Inspired by Ezekiel 37: 1-14
Good morning, students.
I know. You’re asking yourselves, “What’s this alter kicker going to tell us today that we don’t need to know?” Well, I’ll tell you, boychicks: Today I will talk about our history. Not the ancient history of us as the Jewish people—this you should know—but the recent history of our mishpocha here in beautiful Babylon. So no more with the shpilkes! Settle down and pay attention.
None of you bubbelehs are old enough to remember our beautiful city of Jerusalem. Most of you were born here. But let me tell you, our home was magnificent. A city on a hill. Oy! I get farklempt when I remember the gorgeous temple of King Solomon which rested majestically on Mt. Zion. I was a priest, you know, so I had a great love for that most holy place. It’s all gone now, of course.
So how did we come to live here in Babylon? To be honest, it wasn’t so much our idea. But let’s start with some review. Of whom did our Lord promise to make a great nation..? Anyone..? Yes! That’s right, Yitzak! It was our blessed ancestor Abraham whom the Lord led to a land flowing with milk and honey, a place promised to our people through all generations. But when famine claimed the land, our blessed ancestor Joseph made us safe in the land of Egypt. And when the Egyptians treated our people harshly, whom did our Lord inspire to lead us back to the land we had been promised..? Good, Shlomy! Our great prophet Moses, who led us through the Red Sea out of slavery, through the desert for forty years, and gave us the Ten Commandments.
But, oy vey! What a bunch of kvetches our people were! Always complaining, never giving real thanks for what the Lord had done for us. And our leaders—such a bunch of shmedricks! Do-nothing hypocrites who kept the letter of the Law and ignored its spirit. They cheated the widow and the orphan, cared bubkes for the poor, ran after false gods, and put their trust in military treaties but not in the Law of the Lord.
Now, if I were the Lord, I might say, “Enough with this meshugass, already! Time to wipe them out and start over like in the days of Noah.” (Good thing I’m not in charge.) So what does our merciful Lord do? He sends the prophets to preach the truth and put the people back on the right path even though we sinned. Now: Who can tell me what a prophet is..?
That’s correct. A prophet is one who speaks for the Lord. And how do you know you’re listening to a prophet? Nine out of ten times what he tells you you don’t want to hear!
Now if we’re sinners, does the Lord still love us? Of course! Just as I may love my son, yet if he’s naughty I impart some wisdom with my hand to his tuchas! This is another form of prophecy.
In my day there was a great prophet named Jeremiah. Such a mensch! He warned our King Jehoiakim against going to war with Babylon. He told us that the Lord may have called us his chosen ones, but He would not protect us against the consequences of our own arrogant stupidity. Day and night Jeremiah preaches this. But does the king listen? No. A great politician was this Jehoiakim, but a great leader? Not so much. How can a man be a leader if he can’t be told when he’s wrong? The schmo starts a war he can’t finish. The armies of Babylon surround our lovely city. They cut off our food supply until the people were half starved to death. You boys are lucky you weren’t born yet. Oy gevalt! They tore down our walls, butchered our defenders, and destroyed our most holy temple. Such a sight of violence you should never see. And then they rounded us up—me and your parents and grandparents and brought us to this place.
Now maybe you’re saying, “So what’s so bad about this? We have plenty to eat. They treat us well. What’s there to complain about?” But I ask you: Did the Lord part the Red Sea, give us the Ten Commandments, lead us through the wilderness, and give us Moses and Elijah and Isaiah and Jeremiah just so we could be a bunch of fat, complacent shmegeges in a foreign land?
This you should think about.
I had a dream recently. Well, not so much a dream as a vision. I was standing on a great plane covered with the dead, dry bones of our people. Then I hear the voice of the Lord say, “Ezekiel, do you think these bones can live?” So who am I to give my opinion to the Lord? So I answer, “O Lord, you know better than I do.” And he says, “Prophecy to the bones, Ezekiel that they may live.”
I think this is meshuga, but I prophecy anyway. “Get up, bones,” I say. “Why are you lying around when there’s work to be done..?!” And I hear the bones rattling. And they join together. And the flesh comes upon them, and they rise. Yet they look dead, with no life in their eyes. So the Lord says, “Speak to their spirit, Ezekiel!” So I speak.
“Listen,” I say. “People of Israel. You are chosen by the Lord for a purpose. You are loved and fashioned and molded and hardened to be a blessing to the nations! Trust in the Lord. His anger lasts but a moment. In his favor is life! Sorrow may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning!”
You know, sometimes a prophet gets to give good news.