Passover 5783 – Echoes in the Valley
No, not the shank bone. A valley filled with dry bones. I know we’re past it already, but I couldn’t let all of Passover go by without mentioning the fact that the Haftorah for Shabbat Chol Hamo’ed Pesach (the intermediate days of Pesach) is one of the strangest in our canon. It comes from the book of Ezekiel, and in it Ezekiel has a vision of a valley filled with dry bones. God asks him to prophesy to the bones and tell them that they will live again. Miraculously, as Ezekiel is speaking, the bones begin to shift and shake – sinews and skins form over them, but they are just skin and bones. God asks Ezekiel to prophesy again, this time to the winds, telling them to fill these empty vessels with the breath of life! Then, a final instruction to Ezekiel: Tell these bones that they shall live again, they shall be filled with hope, for they have lost it. The language used in this verse should be recognizable to most:
הִנֵּ֣ה אֹמְרִ֗ים יָבְשׁ֧וּ עַצְמוֹתֵ֛ינוּ וְאָבְדָ֥ה תִקְוָתֵ֖נוּ נִגְזַ֥רְנוּ לָֽנוּ׃
‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone; we are doomed.’ (Ez. 37:11)
If you read this verse and have ever sung Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem, I imagine you’re singing along with me now: Od lo avdah tikvateinu, our hope has not yet been lost. At our first seder this year, my father-in-law invited us to read from a new “Freedom Haggadah”. It included essays and poems by some of Israel’s greatest authors and thinkers about the last few weeks of protest and defense of democracy as Israelis marched to protect the independence of the Supreme Court. We are not yet on the other side, but the fact that these events occurred right before we retell the story of our freedom, right before we read this strange tale in the book of Ezekiel, fill me with hope and determination. V’hi she’amda la’avoteinu v’lanu… there have been those in every generation who have sought to destroy us, some who even looked like friends and relatives and “saviors.” Yet to me this is all a reminder that we must not lose hope, and we must keep fighting and speaking out and engaging and standing up for what we know is right.
“Echoes in the Valley” is one of the first songs I ever wrote. The chorus shouts out hala! Forward! We must march forward together.
May you have a wonderful and uplifting rest of Passover, moadim l’simchah!