Avraham ben Yaakov


* * * The passages in Zechariah 2:14-17, 3:1-10 and 4:1-7 are read as the Haftara on Shabbos Chanukah and the Haftara of Parshas Beha'aloscha, Numbers 8:1-12:16 * * *

Verse 1 opens a new section of the lengthy prophecy that began in Zechariah 1:7 about the dawning age of the Second Temple and the coming empires until the end of days.


"And He showed me Yehoshua the High Priest." As High Priest, Yehoshua was the most important mover in the enterprise of building the new Temple second only to Zerubavel the "king". Outwardly there seemed to be reasons to question the ability of either of them to be granted success in this holy venture, but the prophet's vision penetrates beneath the surface appearance.

"And the adversary (SATAN) was standing at his right hand to thwart him." The accusing forces had a hold because Yehoshua's sons had taken foreign wives who were unfit to be married to Cohanim (priests), as we learn from Ezra 10:18 (see Rashi on Zechariah 3:1). The accusation against Yehoshua in the higher world gave force to Sanvalat and the other adversaries in this world who had been working to thwart the rebuilding of the Temple, as described in Ezra (see RaDaK on Zech. 3:1).

Verse 2: "And God said to the adversary, God rebukes you." Because of the great power of this verse to quell the forces of evil, it is customarily recited together with other "verses of mercy" with the "bedside" Shema prior to going to sleep for the night.

"Is this not a brand plucked out of the fire?" The Talmud tells that in Babylon Yehoshua had been cast into a fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar together with two false prophets (Ahab ben Kolayah and Tzidkiyahu ben Maaseyah cf. Jeremiah 29:21), and that although Yehoshua was saved when the other two died, the fire did singe him on account of his sons being married to foreign women (Sanhedrin 93a).

Vv 3-4: Yehoshua's dirty clothes are symbolic of the stain caused by his sons' marriages. Yet the angel before whom Yehoshua stood in this celestial judgment told the angels standing before him to remove the dirty clothes (and his sons did divorce their wives and repent, Ezra 10:19), showing that sin can be rectified and that the soiled garments can be replaced with "festive garments" - merits - a very important lesson as the new Temple was about to rise out of the ruins of the first.

V 5: "Then I said, Let them put a pure mitre on his head." The prophet tells us that he prayed for Yehoshua: the mitre on his head alludes to the crown of the priesthood that he attained as an inheritance for his offspring after him since they separated from their foreign wives (Metzudas David).

V 7: On the threshold of the Second Temple period, God warns the High Priest to follow sincerely in the pathway of the Torah, promising him that if he does, "I will give you pathways among these standing". Targum renders: "I will revive you at the resurrection of the dead".

V 8: "Hear now, Yehoshua. for behold I will bring My servant Tzemach". The root TZAMACH means "sprout". Rashi (ad loc.) interprets this as a promise to magnify Zerubavel, who although heir to the kingship of David was in the eyes of the Persian court merely the governor of Judea, a small figure, but God would give him favor in the eyes of the king so as to be able to rebuild the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. RaDaK (ad loc.) adds that TZEMACH also refers to King Mashiah, and that in addition to the salvation that occurred in the time of Zerubavel, this is a prophecy that God will bring another even greater salvation in the time of Mashiah. RaDaK notes that the tradition that the name of Mashiach is Menachem is based on this verse because the gematria of Menachem is the same as that of Tzemach.

V 9: "For behold the stone I have laid before Yehoshua; upon one stone are seven facets." Targum and Rashi interpret the "stone" as referring to the foundation of the Second Temple : this is a prophecy that the Temple was to expand seven times the extent of the existing foundation. Metzudas David (ad loc.) adds that this is also a prophecy that the foundation of the Third Temple has already been laid in the sense that it has already been decreed that it will be built, and that it will be inaugurated by a descendant of Yehoshua the High Priest. "And I will remove the sin of that land in one day" - "On the day they begin to rebuild the Temple blessing will come into the fruits" (Rashi).


Verse 1 is a continuation of the section Zechariah's lengthy prophecy that started in the previous chapter. The prophecy now rises to a new level in which the spiritual sources of the power of Zerubavel the "king" and Yehoshua the High Priest are revealed. In Zech. 3:1-10 the angel channeling the prophecy to Zechariah did not speak to him directly but only showed him what was going on in the celestial court. But now "the angel that talked with me CAME BACK", speaking to Zechariah directly and "rousing" him as from a sleep - i.e. bringing him to a new spiritual level.


Verse 2: The seven branched Temple candelabrum as described in detail in Exodus 25:31-40 is the source of spiritual light that emanates to the whole world. In his vision of the Menorah, Zechariah saw above it a bowl (GOULAH="fountain" cf. Joshua 15:19) from which oil was flowing into the seven lamps (i.e. the cups holding the oil and wicks). Each of the lamps was individually supplied with oil from the GOULAH-bowl through seven small channels of its own (Rashi, Metzudas David). The Midrash associates the seven lamps with the seven shepherds of Israel , the seven days of creation and seven very fundamental mitzvoth etc. (Yalkut Shimoni). On the kabbalistic plane they allude to the seven lower Sefiroth, each of which contains aspects of all of the others. Rashi states that this verse alludes to the light that will shine in the future, which will be forty-nine times as great as the light of the creation.

V 3: "And there were two olive trees by it." Only later in the prophecy (vv 11-12) do more details emerge about how oil was produced from these olive trees to fuel the Menorah. Rashi on v 3 explains that just as in an olive press, the many berries from the olive branches mentioned in v 12 were being squeezed by themselves into the golden "spouts" (TZANTROTH) which are mentioned there, and that it was from these spouts that the oil flowed into the GOULAH bowl or fountain which was supplying the pipes leading down into the lamps.

V 6: In answer to the prophet's request for an explanation of the vision, the angel tells him that it is a sign to reassure Zerubavel. Just as the olives grew and the oil was produced all by themselves in every respect (with no need for effort or intervention), so the building of the Temple would be completed not through the might and strength of its builders but through God's spirit (Rashi ad loc.)

V 7: "Who are you, the great mountain before Zerubavel? Become a plain!" On one level the prophet was addressing Tathnai governor of the Persian provinces west of the Euphrates and the other adversaries of the Jews who had been stalling the building of the Temple , saying that they would not be able to stand before Zerubavel. Metzudas David (ad loc.) states that the "great mountain" refers to Gog king of Magog. "Do you think that you are a great mountain that will stand in front of Mashiach so that he will not be able to get across? It is not so. In the face of Mashiach you will be like a plain that he will cross quite easily - Gog will have no power to hold back Mashiach!"

"And he shall produce the headstone of it" - "King Mashiach will bring forth a great stone to place as the foundation of the future Temple " (Metzudas David).

Vv 8ff: A new section of this prophecy now elaborates further on the significance of the vision of the Menorah, promising that Zerubavel will succeed in building the new Temple .

V 10: "For who has despised the day of small things." When the foundations of the Second Temple had first been laid, those who remembered the glory of the First Temple were disappointed and discouraged (Ezra 3:12), but they would rejoice when they would see Zerubavel's building arise. For "The eyes of HaShem rove to and fro through the whole earth" - God sees what humans do not see, and He knows that Zerubavel is fit to build this Temple (Rashi).

Vv 11ff: The prophet asks for further explanation of the vision of the Golden Menorah, and specifically about the two olive trees standing by it, since these are the source of the spiritual power emanating from it. The angel answers him that they allude to the Priesthood and the Kingship (the High Priest and the King are both anointed with the anointing oil, which is perfumed olive oil) and these are the foundations of the Temple, as embodied in Yehoshua the High Priest and Zerubavel the "king". They "stand by the Lord of the whole earth" because they are ready to do His will.



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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