In contrast to Yirmiyahu who envisions Bnei Yisrael's redemption from the Exile as a process that begins with "teshuva" (see Yirmiyahu 29:9-14), Yechezkel foresees a redemption process which begins without "teshuva":
"Say to the House of Israel: ... Not for your sake will I act, but for the sake of My holy Name, which you have profaned among the nations. And the nations shall know that I am the Lord when... I will take you from among the nations and gather you in from all the countries and bring you back to your own land..." (36:22-24)According to Yechezkel, the redemption process will begin even if Bnei Yisrael are not worthy. His reasoning is quite simple. Even though Bnei Yisrael were first sent into Exile as a punishment for their sinful behavior (see 36:16-19), their existence in Exile itself caused God's Name to be profaned, for the nations said of them:
" 'These are the people of God, yet they had to leave His Land!' Therefore I am concerned for My holy Name that Bnei Yisrael have caused to be profaned among the nations to which they have come." (36:20-21)Therefore God will redeem his people even though they are not deserving, in order that His Name will no longer be profaned among the nations [="l'maan sh'mo"].
Clearly, Yechezkel would prefer for the redemption process to begin in the manner described by Yirmiyahu. However, Yechezkel claims that even if this "teshuva" process is not initiated by Bnei Yisrael, God will nonetheless redeem His people.
A similar theme is found earlier in Sefer Yechezkel in his description of Bnei Yisrael's redemption from Egypt. God's original hope was for Bnei Yisrael to perform "teshuva" before the plagues began:
"On the day that I chose Israel... when I made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt [compare Shmot 6:3]... when I said 'Ani Hashem Elokeichem' [compare 6:6-7]... that same day I swore to take them out of Egypt into a land flowing with milk and honey [compare 6:8, 3:8]... And I said to them [at that time]: Each man must rid himself of his detestable ways, and not defile himself with the fetishes of Egypt - [for] 'Ani Hashem Elokeichem.' But, they rebelled against Me, 'v'lo avu lishmo'a ay'lai,' no one rid himself from his detestable ways, no one gave up the fetishes of Egypt, and I resolved to pour out My fury upon them..." (20:5-8)Yechezkel states explicitly what Sefer Shmot had only alluded to: God had called upon Bnei Yisrael to repent prior to the Exodus to be worthy of their redemption. He had instructed them to cleanse themselves of the "tum'ah" of their Egyptian culture in preparation for God's revelation "b'shem Havaya." However, Bnei Yisrael did not listen.
Although Bnei Yisrael deserved destruction instead of redemption, Yechezkel explains that God saved them from Egypt only for the sake of His name:
"But I acted for the sake of My Name in order that it not be profaned in the sight of the nations ['va'as l'maan sh'mi...']" (see 20:9-10)Hence, Yechezkel sees Bnei Yisrael's redemption from the Babylonian Exile as taking place in a manner similar to their redemption from Egypt. However, similar to their redemption from Egypt, even though this process did not begin with Bnei Yisrael's "teshuva," repentance was an integral element of the continuation of that process. Therefore, upon their return to the Land Yechezkel foresees:
"And I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall become clean: I will cleanse you from all your tum'ah... And I will give you a new heart and new spirit... in order that you will once again follow My laws and observe My rules. Then you shall dwell in the Land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people and I will be Your God..." (36:25-28; compare with Shmot 6:7 and Vayikra 26:11-12)This concept of 'sprinkling of water upon you' to cleanse you from your sins parallels the procedure of sprinkling the "mei chatat" to cleanse an individual who became "tamey" (as detailed in Bamidbar chapter 19); this is why this perek was chosen as the Haftara for Parshat Parah.
Therefore, based on Yechezkel, Parshat Parah should remind us not only of our need to cleanse ourselves from tum'at meyt in order to bring the Korban Pesach, but more so to remind ourselves that should we find ourselves in a redemption process from Exile that begins without "teshuva," it is incumbent upon us to mend our evil ways and repent properly during that process in order that it can continue in a more ideal manner. By doing so, we will be worthy of the final words of this week's Haftara:
"When I have cleansed you from all your sins, I will people your SETTLEMENTS [author's caps; see JPS] and the ruined places shall be rebuilt. The desolate land, after lying in waste... shall again be tilled. And it will be said: This land that was once desolate has become like the Garden of Eden, and the cities once ruined... are now populated and fortified. And the nation left around you shall know that I the Lord have rebuilt the ravaged places and replanted the desolate land..." (36:33-36)
For Further Iyun
1. Note the similarities between Vayikra 26:3-13 and the Haftara (especially Yechezkel 36:29-31). Can you explain why?