Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
EZEKIEL CHAPTER 47
"AND A FOUNTAIN SHALL GO FORTH FROM THE HOUSE OF HASHEM"
Just like Ezekiel in our present chapter, the prophet Joel had already prophesied that at the end of days, "a fountain shall go forth from the House of HaShem" (Joel 4:18). Likewise the prophet Zechariah, a younger contemporary of Ezekiel's who according to one opinion was his student, also prophesied in his vision of the war of Gog and Magog that when the Mount of Olives splits, "it shall be on that day that living waters will go forth from Jerusalem, half of them towards the eastern sea (Yam HaMelach, the "Dead" Sea) and half of them towards the western sea (the Mediterranean)" (Zechariah 14:8; see RaDaK ad loc.).
At the climactic conclusion of Ezekiel's "virtual tour" of the Future Temple , he is now shown these living waters emerging from the under the threshold of the Temple . "First he saw the water emerging from under the threshold of the House, which is in the middle of the east side of the House, and afterwards the water turned southwards and went down from the southern shoulder of the gate of the Sanctuary. It is possible that it was coming out of the southern side-door of the gate, by which no man ever entered the House. The water went down south of the Altar and flowed out of the Inner Courtyard and from there out of the city" (RaDaK on v 1). The Talmudic rabbis taught that "this stream originated in the Holy of Holies. At first it was as thin as the antenna of a locus. When it came to the entrance of the Sanctuary it was the thickness of a weft thread. When it reached the gate of the Vestibule it was as thick as a warp thread. When it came to the gate of the Inner Courtyard it became as wide as the mouth of a small bottle." (Yoma 77a).
The angel guiding Ezekiel takes him out of the north gate of the Inner Courtyard into the Outer Courtyard, bringing him around to the outer gate of the east side to watch the waters flowing out of the Temple precincts (v 2). By the time the angel went out and measured a thousand cubits from the Temple wall (even the flow of the waters of CHESSED is precisely measured with GEVURAH) the waters were already ankle-deep (v 3). By the time he measured another thousand cubits they were knee-deep (v 4), and after measuring another thousand, they were up to his loins. Soon the waters became a river so deep that it was dangerous to wade through and even to swim across would be impossible (v 5).
In the short time between the angel's having brought Ezekiel out and his taking him back, many trees had sprung up on both banks of the river.
"And he said to me, these waters are going out towards the eastern region and go down into the Aravah, and on their entering the sea, the sea of issuing waters, the waters shall be healed" (v 8). Our sages taught: "Where were the waters going? To the sea of Tiberius (=the Aravah) and the sea of Sodom (Yam Hamelach, the first 'sea' in the verse) and to the Great Sea (=the Mediterranean , the 'sea of issuing waters, from where they will go out to the oceans of the world) to heal their salty waters and sweeten them" (Tosefta of Succah 3:3).
Whereas previously these seas could not support many life forms because of their saltiness, they will in future support an abundant diversity of fish because "when these waters come there they will be healed and everything shall live wherever the river comes" (v 9). According to tradition, the souls of Tzaddikim are incarnated in fish, who will doubtless rejoice in swimming in the great sea of wisdom!
"But its miry places and its marshes shall not be healed." - and why? Because ".they shall be given for salt" (v 11; Rashi ad loc. See Ramchal quoted below).
The many wonderful fruit trees on the banks of this amazing river are reminiscent of all the kinds of trees that were "pleasant to behold and good for food" which God caused to sprout in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). Every month these trees will produce a new harvest of ripe fruits (Rashi on v 12 of our present chapter). "The fruits will be for food and the leaves for medicine (LI-TERUPHAH)" (v 12) - a medicine "to release the mouth (LE-HATIR PEH) of the dumb, and to release the mouth of the barren women" (Sanhedrin 100a. LE-HATIR PEH, "to release the mouth", is a rearrangement of the letters of LI-TERUPHAH in our verse. See Likutey Moharan I, 60).
In the words of the concluding passage of Ramchal's MISHKNEY ELYON on the form of the Future Temple :
By the entrance to the Inner House is a small path where the sweetest waters flow. These waters come from the innermost place of delight, a place of the most powerful Mercy [ Rachamim ]. For that reason, as these waters come out, their direction of flow is to the south [ Chesed ]. They then flow out of the Temple . Where to? This is explained in the verse: ". And they will come into the sea, into the sea of the putrid waters, and the waters shall be healed" (Ezekiel 47:8) . For their mission is to heal all gatherings of water from their saltiness by means of the tremendous mercy they contain. These waters are not the same as the basic sustenance given to enable all things to subsist, but rather a most precious light that shines from the Holy of Holies in order to temper the severity of Gevurah in any place where it is strong. Even so, it says: "But its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will serve to supply salt" ( ibid. v. 11) . For some Gevurah is needed in the world, and this is the significance of the salt required with all sacrifices. For this reason "they will serve to supply salt", and this is why some was left. If it were not so, Mercy would spread out on every side and all the powers of Gevurah would disappear. In the time of the Mashiach mercy will spread throughout the world, and all things will be rectified and brought to perfection. All the lights will shine with a radiance unlike anything ever known. Holiness will spread without bounds, and all the worlds will be filled with serenity, bliss and joy, as it says: "This is the day that God made, we will rejoice and be glad on it" (Psalms 118:24) .
THE FUTURE BOUNDARIES OF THE LAND OF ISRAEL
Verses 13-20 trace the boundaries of the Land of Israel in the Final Settlement and parallel and complement the description of the boundaries of the Land in Numbers 34:1-12. It should be noted that the boundaries of the Land of Israel given in both of these texts are those of the Land of Canaan - the land of the seven Canaanite nations west of the River Jordan that God gave to Israel - but do not include the territories of Sichon king of the Emorites and Og king of Bashan east of the Jordan (the Gilead, the Golan etc.), which already came into the possession of Israel in the time of Moses. Nor do they include the territories of Moab , Ammon and Edom (all in the present-day state of Jordan ), which are destined to come into Israel 's possession at the end of days in accordance with God's promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:19 see Rashi ad loc. and Rashi on verse 18 of our present chapter).
There are varying opinions about the identity of some of the locations marking the boundaries as mentioned in our text. These opinions are set forth together with a supporting map in the Talmudic Encyclopedia Vol 2 s.v. Eretz Israel . As discussed in the KNOW YOUR BIBLE commentary on Ezekiel chapter 45, the western boundary of Israel is the Mediterranean Sea, and the northwest boundary of the Land is marked by the great mountain spur that comes down into the Mediterranean near the town of Antakya in what is presently Turkey . From there the northern border runs eastwards until it turns south to encompass large parts of present-day Syria , the whole of present-day Lebanon and all of Israel west of the River Jordan. The southern end of the eastern boundary of the land is marked by Tamar way south in Israel's Negev, from where the border turns westwards to meet the Mediterranean at the western arm of Egypt's Nile River, or at the very least at Wadi El Arish.
This is the land that is to be divided among the Twelve Tribes of Israel, as set forth in the next chapter. Verses 22-23 state clearly that the righteous proselytes (GERIM) who have entered the community of Israel will also receive their share of the Land for themselves and their offspring in the territory of the tribe among whom they live.
The section contained in verses 1-29 of the present chapter sets forth the location of the tribal inheritances of the Twelve Tribes in the Final Settlement in relation to the TERUMAH "tithe" of land in the center of the country that will be for the Temple , the Cohen-priests and Levites, the City of Jerusalem and the Nasi.
As discussed in the KNOW YOUR BIBLE commentary on Ezekiel chapter 45, the entire Land of Israel will be divided into a series of thirteen strips of territory each running from the eastern boundary of the land to the west western boundary and each 25,000 poles (appx. 80 kilometers) "wide" (i.e. from north to south). These strips will be arranged one below the other from the northern border of the Land all the way down to its southern border (see Rashi on verse 1 of our present chapter). In verses 1-8 we learn that seven tribes will have their territories north of the TERUMAH area of the Temple , Priests, Levites. City of Jersalem and Nasi, which is the subject of verses 9-22. Then in verses 23-28 we learn that the other five tribes will have their territories to the south of this area.
This division of the Land among the tribes in equal strips is radically different from its division in the days of Joshua, when the size of each tribe's inheritance was related to the size of its population, and in several cases a number of tribes took their inheritances side by side in a row running from east to west, which meant that some tribes were in mountainous territories with no access to the sea, while others were in valleys or lowlands by the coast etc. In the words of the Talmudic sages: "Not like its division in this world will be the division of the Land in the world to come. In this world a man who possesses a field for land crops may not possess a fruit orchard while one who has a fruit orchard may not have a field for land crops. But in the world to come there will be nobody who does not have a share in the mountains, the lowlands and the valley, as it is written, 'the gate of Reuben, one; the gate of Judah , one; the gate of Levy, one.' (Ez. 48:31). And the Holy One blessed be He himself will give them their portions, as it says, 'and these are their portions says HaShem'" (Ez. 48:29; Bava Basra 122a).
There are also some noteworthy differences between the locations of some of the tribes in the north (GEVURAH) and south (CHESSED) of the country in the division of the land under Joshua and their locations in the Final Settlement. The first three tribes mentioned in our text, who will take their portions in the three northernmost strips of the Land, are Dan, Asher and Naphtali, all three of whom did indeed take their portions in the northernmost part of the territories conquered in the days of Joshua. But whereas Zevulun and Issachar took territories immediately to their south in the time of Joshua, in the Future Settlement they will no longer be north of Jerusalem but south: they will take the two strips immediately adjacent to that of the southernmost of all the tribes - Gad. In place of Issachar and Zevulun in the north will be Menasheh and Ephraim. South of Ephraim will be Reuben, who in the time of Joshua did not have any portion in the Land of Israel west of the Jordan as the tribe of Reuben, together with Gad and half the tribe of Menasheh, took their portion in the territories east of the Jordan conquered in the days of Moses.
An interesting switch is that Judah, who originally took virtually the entire country SOUTH of Jerusalem will in the future be immediately NORTH of the TERUMAH strip of the Temple, Priests and Levites etc. while Benjamin, who was originally in the territories NORTH of Jerusalem, will in the future be to its SOUTH. South of Benjamin will be the tribe of Shimon, who did not even have their own territory in the time of Joshua but were absorbed in the territory of Judah . This was because the tribe of Shimon had been under a cloud since the time when Jacob cursed Shimon after he and Levy slew the men of Shechem, and especially since the time of Moses, who did not even bless Shimon on account of the prince of that tribe having flouted his authority by taking a Midianite woman. The restoration of the tribe of Shimon in the Final Settlement signifies the complete rectification of Israel in time to come.
Verses 9-14 demarcate the exact measurements of the TERUMAH of 25,000 x 25,000 poles of land and those of its constituent areas: (1) That of the priests - a strip of 25,000 x 10,000 poles running east-west with the Temple in the middle, vv 10-12. (2) That of the Levites immediately to its south - likewise in a strip of 25,000 x 10,000 poles running east-west, vv 13-14. (3) That of the City of Jerusalem, which was for Israelites from all the tribes - a narrower strip of 25,000 x 5,000 poles containing the city itself, which will be 4,500 x 4,500 poles surrounded on all four sides by open land 250 poles wide, i.e. a square of 5,000 x 5,000 poles touching the boundaries of its strip on the north and south sides, with two strips of 10,000 x 5,000 to its east and west providing lands for farming and support for the people in the city, vv 15-19.
As stated above, these three areas make up a square of 25,000 x 25,000 poles, while the areas from the eastern side of this square to the eastern boundary of Israel and from its western side to the sea will be for the Nasi, v 21.
"AND THESE ARE THE EXITS OF THE CITY."
The closing section of Ezekiel's prophecy (vv 30-35) describes the Twelve Gates of the City corresponding to the Twelve Sons of Jacob. The tribe of Levites (of which the Cohen-priests are a part) are not included in the apportionment of the Land of Israel among the Twelve Tribes as they will have their own areas in the TERUMAH territory. In the absence of the tribe of Levy from the apportionment of the Land, Joseph's sons Menasheh and Ephraim both attained the status of full tribes, as indicated in Ezekiel 47:13, in order to make up the tally of twelve.
But in taking their places at the twelve gates of the Holy City , three on each of its four sides, the twelve sons of Jacob are all equal. The "bed" and resting place of Jacob, perfect of the fathers - the Holy Temple - is at last complete, and each of his twelve sons has his own unique gate of ascent, prayer and devotion as part of the overall unity.
Everything is peace and perfection - complete TIKKUN, repair and rectification. "And the name of the city from that day shall be: HaShem is there" (v 35).
And may it be the will of our Father in Heaven to quickly bring about His redemption in kindness and mercy, "And the city will be built on its hill and the palace will sit in its appointed place" (Jeremiah 30:18) speedily in our days. Amen!
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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