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Hanukkah (2nd Shabbat) 5763

Haftarah Parshat Miketz
2nd Shabbat Hannukah
(I Kings 7:40-50)
December 7, 2002

The Talmud (Megillah 31a) records: “If there are two Shabbatot in Hanukkah, on the first Shabbat one reads the haftarah – ‘neirot d’zechariah – the lights of Zechariah while on the second Shabbat one reads the haftarah – ‘neirot Shlomo – the lights of Solomon.’” Rashi identifies the first haftarah with the one we read last week from the book of Zechariah. It was chosen as the haftarah because of Zechariah’s vision of the golden menorah, found at the end of the haftarah. The later haftarah, according to Rashi, is found in the description of the making of the Temple implements for King Solomon’s Temple. In this section, we are told about the additional menorot (lamps) which grace the sanctuary, probably to provide additional light: “And Solomon made all of the furnishings that were in the House of the Lord… and the menorot (the lamps) – five on the right side, and five on the left side – before the Sanctuary, of pure gold, and the petals and the lamps and the tongs.” (1 Kings 7:48-49)

A number of commentators have attempted to explain why we read the haftarot in this particular order since historically the events of Solomon’s Temple preceded the prophecy of Zechariah? Rabbi Abraham bar Isaac of Narvonne, the 12th century Provencal talmudist, asserted the preeminence of Zechariah’s prophecy because his vision and its message concerned the Second Temple period when the Hanukkah story took place, while the events of Solomon’s Temple occurred much earlier. (see Sefer Eshkol, Book 2, Laws of Parshiyot and Haftarot, 3) Rabbenu Nissim, the 14th century Spanish talmudist, explained that Zechariah’s prophecy took precedence because its prophecy concerned the future and therefore had a message for those who read it during Hanukkah.

The conclusion one might reach from these commentators, is that at best, this week’s haftarah was a second choice, left for the second Shabbat of Hanukkah which occurs infrequently because unlike last week’s colorful haftarah, it is banal. What interest could there be in recounting a list of the implements made for the First Temple?

The furnishings of the Temple differed from those in the sanctuary. In the sanctuary, there was a single menorah – Moses’ seven branched candelabra. In Solomon’s Temple, there were eleven menorot including that of Moses. The additional ten candelabras were placed five on each side of the original one. (according to Menachot 98b) What was the purpose of these additional menorot? According the Rabbi Meir Simcha Cohen of Divinsk, the 19th-20th century Russian commentator, they were necessary in order to provide additional light in the new much larger Temple. (Meshech Hochmah Shemot 27:20) This idea is given metaphoric significance by Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschuetz, the18th century Polish talmudist, who contrasted Moses’ menorah with Solomon’s ten additional menorot. Moses’ menorah with its seven branches, he says, provided light to overcome the darkness of the seven nations of Canaan. Solomon’s ten menorot with their seventy branches were meant to provide God’s light to the seventy nations which symbolically represent all of the nations of the world. (Tiferet Yehonathan as quoted in Daat Mikra Melachim) Moses brought inspiration to the people of Israel. Solomon, according to Eybeschuetz, sought to share God’s light on a larger level. May this Hanukkah inspire us with the strength to be like Solomon, sharing God’s light with others to bring them closer to God.

About This Commentary

This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in  Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva.  He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

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