Passover 5763 Shabbat Chol Hamoed April 19, 2003 The Valley of the Dry Bones
We read today the famous prophecy of the Valley of Dry Bones as shared by the prophet Ezekiel. The vision was given to him more than 2500 years ago for the Babylonian exiles. However, G-d’s question to Ezekiel, "Can these dry bones live?" is a question still has relevance to us at this modern time in history. At times we ask it of our lives, our marriages, our synagogues, if there is a purpose, a hope or a future. But why do we read it at this time and how does it apply to us today? Is it possible that it conveys a certain resurrection of the dead, or that which has lost its purpose and its vision?
When Ezekiel conveyed this incredible vision, it was meant to address his chosen people (v. 12, 13). Our forefathers in the Babylonian exile, having lost the holy city with the Lord’s temple, questioned whether they were still the people of G-d. The repeated address, "O my people," reassured them of their identity. Likewise, however hopeless our situation may seem, we must realize today that G-d is in control and he will bring justice to whatever situation or challenge we face. We are still his people, his chosen ones.
Through his prophet, G-d wanted to deliver a message of hope, of revival to Israel. G-d wanted it understood that He was in control and only He could give life and sustain it. The power of G-d is evidenced in his communication with the prophet Ezekiel and the message which was delivered. Through the prophet, G-d Himself addresses the Dry Bones. First, G-d speaks to His prophet and commands him to prophesy: "Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones.’" Second, He then commands the prophet to preach His Word to the people and commands them to hear: "And say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord?’" Then, again through the prophet, G-d now addresses the people: "This is what the Lord Sovereign Lord says to these bones."
Even though its enemies wanted to get rid of Israel (figuratively speaking, the bones), time after time, G-d has come to the rescue. In more recent history, even an evil man like Hitler wrote in his The Final Solution, "If there are five Jews left, there is no victory." It has proven to be a very difficult proposition to declare oneself an enemy of G-d’s people and of his will. G-d wanted and granted Israel a certain resurrection and revival (breathing life into the bones), even in the face of such opposition, oppression and so many powerful enemies. The idea of the "dry bones" is that actually, even after horrible events like the Holocaust, you still had the formation of the state of Israel - G-d’s people survived and even thrived.
In Ezekiel’s account of the Valley of Dry Bones, we see how it is possible that the bones can be brought back to life, but only through the power and authority of the King of the Universe. G-d’s promises ring true throughout history. This revival and breath of life is evidenced in the freedoms and securities that Jews experience today, throughout the world -we see the evidence in our day and time.
For sure, there are other interpretations that talk about the end of days. But the goal for us when we read this is, as I paraphrase, "There are those who say that there is no hope, no future. But even if we are being attacked and persecuted, or facing personal hardships, so Ezekiel said that there is a future and we will continue - (the prophecy of the dry bones.)"
As Ezekiel emphasizes the certainty of revival; Isaiah emphasizes the means. Addressing the same discouraged exiles (Isaiah 40:27), Isaiah says: "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (40:31). By the gift of faith in the gift of G-d’s Word, G-d’s people are transferred from the Valley of Dry Bones to the land that flows with milk and honey because G-d is uniquely present there.