The haftarah for Vayigash is a prophecy of our prophet Ezekiel, about the uniting of the two kingdoms, Judah and Israel, in the time of Moshiach.

The haftarah begins with G‑d speaking to Ezekiel, “Take one stick of wood and write on it Judah . . . and take one stick of wood and write on it Ephraim . . . Bring them close to each other, like one stick, and they will become one in your hand.”

Then G‑d tells him that when people will ask, “What are these sticks to you?” He should tell them, “So says G‑d . . . behold I am taking the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim . . . and I will put together with them, the stick of Judah, and I will make them into one stick.”

Then the haftarah describes how G‑d will gather all the Jewish people, from wherever they are. He will unite them into one nation; “no longer will they be divided into two kingdoms.”

The Primacy of Action

This division is first seen in our parshah with the confrontation between Joseph and Judah: “And Judah stepped close to him [to Joseph].” This is the event that brought us down to Egypt, as Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, telling them to move down to Egypt.

Joseph and Judah are symbolic of two ways in Jewish life—intellect and action—or in other terms, Torah and mitzvahs. There is a Talmudic debate: What is greater, study or action? The sages conclude that study is greater because it brings to action.

The haftarah continues with G‑d saying that when we become one nation, “My servant David will be king over them.” Then later He says, “David My servant will be a nassi [prince] to them forever.” This is saying that ultimately, David [from Judah’s stock] will be the king over Joseph as well—meaning that when Moshiach comes, action will be greater than study. How does this work?

From the statement that “study is greater because it brings to action,” we understand that the point is the action—only that the way to action is through study. Therefore, today, study is most important. However, when Moshiach comes, the revelation will be so great that it itself will bring us to action, even without the study. The importance of action was well understood by our ancestors when receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. They said, “We will do and we will listen.” First, they said “do” (action), and only after, they said “listen” (study).

Ezekiel’s prophecy differs from all other prophecies in a few ways. The job of the prophet was to tell the prophecy to the people right away; however, here, he had to get sticks, write on them, and only after he was asked about what he was doing was he to share his message.

Making It Physical

Why the whole display with the sticks? Every good prophecy comes true, although sometimes, we don’t get to witness how because they only actualize in the spiritual realms. This happens when we become unworthy due to our sins; the prophecy gets stuck, unable to descend into the physical. This is what Jacob was afraid of when he was going to confront his brother Esau— not that G‑d’s promise of protection wouldn’t come true, but that perhaps because of something he did, it would not come into the physical.

By G‑d commanding the action of bringing the two physical sticks together, He was insuring that nothing would block the prophecy, as it has already entered the physical realm.

What are we meant to learn from the people asking Ezekiel about the two sticks? The Baal Shem Tov taught that a Jew must learn a lesson about his service to G‑d, from everything he sees. Here is a clear indication from the Tanach, that this is, in fact, the case; therefore, the natural tendency of Jewish people.

Two Caesars

In the two verses about David, there are differences that beg for explanation. Answering them will give us more of an understanding of what King Moshiach’s leadership will be like.

The first verse calls him, “My servant David.” The second verse calls him “David My servant.” The first verse calls him a king; the second says that he will be a nassi, which is the highest position of leadership beneath the king. The first says he will be king “over” them, while the other says that he will be nassi “to” them. The second verse says that he will be nassi to them “forever,” and the first verse says nothing like that.

The Talmud says that the first verse refers to another David, but the second refers to King David. It also explains that it will be like Caesar and the second-to-Caesar. How many kings will there be? And why does the Talmud call use Roman terms, not Hebrew?

The Explanation

King Moshiach will be one person, but his leadership will take two forms. First, he will be a king, bringing law and order. He is called “another David” because he will be different than David. As the Rambam explains, he will fight the wars of G‑d and bring the whole world to follow G‑d’s will. This is something that is extraordinary, that has never happened before—an end to war, jealousy, etc. He will be king “over” them because law and order can be established sometimes by force.

Why will he have the ability to bring such amazing change? Because of his subservience to G‑d, which will allow G‑d’s presence to shine through and make this change possible. That’s why he is called “My servant David” with the word “servant” first, because it is specifically his subservience to G‑d that will change the world.

Now we can understand why they use the term Caesar. Tosafot explains why Roman kings were called Caesar.

There was a pregnant woman who died; they cut open her womb and found the baby alive. He later became king of Rome, and being that the word for a cesarean (C-section) in Roman (Latin) is caesar, that was adopted as the title of Roman kings. In Hebrew, a cesarean is called a yotzei dofen, which means, “one that exits through a wall.” The expression yotzei dofen is also used for something that is out of the ordinary. Being that Moshiach will do the extraordinary, the term Caesar is used.

Once the world will be changed, the king form won’t be necessary any more. That is when the nassi mode of Moshiach will begin. Nassi was the term used for the head of the Sanhedrin, the chief teacher of Torah. As the Rambam explains, Moshiach will be wiser than Solomon and teach Torah at a new level since there will then be a great thirst for the knowledge of G‑d. This will be the purpose of Moshiach, to teach Torah. Though his teaching will be at a level never experienced before, it is nevertheless Torah, which is never changing. You can go deeper, but the whole of Torah was given at Mount Sinai, not to be changed. So in this capacity, Moshiach will be special, but not completely unique and extraordinary; that why he is called “David My servant,” using David first because here he will be like David and the kings after him.

Now we can understand why it says that he will be a Nassi “to” them. Because as a teacher, he will be close to the people and rule—not from a position of power, but from a position of acceptance. As there will be no more need for power because law and order will be natural.

Being that a law-and-order king won’t be necessary any more, Moshiach’s position of Nassi will last “forever,” and our only yearning will be for deeper and deeper understanding of G‑d and his Torah.

And as the haftarah concludes, “I will make for them a covenant of peace, an everlasting covenant . . . and I will put My Sanctuary in their midst forever. And My presence will be upon them, and I will be to them as G‑d, and they will be to me as a nation. And the nations will know that I am G‑d Who sanctifies Israel, when My Sanctuary will be in their midst forever.”

May it happen soon.