-8a)

While in Egypt, the people of Israel were like the dry bones mentioned in Ezekiel – dried up, without hope, and feeling cut off – slaves to Pharaoh – and slaves to death. But G-d spoke to Moshe, like he did through Ezekiel, and reassured Israel that He would remember us and restore us. HaShem commanded both Moshe and Ezekiel to prophesy Hope and Redemption to the Jewish People and to assure them that He would bring us out of captivity and death, and into the Promised Land. For by doing so, we would know as a people that HaShem is our G-d.

Like the Exodus from Egypt, the Dry Bones will experience an Exodus from despair and the valley of death, which is Galut – Exile. We are still in Exile. We are still often enslaved to a different sort of pharaoh. It is not difficult to look at the state of many of our Jewish people today and see dry bones, like Ezekiel’s vision, dried up, without hope, and completely cut off. Many of us have opted for other spiritual avenues or no spiritual connection at all. But G-d promises this will not always be the case.

Let this year be the beginning of our own personal redemptions. Every year we are supposed to celebrate Passover as though we ourselves are personally being delivered from slavery. And although we may not be literally slaves, we are all physically or spiritually bound and enslaved to something. So let us take “our staff in hand” as the Torah tells us, eat the Passover meal, and experience a new hope of redemption. A redemption that has been brought about through the atoning work of the ultimate Passover sacrifice – Yeshua the Messiah.

Chag Sameach!

About Rabbi Joshua

I'm a Rabbi, writer, thinker, mountain biker, father and husband ... not necessarily in that order. According to my wife, however, I'm just a big nerd. I have degrees in dead languages and ancient stuff. I have studied in various Jewish institutions, including an Orthodox yeshiva in Europe. I get in trouble for making friends with perfect strangers, and for standing on chairs to sing during Shabbos dinner. In addition to being the Senior Rabbi of Simchat Yisrael Messianic Synagogue in West Haven, CT, I write regularly for several publications and speak widely in congregations and conferences. My wife is a Southern-fried Jewish Beltway bandit and a smokin' hot human rights attorney... and please don’t take offense if I dump Tabasco sauce on your cooking.
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3 Responses to From Slavery to Freedom

  1. Russ Resnik says:

    Shalom Reb Yosh, thanks for the d’rash.

    When we studied this passage in our early morning Torah study this morning, one of the guys brought up another great parallel with Passover. In the Dry Bones passage, Hashem tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the ruach to breathe into the bones, so Ezekiel is instrumental in bringing the bones to life, even though only Hashem ultimately can do that. In the Exodus, at Yam Suf, Hashem says to Moses, “Why are you crying to me? Lift up your rod and divide the sea!” (Ex. 14:15-16). Moses is instrumental in splitting the sea and delivering Israel, even though ultimately only Hashem can do that. To me it’s a reminder that only Hashem could redeem us from Egypt, but it’s up to us to remember and observe and keep the festival of redemption alive from generation to generation.

  2. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Rabbi Russ,

    Great observation. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Pingback: Pesach: It Was For Freedom He Has Set Us Free | From Bondage To Liberty, Torah Plus Chen (Grace) | para-DOX parABLEs

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