In this week’s haftorah we read about the ultimate unification of the Jewish people. The prophet Yechezkel is instructed to take two pieces of wood and inscribe on them the name of the two kingdoms of Israel, Yehuda and Yosef. Hashem says, “Bring them near one another to appear as one piece and they shall unite in your hands.” The Radak understands this to mean that Yechezkel should hold them near each other and then, miraculously, they will unite to become one piece of wood. He explains that this symbolism refers to the miraculous experience which will occur during the era of Mashiach. Each piece of wood represents a distinct entity, one of the kingdoms of Israel. Although Dovid Hamelech received an unconditional guarantee that his household would be kings over Israel this did not preclude fragmentation of the kingdom. Therefore when his grandson strayed seriously from the path of his predecessors a severe split occurred. Ephraim, a tribe which descended from Yosef, led a powerful revolution against the dynasty of Dovid Hamelech, the descendants of Yehuda. The split was so intense that the seceding camp of Yosef totally severed its relationship never to return again throughout all the years of Israel1s reign. Yechezkel prophesized that these kingdoms would eventually unite and form one entity. Their unification would be so firm that they would permanently become one people with no trace of their previous division. This sense of kinship and unity will be so prevalent that the Jewish nation will be then likened to one piece of wood, void of any factions or fragmentation.
The prophet continues and states, “And I (Hashem) will purify them and they shall be a nation to Me and I will be G-d to them…My divine presence will rest upon them…forever.” These passages refer to the final phase of unity when Hashem will reunite with His people. The time will eventually come for Hashem to return to His nation. In the era of Mashiach total unity will be achieved. All the Jewish people will unite as one inseparable entity and Hashem will reunite with His people. This unification will be similar to that of the Jewish people, an everlasting and inseparable one.
It is worthwhile to take note of the order in which the prophet presents these two unities. The first step will be the unification of all the Jewish people and then, and only then, Hashem will reunite with His people. The Sefer Hacharedim (chapter 5) shares with us an important perspective about this order. He reflects upon the distinctive character of Hashem’s oneness and explains that this can only be felt and appreciated through the oneness of the Jewish people. If they are fragmented and divided into factions their perception and experience of Hashem is a divided one. Hashem, being one, cannot unify with us unless we are one united entity allowing expression for His perfect oneness. It follows logically that the prerequisite to Hashem’s unity with His people is our unity within ourselves. Once the Jewish people become one, it will then be possible for Hashem to unite with them and display His perfect unity to the world.
The foundation for this unity was actually laid in this week’s sedra. Yosef, through his remarkable scheme, succeeded to counter his brothers1 suspicions and convinced them of their indescribable error in judgment. After their jealousy and hatred was gone, all the sons of Yaakov united and embraced one another. Yosef and Yehuda, the two powers to be, united as one family and a true sense of kinship and unity was felt. Although a split would inevitably occur at a later time, the groundwork for unity had been established and would eventually yield the total unity of our people. The immediate result of the brothers’ unity is recorded in this week’s sedra. After Yaakov discovered Yosef’s existence and well-being the Torah says (Beraishis 45, 27), “And their father, Yaakov’s spirit was restored to life.” Rashi (ad loc) quotes Chazal who explain this to refer to the return of Hashem’s Divine Spirit to Yaakov.
Due to Yosef’s absence from Yaakov’s household Hashem’s Divine Spirit ceased to rest upon Yaakov. Now, after twenty-two long years the household of Yaakov was reunited and the Divine Presence of Hashem returned to it This episode is indicative of the future experience of the Jewish people. They will be divided for thousands of years and the presence of Hashem will cease to rest amongst them. The time will finally come for the Jewish people to reunite and become one inseparable entity. In response to this glorious moment Hashem will return and rest His Divine Presence amongst us and the spirit of Israel will be restored to life.
This lesson is so apropos to our times where so much diversity exists amongst our people. We pray to Hashem that we will soon merit total unification amongst ourselves which will ultimately yield our unification with Hashem and the return of His Divine Presence amongst His people.