Dedicated By Zelig and Chanie Shemtov

Pesach: Will These Dry Bones Live?

March 24, 2023

The Passover Haftarah relates an incredible vision of redemption: people rising from their graves, and a lamb and a wolf relaxing together. How and when will this happen? Has anything like this happened in the past? And what is Queen Cleopatra's connection to this?

A. Dry Bones, Hear the Word of G-d

On Shabbat during the intermediate days of Passover, we read the Haftarah of the vision of the dry bones which Ezekiel brought back to life. (Source 1).

In the Talmud, there are differing opinions as to whether this actually happened or if it is intended as an allegory. Likewise, the sages are conflicted about who these deceased people are. One opinion is that they were from the tribe of Efraim who left Egypt early on their own and fell in battle with the Philistines. Another opinion is that they were young Jews exiled to Babylon who were killed by Nebuchadnezzar. (Source 2)

G-d tells Ezekiel that the message of this prophecy is encouragement for the Jewish people not to lose hope in exile. (Source 3)

This Haftarah is read on Shabbat of the intermediate days of Passover because the resurrection of the dead will occur during the month of Nissan (Source 4). Cleopatra believed in the resurrection and asked the sages how exactly it would take place. (Source 5).

B. What Will Happen When Mashiach Arrives?

The prophet Isaiah describes the Messianic redemption with a utopian vision: The wolf will dwell with the lamb and the leopard will lie down with the goat (Source 6). Maimonides says these depictions are a metaphor for how people will live in peace and harmony with one another, but nature itself will not change (Source 7). Nachmanides says that nature itself will change during the Messianic era and this prophecy will come to pass in the literal sense (Source 8). However, regarding the resurrection, Maimonides counts belief in it among the thirteen principles of faith. (Source 9).

The Rebbe asks how both these quotes from Maimonides go hand in hand. One says that there will be no change to the natural order, the other says the dead will be resurrected! The Rebbe explains that there will be two phases of the Messianic era. At first, the world will remain unchanged, but later the natural order will be superseded – culminating with the resurrection of the dead.

C. Resurrection in our Times

The Baal Shem Tov wrote that his soul came to this world to bring life to the dry bones, meaning to inspire people to do mitzvahs with passion and inspiration. (Source 10).

Here the Rebbe learns a lesson from the vision of the dry bones:

Some claim that there’s no point in teaching Torah to Jews who are “far,” for they are like dry bones. They should learn from the story of Ezekiel, that G-d sent him to a valley full of dry bones – the remains of the tribe of Efraim who went against G-d’s will – to tell them the word of G-d. 

Additionally, this story teaches us not to suffice with having one student in whom we invest ourselves and give up on the rest. G-d’s command to Ezekiel was to tell all the dry bones G-d’s command, and bring them all back to life.



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