The haftarah selection is from Ezekiel 37:1-14.
On the Shabbat of Hol Hamoed Passover we read a famous excerpt from the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel explains that the hand of God picked him up and deposited him in a valley full of dry bones. God asks Ezekiel if the bones can ever live again, and Ezekiel replies that only God can truly know.
Then God commands Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones, telling them that God will cause them to breathe again. God will lay tendons on the bones, and flesh over that. He will breathe breath back into them. They then will live again and know that God is the Lord.
Ezekiel does as God commands, and as he is speaking the bones begin to rise up and fit back together, rattling as they rejoin each other. Tendons grow on the bones and flesh comes over that, but there is no breath in them.
God says to Ezekiel, “O mortal! Say to the breath: ‘Thus said the Lord God: Come, O breath, from the four winds, and breathe into these slain that they may live again.’” (37:9) Ezekiel does as he is told, and the bodies come to life and stand before him, a vast multitude.
God then explains to Ezekiel that the bones represent the whole House of Israel. In exile, they have dried up and lost hope. Ezekiel is commanded to tell the people that God will lift them out of their spiritual graves and bring them to the land of Israel. He will breathe life back into them, by putting them back on their own land. Then the people will know that God has done as He promised.
Connection to Passover
On Passover, we retell and celebrate the story of Israel’s redemption from slavery in Egypt. Thematically, Ezekiel’s prophecy is similar, insofar as it promises another redemption. This time it is from exile and uses imagery of revival and a second chance at life.
The juxtaposition of Ezekiel’s dry bones vision with Passover offers a message of hope: Just as God delivered the Israelite slaves from their seemingly hopeless slavery in Egypt, God will bring the Israelites back to their land, breathing life back into the people, even when they have given up hope.
Pronounced: shuh-BAHT or shah-BAHT, Origin: Hebrew, the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.