The controversial Book of Ezekiel nearly didn't make it into the biblical canon, but it has had a lasting impact on both liturgical practice and mystical traditions.

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Judaism followed Ezekiel. It did not become a pure ethical system, following the prophets alone, or a mechanical ritual system, following the priests. Judaism became, as Ezekiel meant it to be, a pageant of ceremony ennobled by prophetic idealism.

Because it was Ezekiel who pioneered the principle that ritual and righteousness need not compete for the soul of the true worshiper of God, and that priest and prophet can teach together, one may well say that he, more than any other, was responsible for the fact that at every Jewish public worship service, on every Sabbath and holiday, a reading from the prophets always follows the reading from the Torah. This liturgical practice helped ensure that the words of the great literary prophets were taken into the heart of Judaism and preserved for succeeding generations.

"Father" of Jewish Mysticism

Furthermore, Ezekiel's strange, mystical mood, which made him see those elaborate and magnificent visions of the heavenly chariot, became the basis for Jewish mystical studies which later developed into the Kabbalah. When we consider the vast influence of the Kabbalah all through Jewish history, one may perhaps say that Ezekiel, whose words were the soil in which it grew, was certainly the most influential, if not necessarily the grandest, of all the literary prophets.

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Dr. Solomon B. Freehof

Dr. Solomon Bennett Freehof (1892-1990) was a prominent Reform rabbi, posek, and scholar. Rabbi Freehof served as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Beginning in 1955, he led the CCAR's work on Jewish law through its responsa committee.