The haftarah for Shabbat Chol Hamoed Pesach is a prophecy from the book of Ezekiel. G‑d took him to a valley that was full of dry bones. He saw how G‑d brought them to life again. This, G‑d explained, was a message to the Jewish people. Though they may feel like “dry bones”—hopeless and cut off—G‑d will revive them out of their graves in the time of Moshiach.1

Why do we read this on Shabbat Chol Hamoed Pesach? Rav Hai Gaon testified that we have an oral tradition that the resurrection of the dead will occur in the month of Nissan.2 But this only explains why it should be read during Nissan. Why on Pesach? The people will be resurrected with the dew of Torah3 and since we start praying for dew on Pesach, it is appropriate to read about the resurrection as well. So now we have a reason to read it on Pesach. But why on Shabbat Chol Hamoed Pesach?

The regular Pesach readings are connected to the day they are read, and they are annually recurring themes. The resurrection of the dead is connected to Nissan and Pesach, but it will be a one time-event, not a recurring theme. Since we don’t have Shabbat Chol Hamoed Pesach every year, it is also non-recurring, making it a perfect match.

In the haftarah, Ezekiel says: “The hand of G‑d was upon me . . ., and He placed me in a valley, and it was full of bones, and he passed me over them, around and around, and behold there were very many on the face of the valley, and behold they were very dry.”4 G‑d tells Ezekiel: “Son of man: . . . prophesy to the bones, and say to them, ‘dry bones, listen to the word of G‑d.’ ”5

There is an amazing lesson to be learned from here with regards to spreading the teachings of Torah.

No One Is Dried Out

Some mistakenly think about Jewish people who are not involved—that they shouldn’t put any energy into trying to teach them Torah, and perhaps even avoid them altogether because of someone who may have called them “dry bones.”

Dry bones are a euphemism for someone who is void of Torah. For most people, it was caused by circumstances out of their control, growing up in homes where no Torah or Judaism was taught to them.

Torah is our lifeline, like water. Just as a fish cannot live without water, so, too, a Jew can’t live without Torah.

Some have a hard time teaching Torah to such people. They ask: “When have our ancestors done this? Why should we start a new tradition that was not done in the past? Is this even acceptable? They have no connection to it. Let them first get involved, and when they are somewhat connected, I will start to teach them.

The answer to these questions is found in these verses.

G‑d says to Ezekiel to speak to the dry bones—not just dry, but “very dry”—and to say to them: “Listen to the word of G‑d.” Who were these dry bones, and where were they from? Rashi tells us that they were the remains of 30,000 people from the tribe of Ephraim, who left Egypt 30 years before the Exodus and were slaughtered by Philistines.6 By leaving early, before G‑d wanted them to, they went against His will. It is to these very dry and going-against-G‑d’s-will kind of people that G‑d imparts to say to them: “Listen to the word of G‑d.”

One may think: “I will find one such person, and concentrate my efforts on him only. That way, it will be most effective.” To this, the verse says that there were “very many” dry bones. In other words, focus on many, not just a few.

Now you might ask, “OK, if they come my way, I will be glad to teach them, but do I have to go out of my way to reach them?” To this the haftarah says that G‑d took Ezekiel into a “valley,” a low place. He did not only go out to reach them, but even to a place low and void of Torah.

The haftarah now tells us that this strategy will work, as Ezekiel continues: “And I looked, and behold there were sinews upon them . . . and then flesh . . . and skin covered over them . . . And the spirit entered them, and they came to life, a very, very great multitude.”7 By going about it this way, you will be effective, they will come back to Torah, and not only a few, but a very, very great multitude.8

Three Levels of Hopelessness

The haftarah continues with G‑d telling Ezekiel that what he just saw is a message to the Jewish people who are saying, “Our bones are dried out, our hope is lost, we are cut off.”9 These are three expressions of hopelessness, each getting progressively worse.

“Our bones are dried out” refers to someone who realizes that he has been living a life void of Torah. Nevertheless, he knows that he can always return to G‑d, even after a lifetime without Torah.

“Our hope is lost” refers to someone who thinks that after so many years, change is impossible. This is worse because he doesn’t see the possibility of returning to G‑d. But even in his case, because he still lives among other Jewish people who through their love for another Jew will surely have an effect on him, he will also return.

“We are cut off” refers to the person who has left the Jewish community, and because of that there isn’t anyone to have an effect on him. Still, G‑d will find a way to awaken in him an urge to return.10

Whatever the case may be, G‑d says: “Behold I will open your graves, and I will take you out of your graves, My nation, and I will bring you to the land of Israel . . . I will put My spirit in you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your land, and you will know, that I G‑d have spoken and have acted.”11

May it happen soon! The time has come.


Here is what my wife Dina said and wrote about the dry bones. It so meaningful and true, I added it so you can gain from her wisdom and perspective.

I often wonder what we will be like when Moshiach comes. I imagine we will be a bunch of dried bones, broken and cracked. Pushed to the brink from all of the challenges we have, and so tired of being brave on the outside when we are so wounded and scared on the inside.

But it's to this very pile of bones that we need to speak, to prophesy about the future and remind us of the good yet to come. To allow our tears to dampen the dryness and to revive our spirit of hope. Sometimes the most vulnerable thing we can do is to open our hearts and minds to hope, despite the reality in front of us.

Be brave and be hopeful. Be honest and be open to the pain and tears of others. We need the tears to moisten our dryness and awaken our bones. The gates of tears are waiting. Let us not focus on how the bones are dressed or which synagogue these bones pray at. We are all so similar. We have the same pains and the same hopes and dreams for ourselves and for our families. We want the same future for our grandchildren, and we can help each other.