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Vayigash: Ezekiel 37:15-28

Reconciliation between Jacob’s sons, particularly Joseph and Judah, is central to the Parashah, later Biblical history, and, as reflected in the Haftarah, the messianic era.  After his death, King Solomon’s unified kingdom split into two rival kingdoms, Judah in the south and Israel (also known as Joseph or as Ephraim since its first king was from that tribe) in the north.  After the Assyrians exiled Israel in 722 BCE and the Babylonians exiled Judah in 586 BCE, the exiles of these groups were physically scattered and remained culturally divided.  Living among many of them, the prophet Ezekiel prophesied that their conflict will one day be replaced by fraternal and national unity.

The Haftarah recounts that God commanded Ezekiel to perform a symbolic act to illustrate His message.  Previously, God commanded him to perform symbolic acts relating to the Temple’s coming destruction.  For example, God commanded him to eat a piece of parchment; to lie on his side for months at a time; to build a model city and then destroy it; to prepare bread on a fire fueled by dung; and to prepare “exilic garments.”  The Haftarah’s symbolic act, the only one after the destruction, focuses on redemption.  It portrays the reunification of the two halves of God’s people by uniting two sticks, each with the name of one of the kingdoms written on it.  Ezekiel prophesies that the people will return to the Land where a Davidic messiah will permanently lead them as a unified nation.  God will purify them of their sins and they will serve God; their relationship will return to its ideal state.  A renewed Temple at their center will radiate God’s presence to all humanity.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verses 15-17: God commands Ezekiel to use two sticks to symbolize Judah (the Southern Kingdom) and Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom), and to bring them together in his hands.

Ezekiel 37:16

You [Ezekiel], son of man - take unto yourself one stick and write upon it, “For Judah and for the children of Israel his companions,” and take another stick and write upon it, “For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and all the house of Israel, his companions.”

וְאַתָּ֣ה בֶן־אָדָ֗ם קַח־לְךָ֙ עֵ֣ץ אֶחָ֔ד וּכְתֹ֤ב עָלָיו֙ לִֽיהוּדָ֔ה וְלִבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל חברו [חֲבֵרָ֑יו] וּלְקַח֙ עֵ֣ץ אֶחָ֔ד וּכְת֣וֹב עָלָ֗יו לְיוֹסֵף֙ עֵ֣ץ אֶפְרַ֔יִם וְכָל־בֵּ֥ית יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל חברו [חֲבֵרָֽיו׃]

Verses 18-22: Anticipating that the exiles will ask Ezekiel the meaning of the sticks he holds, God instructs him to explain that they represent God returning His people from their lands of exile to live as a unified monarchy in the mountains of His land, never again to be divided.

Ezekiel 37:22

I [God] will make them one nation in the Land upon the mountains of Israel.  They all will have one king and no longer be two nations.  They shall never again be divided into two kingdoms.

וְעָשִׂ֣יתִי אֹ֠תָם לְג֨וֹי אֶחָ֤ד בָּאָ֙רֶץ֙ בְּהָרֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וּמֶ֧לֶךְ אֶחָ֛ד יִֽהְיֶ֥ה לְכֻלָּ֖ם לְמֶ֑לֶךְ וְלֹ֤א יהיה־[יִֽהְיוּ־] עוֹד֙ לִשְׁנֵ֣י גוֹיִ֔ם וְלֹ֨א יֵחָ֥צוּ ע֛וֹד לִשְׁתֵּ֥י מַמְלָכ֖וֹת עֽוֹד׃

Verse 23: God will save them from their lands of exile where they sinned, and purify them. God and His people will restore their mutual relationship.

Ezekiel 37:23

They shall not again defile themselves with their idols, their detestable things, or any of their transgressions.  I will save them from all their dwelling places where they sinned, and will purify them.  They shall be My people, and I will be their God.

וְלֹ֧א יִֽטַמְּא֣וּ ע֗וֹד בְּגִלּֽוּלֵיהֶם֙ וּבְשִׁקּ֣וּצֵיהֶ֔ם וּבְכֹ֖ל פִּשְׁעֵיהֶ֑ם וְהוֹשַׁעְתִּ֣י אֹתָ֗ם מִכֹּ֤ל מוֹשְׁבֹֽתֵיהֶם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר חָטְא֣וּ בָהֶ֔ם וְטִהַרְתִּ֤י אוֹתָם֙ וְהָיוּ־לִ֣י לְעָ֔ם וַאֲנִ֕י אֶהְיֶ֥ה לָהֶ֖ם לֵאלֹקים׃

Verses 24-25: God will permanently restore the Davidic monarchy. God’s people will dwell forever on their ancestral land, and follow God’s laws.

Ezekiel 37:25

They shall dwell in the land that I gave to Jacob my servant in which your fathers dwelt.  They shall dwell there- they, their children, and their children’s children for ever.  My servant David shall be their prince [king] forever.

וְיָשְׁב֣וּ עַל־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֤ר נָתַ֙תִּי֙ לְעַבְדִּ֣י לְיַֽעֲקֹ֔ב אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָֽשְׁבוּ־בָ֖הּ אֲבֽוֹתֵיכֶ֑ם וְיָשְׁב֣וּ עָלֶ֡יהָ הֵ֠מָּה וּבְנֵיהֶ֞ם וּבְנֵ֤י בְנֵיהֶם֙ עַד־עוֹלָ֔ם וְדָוִ֣ד עַבְדִּ֔י נָשִׂ֥יא לָהֶ֖ם לְעוֹלָֽם׃

Verses 26-28: God will restore an eternal covenant of peace with His people and will multiply them. God’s permanently rebuilt Temple in their midst will cause other nations to recognize His sanctification of them.

Ezekiel 37:26

I [God] will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them.  I will place them [on their land], multiply them, and place My sanctuary in the midst of them forever.

וְכָרַתִּ֤י לָהֶם֙ בְּרִ֣ית שָׁל֔וֹם בְּרִ֥ית עוֹלָ֖ם יִהְיֶ֣ה אוֹתָ֑ם וּנְתַתִּים֙ וְהִרְבֵּיתִ֣י אוֹתָ֔ם וְנָתַתִּ֧י אֶת־מִקְדָּשִׁ֛י בְּתוֹכָ֖ם לְעוֹלָֽם׃


The rabbis of the Talmud contrast the egalitarian nature of the Torah with the exclusivity of the hereditary institutions of kingship, as derived from the Haftarah, and of the priesthood.

Avot D'Rabbi Natan 41

Rabbi Simon says: “There are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, the crown of kingship – and the crown of a good name is greater than all of them.”

How [does the] crown of priesthood [work]? Even if one gives all the silver and gold in the world, [we] can’t give him the crown of priesthood, as it says (Numbers 25:13), “It will be for him [Pinchas] and his descendants after him, an eternal covenant of priesthood.”

[For the] crown of kingship[, too] - even if one gives all silver and gold in the world, [we] can’t give him the crown of kingship, as it says (Ezekiel 37:25), “My servant David shall be their prince [king] forever.”

But the crown of Torah is not like this. Anyone who wishes to partake in the labor of Torah may come and partake, as it says (Isaiah 55:1), “Ho, all who are thirsty, go to the water [of Torah]!”

רבי שמעון אומר ג׳ כתרים הם אלו הן כתר תורה וכתר כהונה וכתר מלכות וכתר שם טוב עולה על גביהן.

כתר כהונה כיצד אפילו נותן (לו) כל כסף וזהב שבעולם אין נותנין לו כתר כהונה שנא׳ (במדבר כה) והיתה לו ולזרעו אחריו ברית כהונת עולם.

כתר מלכות אפילו נותן כל כסף וזהב שבעולם אין נותנין לו כתר מלכות שנאמר (יחזקאל לז) ודוד עבדי נשיא להם לעולם.

אבל כתר תורה אינו כן עמלה של תורה כל הרוצה ליטול יבא ויטול שנאמר (ישעיה נה) הוי כל צמא לכו למים

With emendations, all translations are from  To dedicate, comment, or subscribe, email