Haftarah: Shavuot Day One: The Electric Relationship with God
Ezekiel 1:1-28, 3:12: Never before had the nation been so distant from Sinai. Even when the Assryians exiled the Northern Kingdom of the Ten Tribes, the people of Judah did not believe God had forsaken
them. They believed that no matter how they behaved, God would protect His city and Holy Temple.
But the Babylonians had come. King Jehoiachin and the leaders of Israel were exiled to Babylon. People sensed that it was the beginning of the end. They no longer felt safe in Jerusalem. The exiles themselves were in shock. The Revelation at Sinai was a distant memory of a Covenant that seemed dead.
Ezekiel, the only prophet to prophecy outside of Israel, must bring the Revelation at Sinai back to life. God charged him to remind the Jews that Sinai was in their blood, a part of their souls, and that the Divine Presence, which they witnessed at Sinai, was in exile with them. (Zohar W 149a) Maimonides, in his Guide For The Perplexed (3:6) quotes the Sages: This vision of Ezekiel is the same as Isaiah’s (Isaiah, Chapter 6). The two visions can be compared to two men who saw the king riding, the one, a city dweller, the other, a countryman. The former, seeing that his neighbors know well how the king rides, simply tells them that he saw the king; but the villager, wishing to tell his friends things which they do not know, relates in detail how the king was riding, describes his followers, and the officers who execute his orders and commands. Isaiah is like the city dweller and Ezekiel is like the villager. (Chagigah 13b)
Isaiah was the prophet for a generation that still experienced Sinai. Ezekiel spoke to people still wearing their chains. Sinai was dead to them.
There are differences between the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel: Isaiah saw angels with six wings, Ezekiel saw angels with only four. Isaiah heard the angels sing, “His Glory fills the earth!” Ezekiel heard a watered down song, “Where is the place of His Glory!”
The Divine Presence was exiled together with the people. It was bound to them through the covenant of Sinai. The Glory of God was weakened by the exile. The Angels had their wings clipped. They searched for God’s Glory, rather than sing of its Presence everywhere.
“Don’t think that Sinai is over. Do not believe, even for a second, that the covenant has been smashed. It is still alive. God’s Glory is so intertwined with Israel that His Presence must go into exile with His people. His angels are weakened. His Glory is diluted. This is an even stronger expression of the covenant of Sinai. It does not end. It cannot end. He, Who sits on the Highest Throne, and hears the praises of the holiest angels, goes into exile with you!”
At that moment, when Ezekiel shared his vision, almost as powerful as that of the great Isaiah, despite the fact they were in exile, the people rejoiced. They understood that God had not forsaken them. Sinai was alive and well. (Zohar II 2a) God is watching you, wherever you are, even in the wicked confines of Babylon: “Their backs were full of eyes surrounding the four of them.” (Ezekiel 1:18)
You must restore My Glory! Only you, Israel, with whom I made the covenant at Sinai, can restore My Glory!
How? We have already failed You. We are weakened, humiliated, crushed. How can we restore Your Glory?
Even the holiest of Angels: “The Chayos ran to and fro like the appearance of a flash.” (1:14) They run towards God, in an electric atmosphere of clarity and passion, but, they pull back, overwhelmed by the power of their experiences.
You Israel ran towards me in the electric atmosphere of Sinai and other great moments in your history. You pulled back, and now you suffer, but you will run back towards me. You will restore the passion and fire of Sinai. The covenant will pulsate with the same life and Glory. You will restore My Presence to the world.