“Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, ‘Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, ‘Belonging to Joseph (that is, to Ephraim) and all the Israelites associated with him.’ Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.” — Ezekiel 37:16–17
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.
This week’s Torah portion began with a confrontation between Judah and Joseph, and this week’s Haftorah is all about the relationship between Judah and Joseph. God told the prophet Ezekiel to take two sticks of wood and write Judah’s name on one and Joseph’s name on the other. Then, miraculously, the two separate sticks became one.
What is the meaning of this display?
Jewish tradition teaches that the stick of Joseph represents the Diaspora (exiled) Jews while the stick of Judah represents the Jews of Israel.
Joseph, who spent most of his life exiled in Egypt, typifies Jews living outside of their homeland. He was at the mercy of the Egyptians and unfairly imprisoned. But Joseph also became an integral part of Egyptian society and brought blessing to the land. At the same time, he had to play it safe and make sure that he was always in good standing with Pharaoh because everything could change at any second. When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt, they didn’t even recognize him because he dressed, spoke, and looked like an Egyptian.
On the other hand, Judah, who was the leader of the other brothers, spent most of his life in the land of Israel. He represents the Israeli Jews – free to live how they wanted to live, unapologetic, and strong. From Judah comes the Davidic dynasty, which represents the Jewish nation in all its strength and glory. While the Jews of the Diaspora were always characterized as weak, vulnerable, and pitiful, the Jews of Israel are seen as self-sufficient and proud.
Throughout history, there has always been these two types of Jews — and there always will be. The meaning of Ezekiel’s sticks is that at the End of Days, these two types of Jews will become one. God says, “I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land” (Ezekiel 37:21). God promises that He will bring His people back to Israel, and there, they will be one nation, with one king and one God.
At a welcoming ceremony for immigrants coming to Israel I recently attended, a member of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) got up and said that all immigrants who come to Israel bring something good with them from their former home. Whether they come from Russia, Yemen, India, America, or Ethiopia, each group brings something unique from that culture. The result is a beautiful mosaic in which all these shades of color are made into one stunning picture.
The wonderful news is that you can become a part of fulfilling this biblical prophecy through The Fellowship’s On Wings of Eagles ministry. Through this program and the generous support of Christians like yourselves, we have brought home to the Holy Land millions of needy and oppressed Jews from the four corners of the earth. Find out how you can help us create this beautiful mosaic by visiting our website at ifcj.org.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President