Shabbat Chanukah

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Zechariah 2:14-4:7

After defeating the Seleucid Greeks and returning to the Temple, the Maccabees faced a dire situation: a completely defiled Temple, devoid of God’s presence. Hundreds of years earlier, the prophet Zechariah faced a similarly hopeless situation relating to the Temple. Despite the decree of Cyrus the Great allowing Jewish exiles in Persia to return to the Land of Israel and rebuild the Temple, only a small portion of the exiles did so. Many of these returnees were intermarried. Additionally, they succeeded in building only a sacrificial altar to God; constructing the rest of a new Temple was mired in difficulties. Therefore, Zechariah and his prophetic contemporaries’ sought to reignite the returnees’ passion for the Temple and God’s presence.

Zechariah’s words in the Haftarah begin by telling the people to rejoice, as God’s presence is returning. These words of hope are followed by a charge to the High Priest, Joshua, reminding him to follow God's commandments and to work in harmony with the Jewish governor of Judea, Zerubabel. The Haftarah concludes with a vision of the Temple’s menorah surrounded by olive branches. Just as the oil flows into the candlesticks, God’s will was flowing, through the prophets, down to Zerrubabael. Accordingly, Joshua and Zerubabel must emphasize following God’s will as much as, if not more than, their own political power.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verses 2:14-17: God promises to “dwell” again in Jerusalem and Judah, inspiring other nations as well.

Zechariah 2:16

And the Lord shall inherit Judah as His share on the Holy Land, and He shall again choose Jerusalem.

וְנָחַ֨ל ה אֶת־יְהוּדָה֙ חֶלְק֔וֹ עַ֖ל אַדְמַ֣ת הַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ וּבָחַ֥ר ע֖וֹד בִּירוּשָׁלִָֽם׃

Verses 3:1-5: Joshua the High Priest is judged in the heavenly court.

Zechariah 3:1

And He showed me Joshua, the High Priest, standing before the angel of the Lord. And Satan was standing on his right, to accuse him.

וַיַּרְאֵ֗נִי אֶת־יְהוֹשֻׁ֙עַ֙ הַכֹּהֵ֣ן הַגָּד֔וֹל עֹמֵ֕ד לִפְנֵ֖י מַלְאַ֣ךְ ה וְהַשָּׂטָ֛ן עֹמֵ֥ד עַל־יְמִינ֖וֹ לְשִׂטְנֽוֹ׃

Verses 3:6-10: God commands Joshua: Keep my charge in the Temple.

Zechariah 3:7

So said the Lord of Hosts: If you walk in My ways, and if you keep My charge, you, too, shall judge My house, and you, too, shall guard My courtyards, and I will give you free access among these who stand by.

כֹּה־אָמַ֞ר ה צְבָא֗וֹת אִם־בִּדְרָכַ֤י תֵּלֵךְ֙ וְאִ֣ם אֶת־מִשְׁמַרְתִּ֣י תִשְׁמֹ֔ר וְגַם־אַתָּה֙ תָּדִ֣ין אֶת־בֵּיתִ֔י וְגַ֖ם תִּשְׁמֹ֣ר אֶת־חֲצֵרָ֑י וְנָתַתִּ֤י לְךָ֙ מַהְלְכִ֔ים בֵּ֥ין הָעֹמְדִ֖ים הָאֵֽלֶּה׃

Verses 4:1-5: The Vision of the Menorah

Zechariah 4:2

And he [the angel] said to me [Zechariah], "What do you see?" And I said, "I saw, and behold [there was] a candelabrum all of gold, with its oil-bowl on top of it, and its seven lamps thereon; seven tubes each to the lamps that were on top of it.

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלַ֔י מָ֥ה אַתָּ֖ה רֹאֶ֑ה ויאמר [וָאֹמַ֡ר] רָאִ֣יתִי ׀ וְהִנֵּ֣ה מְנוֹרַת֩ זָהָ֨ב כֻּלָּ֜הּ וְגֻלָּ֣הּ עַל־רֹאשָׁ֗הּ וְשִׁבְעָ֤ה נֵרֹתֶ֙יהָ֙ עָלֶ֔יהָ שִׁבְעָ֤ה וְשִׁבְעָה֙ מֽוּצָק֔וֹת לַנֵּר֖וֹת אֲשֶׁ֥ר עַל־רֹאשָֽׁהּ׃

Verses 4:6-7:.. And its message to Zerubbabel

Zechariah 4:6

And he answered and spoke to me, saying, "This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, saying: 'Not by [military] force and not by physical strength, but by My spirit,' says the Lord of Hosts.

וַיַּ֜עַן וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלַי֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר זֶ֚ה דְּבַר־ה אֶל־זְרֻבָּבֶ֖ל לֵאמֹ֑ר לֹ֤א בְחַ֙יִל֙ וְלֹ֣א בְכֹ֔חַ כִּ֣י אִם־בְּרוּחִ֔י אָמַ֖ר ה צְבָאֽוֹת׃

Holiday Connections

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the Haftarah as follows “ The spiritual light of the divine law is self-sufficient. It is victorious by means of its innate strength. It achieves victory without outside support, without state support, without military might. It carries sufficient energy to supply the lamp as well as the tree on which the fruits of its supply ripen. Although the difficulties facing Zerubbabel mounted steadily they were all destined to be solved. The spirit was the cornerstone to which the abundance of mercy would flow… This was the Third Chanukah, the third dedication of a Temple. It took place at winter’s end, on the third of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of the Persian king Darius. It was attended by those who had returned from exile under Zerubbabel and Joshua, inspired by the spirit of the prophets Chagg and Zechariah, by the decree of the God of Israel… It was the dedication of the Galuth-Temple” 

Other Connections

Zechariah 3:2 is read as part of the bedtime recital of Shema.

Siddur Ashkenaz, Weekday, Keri'at Shema al Hamita       סידור אשכנז, ימי חול, מעריב, קריאת שמע על המיטה

And the Lord said to Satan: The Lord shall rebuke you, O Satan; and the Lord shall rebuke you, He who chose Jerusalem. Is this one not a brand plucked from fire?         וַיֹּֽאמֶר ה' אֶל הַשָּׂטָן יִגְעַר ה' בְּךָ הַשָּׂטָן וְיִגְעַר ה' בְּךָ הַבֹּחֵר בִּירוּשָׁלָֽםִ הֲלֺא זֶה אוּד מֻצָּל מֵאֵשׁ

With emendations, biblical translations are by Rabbi A. J. Rosenberg and other translations are from Sefaria.org.

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