"'I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms.'" Ezekiel 37:22
This Torah portion for this week is Vayigash, which means "and he approached," from Genesis 44:18-47:27, and the Haftorah is from Ezekiel 37:15-28.
In Jewish folklore there is a story told about how and why God picked Mount Moriah to be the site of His Holy Temple.
There were once two brothers who lived in two villages and shared the land between them. Every year they would divide the harvest. During one abundant year, the older brother who was married and had many children was worried about his younger brother who didn't have a family. Who would support him in his old age? In the middle of the night, the older brother secretly brought several sheaves of grain to his brother's storehouse, but when he woke up in the morning he still had exactly the same amount of grain that he had the night before.
The younger brother was also worried: How will my brother support so many children? So, the younger brother decided to secretly travel to his brother's storehouse and place several sheaves of his own inside, but in the morning, he discovered that he still had exactly the same amount of grain as he had before he gave any away.
This went on for two nights until on the third night, the two brothers met as each one was on the way to the other's storehouse carrying several sheaves of grain. At once, they both understood what had happened and they embraced in brotherly love. At that moment God decided that the mountain where the two brothers met, Mount Moriah, would be the site of His future home. The love that the brothers had for each other drew God to live among them at that place.
In this week's Haftorah reading taken from the book of Ezekiel, the prophet predicted that while the children of Israel had been split into two kingdoms in ancient times ten tribes in the Northern Kingdom and Judah and Benjamin in the Southern Kingdom in the future, the rift would be mended and the two would become one. Just a few verses later, God said through the prophet that He would place His sanctuary among the united people forever.
The Jewish sages explain that the two prophecies are connected. When there is unity and love among His people, God will dwell among them.
There are many ways to connect with God. We can pray and we can study God's Word. However, the story of the two brothers and the prophecies of Ezekiel point out another important route. When we pour out our love for our brothers and sisters, we draw God's love toward us.
This week, let us make a special effort to connect in a deeper way with someone we know who might be lonely or in need. When we embrace each other, God embraces us in turn.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President