On Holocaust Memorial Day, we are reminded of the famous Haftorah of the “Valley of Dry Bones” which we read during Pesach (Ezekiel, 37:1-14).
The valley of dry, lifeless bones which the Prophet Ezekiel envisions is a metaphor for the Jewish People in exile. G-d instructs Ezekiel to breathe life into the bones, and behold, the bones gather together and come to life!
How do the dry bones of come to life? Through the national restoration of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel. As the prophecy relates:
“So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up on their feet, an exceeding great army. Then He said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole House of Israel …. Behold O My People, I will open your graves, and cause you to come out of your graves, and bring you into the Land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the L-rd, when I have opened your graves, O My People, and have brought you up out of your graves, and I shall put My spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own Land; then you shall know that I the L-rd have spoken and performed it, says the L-rd.”
This prophecy came to pass in our time with the resurrection of the Jewish People out from the graveyards of the Holocaust to the rebirth of the Jewish Nation in the Land of Israel.
"And I will open your graves and bring you into the Land."
But the message of this prophecy is not limited to the Holocaust alone. The Prophet is teaching us that the Diaspora is a grave. Outside of the Land of Israel, the Jewish People are dry lifeless bones. What are these bones? The commandments of the Torah which we carry off with us into exile. Denuded of our Land and our national format, the commandments are all we have left. With only these bones, we are a skeleton of a nation. In the exile, we are stripped of the muscles, sinews, and flesh of our nationhood. In the Diaspora, no matter where it is, and how pretty it may seem, Jewish communities are mere piles of bones without our own Land, without our own government, without our own army, without our own national life. A grave of dry bones.
Only in the Land of Israel do the Jewish People come to life. Only in the Land of Israel can our bones be dressed in muscles and flesh and a vibrant and growing national body. Accordingly, the commandments only reach their full potency when they are performed in the Land where they are meant to be performed (Rabbi Kook, "Orot," 1:7.)
On Holocaust Day, in memory of our murdered brethren, may this be a lesson for all of us.