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Paralleling the Parashah’s commands relating to Aaron and his sons, the Haftarah delves into the priests’ role in a rebuilt Temple. This passage is part of the concluding chapters of Ezekiel which detail a rebuilt Temple and its procedures. In contrast with the First Temple’s corrupt end, the new Temple will stand as a bastion of justice, holiness, and purity. Most priestly families, who served idols during the First Temple, will be banished from priestly acts, effectively becoming ordinary Levites. Reprising their role during King David’s era, only the line of Tzadok, whose name is synonymous with righteousness, will officiate as priests at the Temple and among the people.

The Haftarah details the duty of these priests to follow the Parashah’s priestly laws, and to serve as teachers, judges, and leaders of Shabbat and holiday observance for the nation. The notable differences between these laws and similar Torah laws are addressed below, in Haftarah and Halachah. Since they have no ancestral property to sustain themselves, the people sustain them from their sacrifices, tithes, and first fruits.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verses 44:15-16: Only priests descended from Tzadok, who did not serve idols during the 1st Temple era, will serve God in the Temple.

Ezekiel 44:15

“The priestly Levites, descendants of Tzadok, who kept My sanctuary’s charge while the children of Israel strayed from Me- they shall come near to me to minister to me. They shall stand before Me to offer to me fat and blood,” says the Lord God.

וְהַכֹּהֲנִ֨ים הַלְוִיִּ֜ם בְּנֵ֣י צָד֗וֹק אֲשֶׁ֨ר שָׁמְר֜וּ אֶת־מִשְׁמֶ֤רֶת מִקְדָּשִׁי֙ בִּתְע֤וֹת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ מֵֽעָלַ֔י הֵ֛מָּה יִקְרְב֥וּ אֵלַ֖י לְשָֽׁרְתֵ֑נִי וְעָמְד֣וּ לְפָנַ֗י לְהַקְרִ֥יב לִי֙ חֵ֣לֶב וָדָ֔ם נְאֻ֖ם אֲדֹנָ֥י ה'׃

Verses 44:17-22: In the Temple, these priests must don linen garments, and leave them in the Temple before joining the people. When serving at the Temple, they may not drink wine. Their hair must be of moderate length, and they must follow strict marriage rules (see Haftarah and Halachah).

Ezekiel 44:22

They shall not take a widow or a divorced woman for wives, but they shall [marry] virgins of the seed of the house of Israel, or a widow who is a priest’s widow.

וְאַלְמָנָה וּגְרוּשָׁה לֹא־יִקְחוּ לָהֶם לְנָשִׁים כִּי אִם־בְּתוּלֹת מִזֶּרַע בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל וְהָאַלְמָנָה אֲשֶׁר תִּהְיֶה אַלְמָנָה מִכֹּהֵן יִקָּח

Verses 44:23-24: These priests will teach the people about holiness and ritual sanctity, and adjudicate disputes according to God’s law. They will preserve and sanctify God’s holy days.

Ezekiel 44:23

They shall instruct My people [distinguishing] between the sacred and the ordinary, and inform them [to distinguish] between the defiled and the pure.

וְאֶת־עַמִּ֣י יוֹר֔וּ בֵּ֥ין קֹ֖דֶשׁ לְחֹ֑ל וּבֵין־טָמֵ֥א לְטָה֖וֹר יוֹדִעֻֽם׃

Verses 44:25-27: These priests may not defile themselves by contact with the dead, except for certain relatives. A defiled priest must wait seven days after completing the usual seven-day purification process and then give a sin offering for his defilement.

Ezekiel 44:25

[The priest] shall come near no dead person to defile themselves - except they shall defile themselves for [their own] father, mother, son, daughter, brother, or for [their] never-married sister.

וְאֶל־מֵ֣ת אָדָ֔ם לֹ֥א יָב֖וֹא לְטָמְאָ֑ה כִּ֣י אִם־לְאָ֡ב וּ֠לְאֵם וּלְבֵ֨ן וּלְבַ֜ת לְאָ֗ח וּלְאָח֛וֹת אֲשֶֽׁר־לֹא־הָיְתָ֥ה לְאִ֖ישׁ יִטַּמָּֽאוּ׃

Verses 44:28-31: Priests do not have ancestral property to sustain themselves as Israelites do. God provides for them by commanding Israelites to give them sacrificial, agricultural, and other gifts. They must observe kashrut.

Ezekiel 44:30

The first of all the firstfruits of all things, and every heave-offering of all your heave offerings, shall belong to the priests. You shall give the first of your dough to the priest, to cause a blessing to rest on your house.

וְרֵאשִׁית֩ כָּל־בִּכּ֨וּרֵי כֹ֜ל וְכָל־תְּר֣וּמַת כֹּ֗ל מִכֹּל֙ תְּרוּמ֣וֹתֵיכֶ֔ם לַכֹּהֲנִ֖ים יִֽהְיֶ֑ה וְרֵאשִׁ֤ית עֲרִסֽוֹתֵיכֶם֙ תִּתְּנ֣וּ לַכֹּהֵ֔ן לְהָנִ֥יחַ בְּרָכָ֖ה אֶל־בֵּיתֶֽךָ׃

Haftarah and Halachah

Some of the Haftarah’s laws, such as its prohibition for a priest to marry an Israelite’s widow (verse 22), differ from the Torah’s (Lev. 21:7). These discrepancies led to Talmudic uncertainty about whether the book of Ezekiel should be included in the Bible. Enigmatically, the Talmud recounts that these legal differences were resolved:

Shabbat 13b

Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: “Truly, that man is remembered for the good, and his name is Ḥananya ben Ḥizkiya, as if not for him, the book of Ezekiel would have been buried [and excluded from the Bible] since [some of] its words contradicted the Torah’s words. What did [Ḥananya ben Ḥizkiya] do? They brought him three hundred jugs of oil, and he sat in the upper story [of a building] and homiletically resolved the contradictions.

אָמַר רַב יְהוּדָה אָמַר רַב: בְּרַם זָכוּר אוֹתוֹ הָאִישׁ לַטּוֹב וַחֲנַנְיָה בֶּן חִזְקִיָּה שְׁמוֹ, שֶׁאִלְמָלֵא הוּא נִגְנַז סֵפֶר יְחֶזְקֵאל, שֶׁהָיוּ דְּבָרָיו סוֹתְרִין דִּבְרֵי תוֹרָה. מֶה עָשָׂה? — הֶעֱלוּ לוֹ שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת גַּרְבֵי שֶׁמֶן, וְיָשַׁב בַּעֲלִיָּיה וּדְרָשָׁן.

Rabbi David Kimchi (Radak) offers an overall explanation of Ezekiel’s unusual rulings; i.e., they reflect an additional level of sanctity befitting a Temple holier than the one it replaced.

The Talmud resolves these contradictions in other ways. Here is its interpretation of the Haftarah’s prohibition for priests to marry an Israelite widow:

Kiddushin 78a-b

Rav Nahman said to Rava: The first clause [of Ezek. 44:22] pertains to a High Priest [who is prohibited from marrying a widow], and [its] latter clause pertains to a common priest [who may marry a widow]. Rava said to him: Yes[, I agree].

אמר ליה רב נחמן לרבא האי קרא רישא בכהן גדול וסיפא בכהן הדיוט אמר ליה אין

With emendations, all translations are from Sefaria.org. To dedicate, comment, or subscribe, email haftarahhelper@gmail.com.