On Passover’s Shabbat we read from the Haftarah the Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones of Ezekiel. In his vision he sees a “…valley; and it was full of bones… and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley”. When asked, “Son of man, can these bones live?” he avoids answering the question directly, “O Lord God, You know.” He is then requested, “Prophesy over these bones” and say to them “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones, Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.” The result, according to the prophet, “and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.” Ezekiel also receives an explanation, “these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’”
Many times it is easy to despair in face of difficulty facing situations that seem in real-time to be complex and unresolvable. Those situations that seem hopeless and without possibility of survival. This vision of Ezekiel reminds us that there are ways of escape from some of the most difficult situations and not everything that seems to be final and terminal are really such. While a person’s life has a beginning and an end still, there are facets of life that go well beyond the lifetime of a person, there was life before and there is life after. The prophet quotes, “Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel.” Some will of course view this as a promise for resurrection but it does seem that the resurrection is not necessarily a personal one but rather a resurrection of a People. A People who have lost the spirit of peoplehood and that needs a new and uplifting spirit to exit the grave.
The grave can be many times one that we build for ourselves while still alive. It is the grave that closes us from trying to find new ways and meanings, necessary change and revolutionary ideas and ideals. As we add bricks to this grave we prevent change to get to us and as we increase it we die faster. Sometimes this grave is so thick and durable that an external forces is needed to overcome the despair manifested by the words, “Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.” Someone has to crack it open, even the smallest one possible, so that one may crawl out of the death stricken grave and accept a new spirit, a spirit that enables creativity, change and renewed growth.
The prophet then adds that the result shall be, “ Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,” declares the Lord.” I would like to concentrate here on the words, “I… have spoken and done it”, as it conveys an important message to us too. It is a message of spirit, of the spoken word, which are important but not sufficient. Things have to be said but beyond that things have to be done, they have to become concrete. It is so easy to tell others what they have to do but that is not enough. It is necessary not only to tell people what they have to do but we have to also do things ourselves.
Passover seems to manifest the symbiosis between the spoken word and the deeds. It involves a lot of preparation, a process of making facilities Kosher for Passover, cleaning and more, but also on study, questioning and reflecting. The spirit and action are intertwined. I wish us all to be able to mesh together spirit at deed in a respectful manner, a manner that respects others, that accepts the other, and provides a wide space for all to participate in all aspects of spirituality and deed. This way we shall be able, in joint forces, to crack open our virtual graves that we create for ourselves and for others. We shall have the spirit – we shall have life.
Shabbat Shalom and wishes for a Happy Passover,
Reuven Marko, 14 April 2017, 19 Nisan, 5777