“Tell the House of Israel of the Temple and let them be ashamed of their sins” Ezekiel 43:10

By Dr Annette Boeckler, February 6, 2014

Haftarot chosen from the book of Ezekiel are not particularly rare but always strange. The parashah seems to focus on priestly garments - each item from underwear to overcoat is lengthily described in greatest detail - but there is no hint of this in the haftarah, which does not even mention the priests themselves; if one overlooks a parenthetical remark in one verse about Zadok’s sons, sons of Aaron in general have disappeared.

But the parashah too, treats something parenthetically: after all the glorious garments, four tiny verses mention a golden altar which must be consecrated. Like in a film where a scene passed to quickly and we play back to pay more attention, it seems that the haftarah wants to point to something we may have overlooked after the fashion show. Therefore, Ezekiel describes in great detail a copper altar from its foundations, then its three tiers, one a bit smaller than the other, each part even named, up to its top with horns.

The haftarah seems to alert us that the goal of the making a sanctuary was not the High Priest in his splendour, but an altar, anointed as were the Priests. People only step into roles in religious life that can change with time. In modern Judaism, too, it is not the rabbis or cantors who are the most important figures, but anything that has taken over the function of the altar, anything that creates atonement: life renewed, mistakes learned from and weaknesses that are accepted. Humans serve to make this happen, but they – or things made for them - are not the ultimate goal; God is the focus of Jewish religious life.

Last updated: 4:26pm, February 6 2014