Perek Summaries

Credits: Journey Through Nach Neviim Volume

 

Yechezkel Summary of Perakim

Perek 1:

The Haftara of the first day of Shavuos is from Yechezkel 1; 3:12

Yechezkel received a hazy vision of the Ma’aseh Merkavah while in exile. The Radak (1:1) says that (as passuk 3 implies) this took place after the people had been exiled, while Rashi (1:3) posits that it is set before our exile. The Radak explains that the Ma’aseh Merkavah describes Hashem’s heavenly throne and its holiness departing from the Beis Hamikdash, eventually into the heavens (as seen later on 10:1). The people actually saw a vision of the Merkavah at Har Sinai; they made the golden calf in this form (Radak 1:28).  This prophecy warned Bnei Yisrael of their  soon-to-be exile due to their spiritual decadence and Hashem’s concealment. In this perek, Yechezkel witnesses various angels and the “appearance of Hashem”. Yechezkel prostrated himself before Hashem, Who spoke to him.

Perek 2: Hashem instructed Yechezkel to stand, and imbued him with the capacity to relate to the “rebellious” Bnei Yisrael. The Radak explains that the reason why Hashem refers to Yechezkel as ‘Ben Adam’ (person/human) throughout this Sefer, is because although he was exposed to great revelations, he was to acknowledge his humanity and not become arrogant. Hashem assured Yechezkel that he need not fear Bnei Yisrael, and although he may be spurned, he must still rebuke the people to teach that although they are exiled, they are still obligated to serve Hashem (Da’as Sofrim). Hashem told Yechezkel not to rebel against Him and relate whatever prophecies he is given, and He then communicated a number of mournful prophecies. Note the dispute whether the “kinim va’hegeh va’hi” (2:10) in the Heavenly scroll refers to reward and punishment in this world and the next (Rashi) or lamentations, presumably regarding impending destruction (Ri Kara).

Perek 3:

The Haftara for Vayigash is from Yechezkel 3:15-28

Yechezkel “ate”, i.e. learnt and accepted the scroll of prophecies, and Hashem “fed him”, i.e assisted him in his mission (Metzudas David). Hashem reiterated that if Bnei Yisrael refused to listen to Yechezkel, it was not Yechezkel’s fault. Yechezkel was “lifted up by a wind”; the commentaries debate whether he was physically lifted (Rashi, Radak, Ri Kara), and he heard a noise saying “Blessed be Hashem from His place”. Yechezkel understood the difficulties ahead in rebuking his people (Rashi), but recognized that Hashem would help him throughout. He was carried by the wind to Tel Aviv where he sat silently for seven days. Hashem told Yechezkel that he has the opportunity to save lives, and if a wicked person dies for his sins because Yechezkel refrained from rebuking him, he, Yechezkel, would be held accountable. Yechezkel saw Hashem’s glory in the River Kevor where He demanded Yechezkel remain at home and not rebuke anyone. This was either so Hashem could relay all of the prophecy first (Radak) or to show the people that they were unworthy of rebuke (Rashi).

Perek 4: Hashem told Yechezkel to write ‘Yerushalayim’ on a brick and set up a model with a siege surrounding it. He should use an “iron pan” as the walls of Yerushalayim and should act as Nevuchadnetzar (Rashi). This was to symbolize that Bavel were carrying out Hashem’s will. The metal pan indicated Bnei Yisrael’s refusal to bend and repent (Radak). Yechezkel would lie on his left side towards Eretz Yisrael (Rashi) for 390 days to represent and atone for the 390 years of Yisrael’s sins (see calculations made by the commentators). Afterwards, Yechezkel was to turn to his right side and lie for 40 days for Yehuda’s sins. Hashem would tie Yechezkel with ropes to show that if he lay for fewer days, it would not affect the punishment of Bnei Yisrael. Yechezkel would be allotted meager rations of food and drink in addition to human excrement. Yechezkel accepted his fate, but would refuse to eat human waste, due to doubts of its Kashrus. Hashem agreed to exchange the human waste for animal manure. This vision shows that Hashem would limit the supply of food when the conquest against Yerushalayim begins.

Perek 5: Hashem instructed Yechezkel to shave his hair and beard in its entirety; this represents the entire destruction of Yehuda (Radak). Additionally, Yechezkel was to take a scale which represented that Hashem, rather than chance, would dictate Yehuda’s outcome. Yechezkel was to perform different actions to three parts of the hair, representing three things Bnei Yisrael would suffer. One third was to be burned, one third smitten by the sword (representing the fate of Tzidkiyahu and his companions: Radak), and one third scattered. Some strands were to be bound to Yechezkel’s cloak, representing the few Jews sho would survive in exile (Rashi). Nevertheless, even those scattered would be “cast into the fire” and would suffer throughout Jewish history (Eliezer of Beaugency). Hashem bemoaned how low Yerushalayim has become, instead of being an international center for spiritual aspirations, (Malbim). Hence, He will punish them unprecedentedly, with parents devouring their children and vice-versa. Bnei Yisrael’s decimation will be an “Embarrassment to the nations”. Hashem will send “Famine, wild animals, plague and the sword” which should wipe them out, but nevertheless, He will ensure that Bnei Yisrael will survive.

Perek 6: Yechezkel prophesied towards the mountains which were used to serve idols and would be destroyed (Radak). Yechezkel related that Hashem will destroy the deities and their worshippers together to enable people to return and serve Him solely. Hashem would ensure that some Bnei Yisrael would survive even if dispersed across the globe. They will then repent and regret their sins. Moreover, Bnei Yisrael will realize that Hashem forecast all their torment; their suffering was not due to political or military considerations.

Perek 7: Yechezkel explained that the world has faced its punishment for its wrongdoings, and now Bnei Yisrael has finally reached its “end” (Malbim). Hashem will deal mercilessly with the Jews, as He is harshest with those closest to Him. The “rod”, which represents the lack of ethical behavior, has blossomed in conjunction with “arrogance blooming”, and so Bnei Yisrael will face the outcome of their deeds (Radak). Hashem will tell the enemies not to have pity on Bnei Yisrael, including their children or their wealth (Radak). Prior to the exile, trade will be seen as insignificant as all Bnei Yisrael’s possessions will be seized. This will occur because Bnei Yisrael are unwilling to repent. Yechezkel described how the horn will be blown and combat preparations made, yet Bnei Yisrael will not go to war out of fear. Yechezkel portrayed the anguish of Bnei Yisrael; their mourning and terror, with their knees melting (Radak). Silver and gold will become worthless due to the starvation and thirst, the Beis Hamikdash will be defiled, Hashem will transfer it to the enemy (Metzudas David), and He will turn away and enable the enemy to deface it. Hashem asked Yechezkel to prepare a chain signifying the captivity in exile (Rashi). In addition, the Neviim, Kohanim and Elders will be unable to relate the word of Hashem or advise the people. The King would mourn and Hashem will ensure Bnei Yisrael receive their retribution and they repent.

Perek 8: Yechezkel was in the company of the Elders of Yehuda when Hashem came to him and showed him a vision of a journey to Yerushalayim. Hashem showed Yechezkel that within a short radius of the Beis Hamikdash, idolatry was being worshipped. Yechezkel found a door which he opened, where he discovered on the inside walls images of “every idol”, in addition to 70 of the Elders offering up sacrifices to idols secretly when “Hashem does not see us” (Radak 8:12). Yechezkel was shown women serving the idol Tammuz. Additionally, Yechezkel saw 25 men with their backs to the Beis Hamikdash and bowing to the sun.

Perek 9: Hashem beckoned the Babylonian generals (Radak) to destroy Yerushalayim. Yechezkel spotted “Six men with sledgehammers” accompanied by the Malach (Gavriel: Radak) dressed in linen. The six men represented six attributes of Hashem; half portraying anger and the other half portraying destruction (Gemara Shabbos 55a). Hashem instructed Gavriel to mark each individual resident of Yerushalayim with a Taf to determine his fate, and the six men who would carry out Gavriel’s decision were ordered “Not to display any mercy” and to begin killing the idolaters within the Beis Hamikdash. They slew many people and Yechezkel cried “Hashem, are you destroying the entire Bnei Yisrael?” Hashem responded that their sins are numerous, and thus He was merely meting out deserved punishment for rebelling against Hashem. Meanwhile Gavriel returned and commented “I have done like you have commanded me”. The Gemara Shabbos writes that the righteous would be punished here alongside the wicked, because they failed to protest the iniquities of the wicked.

Perek 10: Hashem ordered Gavriel to take coals of fire and cast them upon Yerushalayim. The Ma’aseh Merkavah describes Hashem’s shechinah departing from the Keruvim, which marked the gradual ending of Hashem’s presence in the Beis Hamikdash. The Radak says that Yechezkel used this opportunity in order to pray for a more meritorious judgement from Hashem.

Perek 11: Yechezkel was transported to the Eastern Gate of the Beis Hamikdash, and there he witnessed 25 false prophets, including Yazanyah and Pelatyahu. Hashem criticized them for misguiding the public and their philosophy of “Our [downfall] is not near, build houses” as “Yerushalayim is the cauldron and we are the flesh”, meaning that as meat is not removed from the pot until it is cooked, similarly, they would not be expelled from Yerushalayim until they had died naturally (Rashi, Radak, Metzudas David).  Nevertheless, Hashem explains the meat to refer to the “dead corpses” who would remain in Yerushalayim, whereas the live residents would be exiled and would perish by the sword. After Yechezkel said this prophecy, Pelatyahu died; this shocked Yechezkel as he expected that the inhabitants of Yerushalayim would be given time to repent (Radak). Yechezkel related that Hashem will gather in the exiles and provide there “small sanctuaries,” meaning synagogues where the Divine presence will remain (Gemara Megillah). Yechezkel was brought to Bavel where he relayed this prophecy. Take a look at the explanation of the Ramban (Devarim 30:10) that the ‘new covenant’ referred to in 11:19 refers to the removal of the yetzer hara and ultimate freedom from its slavery during the final redemption.

Perek 12: Hashem expressed to Yechezkel that the inhabitants of Yerushalayim are “A household of rebellion” as they refused to use their eyes and ears to obey Yechezkel’s symbolism and prophecies. Yechezkel was told to travel, in exile, from place to place by day, and show Bnei Yisrael “exile utensils” to make them aware of their plight (Targum).He should also go out at night, dig through the wall, escape, carry a few belongings on his shoulder, not provide any light, and cover his face. This symbolized Tzidkiyah’s attempted escape from the Babylonians through a cave (Rashi). Yechezkel followed Hashem’s instructions, yet the residents of Yerushalayim ignored him and did not question his actions. Consequently, Yechezkel delivered the following prophecy: Yechezkel was the sign that they would depart to exile and be scattered amongst the nations. Tzidkiyah “the prince” would try to escape, yet would be seized by the Chaldeans and die in Babylon, though he “would not see it” as he would be blinded by Nevuchadnetzar. Hashem would allow a few survivors to remain to demonstrate to the world that Hashem had punished Bnei Yisrael for their sins, and did not abandon them or simply let Babylon overpower them. However, they would be deprived of resources as the land would be desolate.

Perek 13: Yechezkel addressed the false prophets who prophesy about matters which “They have not seen”. They are compared to “Foxes among the ruins”, for they destroyed Bnei Yisrael by perverting the minds of the vulnerable, thereby causing destruction (Radak). Additionally, the false prophets did not inspire the inhabitants of Bnei Yisrael to repent (Metzudas David). Therefore, Hashem will ensure that these false prophets will be separated from Bnei Yisrael as a collective whole (Metzudas David), and will not enter the World to Come (Metzudas David) or return to Eretz Yisrael as they caused the public to stray by forecasting “Peace, although there is no peace”. These false prophets even demanded payment for their prophecies (Radak).

Perek 14: Elders sat before Yechezkel. Yechezkel instructed them to repent from any idolatry, as otherwise he would not respond to their questions and would uncover their true, treacherous intentions (Radak) and will then “make them desolate” (Metzudas David). Both the person who inquires from a false prophet and the false prophet will be reprimanded to prevent Bnei Yisrael’s spiritual decline. Yechezkel said that when an entire nation sins, even righteous people such as Noach, Daniel, and Iyov, would only merit saving themselves from destruction by the sword, famine, wild animals, and plague, but not the wider community or even their “sons and daughters”. Nevertheless, Hashem would still ensure that a remnant would survive (Rashi and Radak) as their sons and daughters have great potential although they are themselves inadequate of being saved.

Perek 15: Bnei Yisrael is compared to a vine throughout Tanach. The Radak explains that the slenderness of vine branches matches Bnei Yisrael’s small population compared to the other nations. Yechezkel questioned the use of a fruitless vine; it cannot be used productively for wood. Additionally, a fruitless vine tree which had been singed by fire is even more useless. Therefore, how can Yerushalayim’s inhabitants be so optimistic after enduring the fire of two exiles; Yehoyakim with much of his royal family; (see Sefer Daniel 1:2), and also that of Yehoyachin with his carpenters and locksmiths (see Malachim Beis 24:14). Yechezkel forecast that a fire will consume Yerushalayim and the land will be left desolate.

Perek 16: Yechezkel described Yerushalayim’s birthplace as Cana’an (where Hashem appeared to Avraham at the ‘Bris Bein Habesorim’), nevertheless Yerushalayim behaves like her “Father is Emorite and mother is Chitite”. Yechezkel compared the inception of Bnei Yisrael to a baby “abandoned in a field” with the umbilical cord not cut, and not bathed, salted, or dressed in a garment. Hashem “passed by” and although the baby was covered in grime, He saved it and commented “With your blood you shall live”. Hashem enabled this child to flourish, but “passed by” again on a second occasion, alluding to His appearance to Moshe at the burning bush (Radak), but found them “naked” of mitzvos and service of Hashem and thus vowed to take them as a nation (Radak). Hashem provided Bnei Yisrael with 13 covenants. Nevertheless, Bnei Yisrael squandered the beauty Hashem had provided them and began serving idols. Therefore, Hashem will bring nations to defile Bnei Yisrael’s treasures. The perek ends positively that Hashem will end the captivity of Bnei Yisrael, and in the long term, He will keep the covenant, despite the fact that we are not deserving (Metzudas David).

Perek 17: Yechezkel described the great superpower Nevuchadnetzar as an eagle (Radak). Nevuchadnetzar seized King Yehoyachin and mitigated his greatness and power (Rashi). He brought Yehoyachin’s brother Tzidkiyah and appointed him as leader of Yerushalayim (Rashi), as he realized that just as a plant must grow in the correct climate, similarly Yerushalayim can only prosper under their own king (Radak). Nevuchadnetzar then “placed it by waters”, meaning he gave Tzidkiyah power over several other countries (Ri Kara) and “it sprouted branches”, signifying Tzidkiyah’s strength (Radak). However, Tzidkiyah attempted to gain independence from Bavel and thus requested support from “another great eagle”, Egypt, although there were “abundant waters”, meaning there was no need to rely on Egypt (Rashi). Yechezkel asserted that Bnei Yisrael cannot continue to flourish if they do not acknowledge  their Founder (Rashi), and therefore Nevuchadnetzar will easily be able to uproot them (Radak). Furthermore, Phaoroh will not keep to his word (Rashi) and “its fruit shall be cut off”, meaning Tzidkiyah’s children would be murdered before his eyes. Hashem intended for Bnei Yisrael to remain subservient to Bavel, but they tried to change this and transgressed the covenant made with Nevuchadnetzar (Midrash). Therefore, Tzidkiyah would be taken to Bavel with some of his officers killed and others scattered across the globe. Hashem will establish “a high cedar” i.e. Moshiach (Rashi) upon a mountain and “lower a high tree” i.e Babylon, He will then “dry a moist tree” referring to what occurred with Tzidkiyah, and finally, will cause a “dry tree to sprout” meaning Yehoyachin will bear children despite being exiled barren (Rashi). Others explain the entire perek to refer to Moshiach (Targum Yonassan cited in the Radak 17:24)

Perek 18: Yechezkel presented a tale of a righteous grandfather and grandson, with a rebellious son. Yechezkel refuted the idea that “Fathers eat unripe grapes and sons’ teeth get set on edge”, meaning the assumption that children are punished for their parent’s misdeeds, as the people claimed they were being punished for the sins of Yeravam and Menashe (Radak). Rather, Yechezkel argued that man is formed with a Divine element within him to ensure he follows Hashem, and therefore, an innocent man can not be punished for sins he did not commit; only “Whoever sins shall die”. Hashem does “Not desire the death of the wicked,” rather He wishes us to “Returns from his evil ways and live” and then his sins shall be erased. Yechezkel related that when a righteous person deviates from his good deeds, his good deeds shall be ignored and he “Will die for his sins”. Yechezkel rebuked those who criticize Hashem’s justice. Yechezkel beseeched Bnei Yisrael to “Create a new heart and spirit” and repent. Note the important dispute cited in the Radak (18:6) whether ‘life’ and ‘death’ here refers to one’s fate in the Next World or this world.

Perek 19: Yechezkel lamented the son of Yoshiyah and praised the courage and strength of the “lioness” i.e. Bnei Yisrael (Rashi and Radak) who brought up her children amongst “young lions” (Bavel: Radak). Yechezkel criticized Yehoachaz as a “young lion” to portray his lack of capability (Radak). Egypt heard he was revolting against them and laid a trap over a pit; Yehoachaz was captured and taken to Egypt and Yehoyakim was chosen as king. Yehoyakim “roamed amongst the lions”, meaning his loyalties fluctuated between Bavel and Egypt (Radak), and he remained a “young lion” – his reign did not improve anything (Radak). Like his predecessor, he “ate man”, meaning he challenged opposition beyond his capabilities (Radak). Hashem incited Bavel, Aram, and Midyan against Bnei Yisrael (Rashi) and Yehoyakim was taken to the king in Bavel. During the reign of David and Shlomo, (Radak) Bnei Yisrael were like a flourishing vine which had “strong scepters”, meaning powerful leaders (Rashi), and were “elevated over the interwoven branches”, meaning they dominated over other nations. However, powerful nations “devoured the branches”, referring to Tzidkiyah’s reign (Radak).

Perek 20: Elders came to Yechezkel to inquire what Hashem wanted of them (the Radak cites that they were Chananya, Mishael, and Azariah asking whether the remnant in Eretz Yisrael would be exiled). Hashem responded that “He would not be available to them”. Yechezkel then delivered a prophecy admonishing idolatry. Yechezkel  related that Hashem vowed to bring us out of Egypt to Eretz Yisrael, and instructed us to cease idolatrous activities, yet Bnei Yisrael continued serving idols. Hashem still took us out of Egypt to ensure it would not “Desecrate My name in the eyes of the nations”. Hashem led Bnei Yisrael through the desert and gave them His Torah and Shabbos as a sign between Him and Bnei Yisrael, thus enshrining separation from the ways of the nations and elevating us to attaining kedusha (Radak). Yet, once again they disobeyed Hashem, and were not punished. He gave them Eretz Yisrael and demanded they not follow in the evil ways of their parents, however, they ignored Hashem and strayed after idols. Therefore, Hashem scattered them among the nations. Hashem will rule over them with a “strong hand and outstretched arm”, but with “poured out fury”, a combination of kindness and harshness. Note the Radak’s observation (20:32) that the deeds of Bnei Yisrael are scrutinized by Hashem more than those of the other nations, because of our special relationship with Him. Yechezkel foretold that Hashem will take Bnei Yisrael from among the nations. Hashem suggests to Bnei Yisrael to “Go serve your idols” and experience the consequences, but ultimately, Bnei Yisrael will offer the finest gifts to Hashem in the Beis Hamikdash, where they will serve Him and regret their former misdeeds.

Perek 21: Yechezkel prophesied concerning the “southern forest of the field”, meaning the Beis Hamikdash which would be decimated (Rashi), and both “moist” (righteous) and “dry” (wicked) trees would be set on fire. Yechezkel protested that he was regarded as “inventing tales”. (The Radak (21:8) cites that the reference to righteous people in 21:8 means merely those quasi-idolaters who were thought to be righteous, while the entirely righteous ones were spared.) Therefore, Hashem gave an explicit message that the Beis Hamikdash would be destroyed, and subsequently, He would punish the nations for wiping out innocent people. Yechezkel was instructed to groan to represent the future events which would cause “every heart to melt”. Hashem argued that He will “test them”, meaning, punish them with the sword.Yechezkel was asked to prepare two roads; one leading to Rabbah and one to Yerushalayim, as Nevuchadnetzar had not decided where to attack. Despite this, Bnei Yisrael thought that they would be saved, although Tzidkiyah had broken his allegiance with Nevuchadnetzar (Radak). Yechezekel warns Ammon when they mocked Bnei Yisrael that even though they were told by their false divinities that they would be safe, their fate was the contrary and the “Sword would not return to its scabbard” before they were destroyed (Radak).

 

Perek 22:

The Haftara of Kedoshim is from Yechezkel 22:1-19

Yechezkel described Yerushalayim as “The city of bloodshed” (Radak) which brought about her downfall through serving idols. The nations rule over and mock the Bnei Yisrael and do not fear them as Hashem has allowed these nations to rule (Radak). Bnei Yisrael have lost their mark as a ‘holy people’ and have become an impure people due to their self-serving leaders, their disrespect of parents, mistreatment of the vulnerable, their breaking of Shabbos, immorality, and their breach of financial integrity. Thus, they are subject to the “confusion” of the famine, sword and plague (Radak) and Hashem will scatter Bnei Yisrael amongst the nations. Yechezkel described Bnei Yisrael as “copper, tin, iron, and lead”; Bnei Yisrael must be refined extensively to regain their former status of “silver” which they ruined due to their sins (Metzudas David). All leadership among Bnei Yisrael has fallen apart, whether prophets, Kohanim, princes, and the bloodthirsty leaders, and this is manifest across society. Yechezkel summarized that there is no alternative but destruction, because no man will salvage Bnei Yisrael from its fate.

Perek 23: Yechezkel described two licentious daughters, Ohalah and Ohalivah, i.e. Yerushalayim and Shomron (the two capital cities) respectively. They had close political ties with Ashur and Egypt which proved costly, and thus Hashem delivered Ohalah into the hands of Ashur. Ohalivah failed to heed the warning and “both went the same way”. Yechezekel rebuked Chizkiyah for forging a friendship with Bavel when they visited him after his sickness. Yechezekel then discussed how Hashem disconnected Himself from Yehuda due to their relationship with Egypt and He will arouse Yehuda’s lovers (the nations with which Yehuda betrayed Hashem), different ranks of soldiers, chariots, an arsenal of weapons, and a collation of various countries to unite against Yehuda. This will ensure that Yehuda can no longer rely on foreign support, as their children would be captured and their property plundered. Yehuda will “drink from her sister’s cup” of “deep and wide” suffering as they abandoned Hashem and serving idols. They offered up their children to foreign deities, yet also sacrificed offerings in the Beis Hamikdash and profaned the Shabbos. Yechezkel writes that people would provide idols with “My incense and My oil” from the Beis Hamikdash and although Hashem wished that Yehuda “would weary of the idolatry”, they persisted and thus Hashem will eradicate the idolatry.

Perek 24: Yechezkel was told to record the 10th of Teves as the date the king of Bavel besieged Yerushalayim (Radak). Yechezkel compared Yerushalayim to a cauldron where even the “best cuts” warriors are cast into boiling water and aid the cooking process (Metzudas David), and ensure that “the bones have been cooked” and thus all inhabitants will be defeated (Radak). The “filth has not been removed” is a reference to either the wicked (Rashi) or the sins (Radak) and the instruction to “bring (the meat) out limb by limb” means to exile the inhabitants of Yerushalayim (Rashi). This is because “her blood remained within her” and were not “covered with dust”, for such was the extent of the disregard of life and the frequency of murder. Hashem will “increase the fire” to give Yerushalayim her deserved retribution as “I tried to cleanse you, but you would not be cleansed” through prophets (Rashi) and Hashem will not deviate from His decision. Hashem decided that Yechezkel’s wife would die by the plague which would affect Yerushalayim, and he should not “lament, weep or shed a tear”; indeed, that evening his wife died, and Yechezkel obeyed Hashem’s instructions.Hashem related that the Beis Hamikdash would be destroyed and people’s loved ones would die, but no one would mourn their loss as there were no comforters (Rashi). When the “fugitive will come” to reveal the events from the 17th Tammuz to the 9th Av, Yechezekel will be perceived as a “wondrous man” for his prophecy will be proved accurate, despite previously being ignored, and in that way, Hashem will be known.

Perek 25: Yechezkel delivered a prophecy concerning the surrounding nations. As Ammon rejoiced at the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, they would be delivered into the hands of Bavel who would harvest the land and use their capital city Rabbah to rear flock. Moav and Edom (Seir) perceived Yehuda bereft of spiritual messages and Divine protection “like all the other nations”, and therefore Moav’s land would be used for the oppressors of Ammon to arrive there. Similarly, since Edom participated in the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, Hashem would unleash His “fury and wrath” against them, desolate the land, and kill both man and animal alike. The Plishtim would also be punished for having displayed animosity towards Bnei Yisrael and they will also be wiped out.

Perek 26: Hashem came to Yechezekel and explained that as Tzor celebrated Bnei Yisrael’s downfall, He would gather Bavel’s great military arsenal against Tzor, and the sister cities would be decimated, the “People killed by the sword” and “Houses obliterated”. The “Sound of songs will cease” and Hashem will transform a traditional superpower into “Bare rock” which will “Never be rebuilt”. Surrounding nations will be shocked by the overhaul of such a strong empire “Who instilled terror upon all the sea’s inhabitants”. Hashem will destroy Tzor and flood it with enemies (Metzudas David), although at the time of this prophecy, Yerushalayim appeared to have little hope and Tzor flourished.Yechezkel asserted that Tzor would be “Lowered together with those who descend to the pit” i.e. the dead and desolate, whereas “Hashem would place splendor” upon Yerushalayim which he names “The land of (true) life”.

Perek 27: Yechezkel lamented the destruction of Tzor. Tzor boasted that they had replaced Yerushalayim’s title of “the perfection of beauty” (Rashi); they had the “wisest” and the most skilled “sailors” to “provide your necessities”, in addition to repairmen and a powerful army. Tzor used to purchase goods from Tarshish which had abundant resources (Metzudas David), and Tzor sold these to “your peddlers” who then sold the goods directly to the consumer (Malbim). Luxurious goods were provided to Tzor whether the finest materials, gems, animals, and foods. However, Yechezkel prophesied that the laden ship of Tzor would sink (Rashi); this metaphor refers to Tzor being flooded after it was decimated. The sailors will be distraught as their ships will be redundant once Tzor’s commercial activity has ceased. The nations will recover from their dismay and will be delighted to occupy Tzor’s prominent financial role.

Perek 28:

The Haftara of Va’era is from Yechezkel 28:25-29:21

Yechezkel rebuked Chiram, (according to Midrash Bereishis Rabbah 85:4) the ‘Leader of Tzor’, for arguing “he was a god” despite obviously being “a man”. Chiram was a close ally of both David and Shlomo, and assisted with the construction of the Beis Hamikdash. He was therefore rewarded with riches, a long life of about 500 years, and a successful reign.  However, Yechezkel predicted that Hashem will allow Bavel to destroy the achievements of Chiram’s wisdom (Malbim), and it will be clear that “he is not a god” when he is killed by the enemy. This is because Tzor exploited foreign countries’ desperation to conduct business, and oppressed businessmen who ventured to Tzor (Radak and Metzudas David). Hashem will wipe out Chiram with “fire” which represents his pride (Metzudas David) as all nations were “appalled with you”. Yechezkel targeted Sidon, a country which had business ties with Tzor, and that seemingly held similar incorrect ideologies. Sidon would be massacred “blood in her streets” by “pestilence” when judged by Hashem. Yechezkel prophesied that Hashem will remove a “painful thorn” from Bnei Yisrael (refering to the removal of our surrounding enemies), while  Bnei Yisrael dwell in tranquillity and “build houses and vineyards” (according to Chazal, this is a deeper allegory for successful spiritual pursuits; note that according to some, the fruit which Adam ate was from a vine).

Perek 29: Yechezkel prophesied in the eleventh year of Tzidkiyah – the year of the destruction of the Temple (Radak 29:1). Hashem would rise up against Pharaoh, who is described as a “great sea monster”, meaning all-powerful and in control of Egypt’s greatest asset, the Nile (Radak). Pharaoh felt that the Nile provided all their needs, and his statement “I have created myself” conveyed his arrogance in believing his success was his own (Rashi). Yechezkel related that Hashem will destroy them; Bnei Yisrael will realize that Egypt was “like a reed support for Bnei Yisrael” and thus they should not have placed trust in such a feeble country, but only in Hashem. Yechezkel predicted that Bavel would decimate Egypt to ensure that “neither man nor animal will dwell there” and likewise “cities will be desolate for forty years”. Afterwards, the inhabitants of Egypt would be returned there, but it would be a “lowly nation” and would never regain supremacy. Nevuchadnetzar “performed a great work” of massacring Tzor, meaning Bavel acted upon Hashem’s command while not looting for personal gain. Hashem would enable Bavel to take the spoils of Egypt as a reward for obeying Him. Meanwhile, Bnei Yisrael would flourish and Yechezekel would receive “an opening of the mouth in their midst” as the future would verify Yechezekel’s prophesies and people would finally heed him.

Perek 30: Yechezkel mourned the “day which is close” where nations including Egypt, Kush, Put, Lud, and Kuv will be ‘punished’ by the sword. Hashem insisted that the “supporters of Egypt will fall” when He destroys Egypt through Bavel and eradicates the “idolatry from Nof”, in addition to overthrowing their king. Thus, Egypt’s former power and domination will cease and Egyptians will be taken into captivity. Yechezkel related that Hashem has “broken the arm of Pharaoh” which refers to Egypt’s defeat by Nevuchadnetzar at Karkamish (Rashi), and Hashem “will place My sword in the King of Bavel’s hand”.

Perek 31: Three months after the previous prophecy (Ri Kara), and three months prior to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, Yechezkel questioned why Pharaoh believed he was so powerful. Ashur, which “sent forth its streams to all the trees”, appointed leaders across the globe (Targum), “all the other trees (nations) were covetous” of Ashur, however they “grew tall” i.e. haughty, and therefore “strangers (Bavel) cut it down”. The purpose of Ashur’s downfall was to act as a signal to “the other water trees (nations)”. Indeed, Egypt paled in significance in comparison to Ashur. Yechezkel relayed that as Egypt refused to heed the warning of Ashur, they have no hope to survive and will “lie with those that succumbed to the sword”.

Perek 32: This prophecy was told to Yechezkel in the year following the churban (Radak 32:1). Yechezekel criticized Pharoh for acting as a “young lion” travelling great distances to plunder food, rather than “a sea monster” who would remain in the river (Nile) i.e. Egypt (Rashi). Yechezkel told that Hashem will cease His support for Egypt and will cause news of Egypt’s demise to reach the foreign nations (Radak). Hashem would enable Bavel to annihilate Egypt’s population and destroy the land. Yechezkel was instructed to mourn Egypt’s loss when they will put the slain into mass graves (Metzudas David), the same fate as Ashur. Similarly, Eilam who “inflicted terror in the land of life (Bnei Yisrael)” and assisted Bavel, would be smitten, and Mesech and Tuval would be punished for “their sins remain upon them” of terrorizing Jews – they will be punished alongside Edom and Tzidon. This prophecy was supposed to comfort Pharaoh, as although he would be punished harshly, he would not be alone (Metzudas David 32:31).

Perek 33: Hashem explained that when a watchman warns the people of an impending battle and they do not heed the warning, they are held responsible. However, if the watchman did not warn the people, the watchman will be held accountable.  Hashem designated Yechezekel as a watchman for Bnei Yisrael to warn the wicked of their sins. The people will be accountable if they refuse to repent, but if Yechezekel shirks his duties, he will be responsible. Yechezekel repeated that “Hashem does not want the wicked one to die, rather to return from his evil ways”. Yechezekel reiterated that when the wicked repent, Hashem focuses on their improved self, whereas people who sin and merely rely on their righteous past will be punished. The Metzudas David explains that punishments are merely in order to inspire repentance. Hashem was telling the people that their past righteousness would not aid them now (Ri Kara). A survivor then informed Yechezekel that Yerushalayim had been struck and thus “Yechezkel’s mouth was open and he was no longer dumb”. Yechezkel prophesied that Bnei Yisrael would be massacred and the land left fallow as Bnei Yisrael behaved immorally and served idols, thus they were not deserving of the land. This is a call to not defile Eretz Yisrael as it is too holy to stand impure actions (Radak). Despite the fact that many listened to Yechezekel’s prophecies, they not change their actions, and eventually they will comprehend that “There was a prophet amongst them”.

Perek 34: Yechezkel scolded Bnei Yisrael’s “shepherds” i.e. leaders or kings (Rashi, Radak) for misusing resources allotted to the public and not “looking after the sheep” and helping the vulnerable. Yechezkel was saying that Bnei Yisrael strayed from Hashem and were preyed upon by enemies and “no one searches or seeks” Hashem (the Nesivos Shalom explains that they did not even fulfill the lowest stage of emunah of even striving to find Hashem). Yechezkel promised that ultimately Hashem will protect His people and will ensure the wealthy does not abandon and oppress the less fortunate. Hashem will appoint King David in the Messianic era and will prevent antagonistic nations from harming Bnei Yisrael.

Perek 35: Yechezkel prophesied against Seir i.e. Edom, which is a continuation of the previous perek’s description of the times of Moshiach (Radak). Hashem will make Edom desolate as they loathed Bnei Yisrael and spilled Jewish blood (Radak & Metzudas David). Although Edom feared its enemies, they would “be pursued by (people that seek their) blood” (Radak) and many would be killed. This will act as a punishment for hoping to inherit “the two lands”, referring to Yehuda and Yisrael, and believing “Bnei Yisrael’s desolate hills” would be easy to capture. They will be repaid for their “anger and jealousy”, and Mount Seir, in addition to the entire land of Edom, would become desolate.

Perek 36

The Haftara for Parah is from Yechezkel 36:16-38. The Haftara of Shabbos Chol Ha’moed Pesach is from Yechezkel 36:37-38; 37:1-17

Hashem’s prophecy of consolation (Radak 36:1) focuses on the “mountains of Bnei Yisrael” which “will sprout branches and produce fruit for My people” and both Bnei Yisrael’s human and animal population will expand greatly. Yechezkel reveals that Hashem will ensure that Bnei Yisrael attain spiritual heights which would correlate with the holiness of the land. Yechezkel compared Bnei Yisrael to the “impurity of a menstruating woman”, and thus Hashem longs for the time when he can be reunited with ‘His wife’ i.e. Bnei Yisrael (Rashi). Yechezkel related that Hashem cast His wrath against Bnei Yisrael for their sins and expelled them from Eretz Yisrael, which caused a desecration of Hashem’s name. Thus, although Bnei Yisrael did not merit to be redeemed, Hashem “pitied His name” and brought the Bnei Yisrael back to Eretz Yisrael, cleansed them from their sins, and imbued them with “a new heart and spirit” and a “heart of flesh” to accept Hashem (Rashi). The Ramban in Devarim (30:6) and the Ri Kara both deduce from here that there will be no Yetzer Hara in the Messianic era. Hashem would provide for Bnei Yisrael’s needs while they will display remorse for their past sins and Hashem will further His relationship with them.

Perek 37: Hashem took Yechezkel down to a valley filled with dry bones. Hashem asked Yechezkel whether these bones could live and Yechezkel responded that “only You know”. Yechezkel delivered a prophecy that these bones are going to be brought back to life and they will be covered in “sinews, flesh and spirit (life)”. The bones formed, but the humans were not alive. Hashem instructed Yechezkel to prophesy that these bodies’ souls return, and behold 600,000 people came back to life (Pirkei DeRebbi Eliezer 33). Hashem explained that just as He brought these people back to life, He would revitalise the entire Bnei Yisrael who have lost hope and are despondent. Hashem promised that in the future He will bring Techias Hameisim (the resurrection of the dead) (Rashi). The Radak (37:1) writes an essential mini-essay regarding these dry bones. He cites a dispute in Chazal as to whether this resurrection really happened, or whether it was simply a parable. So too, he cites different views as to who these bones ‘belonged to’ (the tribe of Efraim who were massacred as they tried to escape Egypt too early, non-believers, etc.) Hashem instructed Yechezkel to take two wooden tablets and engrave on the first, Yehuda, and on the other, Yisrael. Yechezkel was to bring them close to himself and they would miraculously join together. This would symbolize that Hashem will gather all of Bnei Yisrael from the exile and will unite the two kingdoms of Yehuda and Yisrael into one nation with David as king. The people will serve Hashem and dwell serenely in Eretz Yisrael with the Divine presence.

Perek 38:

The Haftara of Shabbos Chol Ha’moed Succos (chutz l’aretz) is from Yechezkel 38:18-23; 39:1-16 

Yechezkel prophesied that Hashem will determine the fate of Gog, when he attacks Bnei Yisrael alongside Persia, Kush, Phut, Togarmoh and Gog’s allies. Yechezkel instructed Gog to prepare his army and manage his coalition forces. This battle was predestined as an opportunity for Hashem to avenge Bnei Yisrael’s suffering at the hands of their persecutors throughout history (Rashi). After Bnei Yisrael’s tumultuous history, they will live in tranquillity “dwelling securely with open cities”, yet Gog will attempt to harm them. Therefore, when Gog approaches from the north, Hashem will reveal Himself and will massacre Gog. Hashem emphasized that this destruction was predicted by the Neviim centuries before it would occur, and even “mountains shall be overturned”. Hashem will dispatch “tempestuous rain, hail and sulphurous fire” and will reveal Himself to the world, causing a great Kiddush Hashem when all acknowledge His supremacy. (Ri Kara 38:23).

Perek 39: Hashem will incite Gog to attack Bnei Yisrael, ensure they fail dismally, and will wipe out Magog. Hashem will ensure the Bnei Yisrael are never oppressed again as this “desecrates His name”. The Radak and Rashi both mention that Galus is inherently a Chillul Hashem as Bnei Yisrael are subject to the whims of the other nations. This will be the final battle and weapons will be used as fuel. “For seven months” Hashem will ensure that every one of the multitude of enemy soldiers killed will be buried respectfully, and Bnei Yisrael will show great care towards their remains, bolstering Bnei Yisrael’s reputation internationally. Both the Bnei Yisrael and other nations will recognize that Hashem is the only G-d and that He punished Bnei Yisrael due to their sins and for abandoning Him. Bnei Yisrael will regret their former misdeeds and Hashem will display His “Holiness through them in the eyes of numerous nations”. No Jew will be left behind in exile and Hashem will never conceal Himself from the Bnei Yisrael again.

 

Introduction to perakim 40-45:  The end of Sefer Yechezkel discusses the dimensions of the Beis Hamikdash. The Radak (43:11) proves that this refers to the third Beis Hamikdash, not the second (for several elements of this Mikdash were not present in the second Mikdash).  The Rambam writes (Beis Habechirah 1:4) that the pesukim in Yechezkel are too cryptic to understand (there is much left unexplained, and a certain purposeful lack of clarity) and the second Beis Hamikdash incorporated some of Yechezkel’s dimensions but was primarily based on the model of the first Mikdash. While the third Mikdash will be built solely on Yechezkel’s dimensions, we will need Moshiach to direct us (see Rambam Melachim 11:1). Note the Radak’s observation that the laws of the third Beis Hamikdash will reflect our rise to a new level of holiness, for example, a Kohen will not be able to marry a widow (and not only refrain from marrying a divorcee as the Torah prescribes), as the Radak explains in perek 43. We see how from the depths of exile, Yechezkel discussed plans for redemption and rebuilding, an ultimate display of Jewish tenacity.

 Perek 40: This prophecy took place in the Yovel year, the 25th year of the exile. Yechezkel was transported to a “high mountain” in Eretz Yisrael and was shown the Beis Hamikdash by an angel in human form (Radak) holding a “linen thread and measuring rod”. The thread was used to measure the length of the ground whereas the rod was for measuring the depth of gates and walls (Rashi). Yechezkel was shown the various halls, pillars, gates, windows, chambers, balconies with their respective measurements, the room with eight tables and hooks to prepare animals once they were slaughtered, and the quarters for the Beis Hamikdash’s workers.  This vision was shown to Yechezkel on Yom Kippur of the Yovel year (a time when slaves are freed), to symbolize our freedom from the servitude of Galus, as well as forgiveness from our sins (Radak 40:1).

Perek 41: In this perek, Yechezkel was shown a vision of the Beis Hamikdash, including the Kodesh and Kodesh Hakdoshim, and the measured gates, chambers, doors, walls, windows, pillars, and a winding staircase (Rashi). Additionally, he was shown the Keruvim, Shulchan and various altars. The measurements for the Beis Hamikdash’s building as well as the intricate design specifications are detailed.

Perek 42: The various three tiered chambers’ dimensions are specified with relation to the gates, pillars and paths. The pessukim describe the location of the platform where the Leviim would sing, the place where the Kohanim could dine on the “most holy” sacrifices, and the Kohanim’s changing room as they could not leave the Kodesh with their uniforms. In addition, there was a wall separating “holy (Har Habayis) and the mundane (outside Har Habayis)”. Although both locations were holy, the area outside Har Habayis was less sanctified than Har Habayis.

Perek 43:

The Haftara of Tetzaveh is from Yechezkel 43:10-27

Yechezkel was transported back to the gate and Hashem’s Shechinah filled the Beis Hamikdash. Additionally, Yechezkel witnessed the Ma’aseh Merkavah as previously, and prostrated himself. Yechezkel was brought to the Kodesh Hakdoshim which was “full of the Divnine presence”. The angel in human form related to Yechezkel that Hashem would abide there for eternity, and he should ensure they refrain from desecrating Hashem’s name by burying their kings in such a holy location (Metzudas David). Yechezkel would teach Bnei Yisrael the measurements of the Beis Hamikdash so that they would be “embarrassed of their sins” and be able to build the Beis Hamikdash once Techias Hameisim occurs. Yechezkel detailed the measurements of the altar, specifically the ‘hareil’, the part of the altar where sacrifices were burned. Hashem gave instructions to the Kohanim and Leviim how to sacrifice offerings initially for the first seven days to “purify the altar” and then bring the regular “burned offerings and peace offerings” to find favor in Hashem’s eyes.

Perek 44:

The Haftara of Emor is from Yechezkel 44:15-31

Hashem determined that Bnei Yisrael would not be allowed to access the outer gate facing towards the south (Rashi) as it is the “enclave for the Divine”, however the Kohen Gadol would eat offerings in this area (Rashi). Hashem’s Shechinah filled the Beis Hamikdash and Yechezkel prostrated himself. Yechezkel was told to listen attentively to all the teachings concerning the Beis Hamikdash to remind Bnei Yisrael not to repeat their mistakes of serving idolatry and having unsuitable Kohanim. Therefore, Kohanim that served idolatry previously would no longer be able to offer up sacrifices in the Beis Hamikdash, although they could perform their other duties as “guardians of the house”. Despite the fact that the garments of a Kohen on Yom Kippur previously included linen and wool, all the Kohanim would elevate themselves to the level of the Kohen Gadol and therefore also only wear linen (Radak explained by the Malbim). The perek outlines several laws pertaining to the Kohanim. The Kohen’s garment could not be worn outside the quarter of the Kohanim (Metzudas David), they must keep their hair short, they may not drink inside the Beis Hamikdash, they will not be allowed to marry a widow or divorcee, they should teach the public about Halachah “holy and ordinary” i.e. whether something is pure or impure, and not contaminate themselves to a dead body other than their seven close relatives. New Kohanim would have to bring a sin offering before beginning their ‘career’ and Hashem would provide for them through both sacrifices and tithes. Note the ban on the uncircumcised from entering the inner areas of this Mikdash (44:7).

Introduction to Perakim 45-48

Yechezkel distributed Eretz Yisrael among the tribes, Kohanim and Leviim and the Nassi. However this would only come into effect in the era of Moshiach. There are several differences to the allocation of land during Yehoshua’s leadership and here. Each tribe would be granted an equal portion while previously it was divided ‘per capita’ (see Rashi 45:1 and 48:8), no tribes would dwell on the other side of the Yarden as during the reign of Yehoshua, and finally, the Beis Hamikdash will be placed in the portion of the Kohanim, rather than in the plot of both Yehuda and Binyamin.

Perek 45:

The Haftara of Shabbos Hachodesh is from Yechezkel 45:16-25; 46:1-18

In the era of Moshiach, the land will be divided equally between the twelve tribes, but a designated area of land of 150,000 by 60,000 amos would be set aside for the Har Habayis in the center, and accommodation for Kohanim in a 50 amos radius from Har Habayis. Similarly, an additional plot of land of 150,000 by 60,000 amos would provide housing for the Leviim, with a final 150,000 by 30,000 which would be used primarily for ‘the city’. The rest of the plot could be used by non-Levites. The Messianic King would be allotted vast lands to prevent him from seizing properties from other tribes as occurred previously, and similarly fixed measurements would be instigated to ensure that everything was very clear (see Metzudas David). Yechezkel outlined the inaugural sacrifices and the Kohen Gadol’s job description that would involve burned offerings, flour offerings, libation offerings, peace offerings, Rosh Chodesh, Shabbos and Yom Tov, most notably the Korban Pesach and the absence of Chometz throughout the days of Pesach.

Perek 46: Yechezkel related that the gate of the inner courtyard will be closed during the week, but not on Shabbos or Rosh Chodesh, due to the public services then (Rashi), and the Nassi would be present on Yom Tov when his sacrifices were offered. The Radak (46:1) considers this a new law for the times of Moshiach. This perek then specifies the requirements for the sacrifices of Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and Yom Tov. When Bnei Yisrael would travel to the Beis Hamikdash on the Shalosh Regalim, they would have to leave from the opposite gate, from which they came, but the Nassi was not bound by this law. Whenever the Nassi wished to offer a sacrifice, the gate would be opened and then closed once he had finished. The daily burned offering and flour offerings are described. A Nassi could hand his property down to his children permanently, however, his servants could only retain the gift until the Yovel year, to ensure the Nassi’s land remains his and he will not attempt to occupy other people’s land. Yechezkel was shown the kitchens where the guilt offering, sin offering, and flour offerings were cooked, to ensure they would not be removed from the inner courtyard.

Perek 47: Yechezkel is taken to the entrance of the Beis Hamikdash where water was flowing and the angel in the form of a man took Yechezkel through the knee deep water which rose higher and eventually “it could not be passed” (Radak). As Yechezkel departed from the river, trees suddenly sprouted. Thus, the ‘man’ relayed that the ‘River would spread and sweeten the salty water which will cause a great number of species of fish to multiply greatly and trees to flourish’, however, some rivers would not be affected so as not to distort the supply of salt. Yechezkel was instructed to distribute Eretz Yisrael to all the tribes for all citizens, including converts.

Perek 48: Yechezkel located each tribe’s allotted portion of land, in addition to the strip of land designated for the Beis Hamikdash and the Kohanim to dwell in, the Leviim’s living area, and the final 150,000 by 30,000 amos to be used “for dwelling and fields” and food for the city workers. This land could be accessed by all tribes. However, the plots of land belonging to the Leviim could not be sold or exchanged as they were “holy to Hashem”; this was only commanded to Leviim as they did not have the Beis Hamikdash in their portion (Metzudas David). The Nassi’s portion of land is allotted and this is 1/13th of the total land (see Rambam Hilchos Melachim 4:8). The gates and borders of each tribe are given. The perek (and sefer) ends by recounting the future residing of the Shechinah in Yerushalayim (see Radak 48:35):

[1] The Radak (8:1) writes that the three visions in which it says the phrase yad Hashem correspond to the three stages of exiles suffered by kingsYehoyakim, Yehoyachin, and Tzidkiya.

[2] The Minchas Shai cites a Midrash that these were Chananya, Mishael and Azariah

[3] Note the Radak’s comment (14:5) that when it comes to the sin of idolatry, Hashem punishes sinful thoughts the same as He punishes sinful actions (machshava ke’maaseh) – and that once Klal Yisrael were exiled to Bavel, they no longer served idols (though they did consider it). Also note Rashi’s source (14:9) for the concept that Hashem does not prevent one who wants to sin to actualize his plans (your spiritual account is your own effort).

 [4] The thirteen covenants are: 1) Hashem “washed you with water” prepared them by removing the impurity contracted from slavery in Egpyt (Radak) 2) “cleaned the blood from you” of slavery and forced labor in Egypt (Ri Kra) 3) “anointed you with the oil” to ease the ‘hardened flesh’ from slavery (Radak) 4) “adorned them with embroidered cloaks” of their enemies i.e. enabled them to be successful in battle (Rashi) 5) “put on tachash (badger skin)” this refers to the cover of the Mishkan which was made out of tachash (Rashi) skin 6) “covered you with linen” either refers to dress of Kohanim 7) “ dressed you in silk” refers to the Kohen Gadol’s  garments (Rashi) 8) “Hashem adorned them with accessories” meaning the words of the Torah 9) “adorned you with bracelets” refers to the fact that each tablet of the luchos paralleled the other 10) “necklace upon your neck” alluding to the Sefer Torah ‘yoke of Torah’ 11) “gave you a nose ring” represents the Aron (Rashi) 12) “earrings on your ears” the ‘Annenei Hakavod– Clouds of Glory’ surrounding the Mishkan at day (Rashi) 13) “placed a crown of beauty” the Divine presence rested upon them.

 

[5] With the passuk referring to Shabbos as ‘a sign’ (20:12) one cannot fail to cite the beautiful idea of the Chafetz Chaim: Why is Shabbos reffered to as a ‘sign between us and Hashem’? Further, why is observing shabbos considered the litmus test determining whether a Jew is considered religious, with several halachic ramifications stemming from this? The Chafetz Chaim would explain via a parable. If the owner of a store leaves his store, but leaves the sign hanging outside, it communicates his intention to return the store and that the shop is still in business. However, if the owner of a store removes the sign on his shop, this signals that the owner will not return back to his store and has closed shop. Similarly Shabbos is the “sign” between us and Hashem. Throughout the week we are often engaged in necessarily mundane activities; Shabbos is a break from our daily activites to grasp the opportunity to imbue a day of kedusha. This demonstrates that we ‘are still in business’ with Hashem. If Shabbos is observed properly, we show that even throughout the week in the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day lives, we are serving Hashem too (Chafetz Chaim al HaTorah, parshas Ki Sissa).

[6] The Gemara in Mo’ed Kattan learns many laws of mourning from these verses.

[7] Eretz Yisrael is called ‘the land of life/vitality’ (passuk 20) because it will live bountifully once again or because the resurrection will begin there (Radak 26:20)

[8] The Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 20:1 deduces from here that Jewish prophets have pity on the other nations, whereas gentile prophets such as Bilaam do not

[9]This follows the same lines as the gloriously deep observation of the Sefer Hachinuch on the mitzvah of blowing shofar during the Yovel year, that every problem has two elements: the problem itself and the loneliness that the person regards himself as the only person with this problem. Thus, when one finds others with the same problem, half of the problem is solved.