Parashat Vayigash: Haftarah
Illustration credit: Rebecca Kerzner

Haftarah הַפְטָרָה

In our parashah, Yosef and his brothers are reunited, and the family becomes one again. In our haftarah, the prophet Yehezkel speaks about a future time when the Jewish people will be unified in a similar way.
Several hundreds of years before Yehezkel lived, the Jewish people became divided in two.
Yehudah and Yisrael
“Yehudah” was the name for the group that included the שֵׁבֶט (shevet, tribe) of Yehudah and some of its neighboring shevatim that lived in the south of Eretz Yisrael. “Yisrael” represented all the other shevatim that lived in the north. (Sometimes Yisrael is also called “Efrayim,” who was the leader of this group of tribes.)
Yehudah was ruled by one king, and Yisrael was ruled by a different king. Then Yisrael was exiled to Bavel, and about 100 years after that Yehudah was exiled, too.
In our haftarah, God speaks to the prophet Yehezkel, who was a member of Yehudah living in exile in Bavel. God tells Yehezkel to do this:
…קַח־לְךָ עֵץ אֶחָד וּכְתֹב עָלָיו לִיהוּדָה וְלִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל חֲבֵרָו וּלְקַח עֵץ אֶחָד וּכְתוֹב עָלָיו לְיוֹסֵף עֵץ אֶפְרַיִם וְכׇל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל חֲבֵרָו:
וְקָרַב אֹתָם אֶחָד אֶל אֶחָד לְךָ לְעֵץ אֶחָד וְהָיוּ לַאֲחָדִים בְּיָדֶךָ׃
וְכַאֲשֶׁר יֹאמְרוּ אֵלֶיךָ בְּנֵי עַמְּךָ לֵאמֹר הֲלוֹא תַגִּיד לָנוּ מָה אֵלֶּה לָּךְ׃
דַּבֵּר אֲלֵהֶם כֹּה אָמַר ה' אֱלֹקִים הִנֵּה אֲנִי לֹקֵחַ אֶת עֵץ יוֹסֵף אֲשֶׁר בְּיַד אֶפְרַיִם וְשִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל חֲבֵרָו וְנָתַתִּי אוֹתָם עָלָיו אֶת עֵץ יְהוּדָה וַעֲשִׂיתִם לְעֵץ אֶחָד וְהָיוּ אֶחָד בְּיָדִי׃
…take one stick and write on it, “For Yehudah and the Children of Israel their friends”; and take one stick and write on it, “For Yosef—the stick of Efrayim—and the whole house of Yisrael their friends.”
Bring them one to the other one, so that they become one stick; let them be united in your hand.
And when any of your people ask you, “Won’t you tell us what these actions of yours mean?”
Answer them, “This is what God said: I am going to take the stick of Yosef—which is in the hand of Efrayim—and its neighboring shevatim in Yisrael, and I will place the stick of Yehudah upon it and make them into one stick; they will be one in My hand.”
  • What do you notice? What do you wonder about?
  • How many times do you see the word אֶחָד (ehad, one) in these pesukim? Why is this word repeated so many times?
  • In our parashah, what caused Yosef and his brothers to be separated, and what did it take to bring them back together? What would it take to make a reunion between the Jewish people today?
  • Why is unity so important?