Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

This week’s parsha, Vayigash, begins with the epic confrontation between Yehuda and Yosef, prefiguring the two Mashiachs, sons of Yosef and David. In the haftara, the navi Yechezkel looks past the divided kingdoms and two agents of redemption to the ultimate consummation of the unification of Israel. On Rosh Hashana we saw a similar theme as Yirmiyahu explained that just as the kingdom of Israel, under the leadership of Ephraim (the son of Yosef), was the first to go into exile, when the time comes to return the exiles the State of Israel will be reestablished first. Only later will kingship be returned to Judah and the offspring of David (Malbim on Yirmiyahu 31:9). In our haftara, Yechezkel is told to take two trees or branches of trees, each representing one kingdom – Israel and Yehuda – and join them together.

Whether the navi is describing branches or trees is unclear from the text because the Hebrew word eitz can refer to either. It is interesting to note that this passage directly follows the story of the dry bones (read on Pesach). In that spirit it’s not difficult to imagine the navi taking dead branches to miraculously grow together as one tree in his hands. In fact, Radak teaches in the name of his father that Hashem performed just such a miracle. He also asserts, following the Targum (an Aramaic translation of the text), that these “trees” were wooden boards.


Rabbeinu Bachye sees in our haftara a parable for the unity of the Creator as reflected in the unity of His people. He points out that nothing in this world is truly “one” in the sense that Hashem is one – an absolute unity. Even things that appear to be singular are found to be made up of different components. When the navi is bringing these “trees” together to make one tree, on the surface it’s obvious that there are different trees being combined. Two trees growing together will appear to the casual observer to be a single tree, but closer observation will reveal that they have been grafted together. True unity arises from the will and the spirit to become one. Rabbeinu Bechaye mentions in this regard that the leaders of the shvatim brought identical gifts to the Mishkan. They desired that there be no distinction between any tribes of Israel. Nobody should say that this one did that and the other brought this.

We cannot achieve true unity in the physical world which is built upon division and fragmentation. The navi is telling us that Israel and Yehuda will return to their land and they will become one nation. But they cannot be truly ready to fulfill their destiny and they cannot be led by one single king until they are ready to abandon the differences between them. Their only desire must be the total unification that only occurs in the “world of truth,” on a spiritual plane, so that one unified people may at last face their unitary Creator and serve Him as He desires to be served.


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Avraham Levitt is a poet and philosopher living in Philadelphia. He writes chiefly about Jewish art and mysticism. His most recent poem is called “Great Floods Cannot Extinguish the Love.” It can be read at He can be reached by email at [email protected].