by Joe Indomenico.
In Parashat Vayigash, Yehudah and Yosef confront each other. As the Midrash explains, Yehudah, "the lion,"king of the beasts, faces Yosef, "the ox," king of domestic animals. The other brothers stand aside, leaving it to the two leaders to fight their verbal battle. But as Yosef reveals himself , all animosity melts away and there is total unity among the brothers.
The parashat portends the future. The two kingdoms remained bitter rivals until the very end. But just as Yosef and Yehudah were reconciled with each other, the Prophet Yechezkel foretells that in the future, perfect unity will reign among the whole house of Yisrael. Both houses will contribute to Klal Yisrael's future redemption: Mashiach ben Yosef will pave the way and Mashiach ben David will complete the redemption.
We all know the imagery that is employed in conveying the message of Yechezkel. However, it is interesting to note that the prophet actually holds two tree branches together whilst making the prophecy. Why was this necessary when a verbal message would have sufficed ?
There are two reasons why a prophet sometimes accompanies his message with a symbolic action...... A physical demonstration makes a deeper impression on the people, the better to help them understand his message and generally, a prophecy from HaShem is conditional. Teshuva can reverse an evil prediction for the sinner involved. Vice versa, a good prophecy can be nullified if the person concerned, sins. The only time a prophecy becomes irreversible is if the prophet reinforces his words with a symbolic action.
Thus, the prophecy of the future union of the two kingdoms became irreversible by Yechezkel's action of holding the two tree branches together as one. It is interesting to note that the original prophecy concerning the split of the two kingdoms was also accompanied by a symbolic action in 1 Kings 11 where Achiyah the prophet seized his garment and tore it into twelve pieces, giving Yeravam 10 pieces. But for the sake of King David two tribes were given to Shlomo's son, Rechavam. Further along we read in verse 39 that this will not last forever. With these words, Achiyah hinted that in Mashiach's time both kingdoms will reunite and once again become "one tree," under the rulership of the Davidic Dynasty.
The Hebrew wood utilized is "etz - tree" or "etzim - trees." Chida in "Tzavrai Shalal," explains that tree or wood was used for this symbol in order to hint that in Mashiach's time the sin of the "Tree of Knowledge" will be atoned. All jealousy and baseless hatred will then vanish.
From the cool crisp mountain air of Tzfat and the balmy sub-tropical breezes of the South Pacific, Rav Katz and I wish you a Shabbat Shalom.