(Zechariah 2:14- 4:7)
December 27, 2009
Parshat Miketz – Shabbat Hanukah – Shabbat Rosh Hodesh, (Zechariah 2:14- 4:7)
Zechariah, a prophet from the Persian period which followed after the Babylonian exile, yearned for the perfect restoration of his homeland and its Temple. He frequently expressed this idea in fantastical visions of national restoration and the ideal recognition of God by all people. What would cause the nations to this recognize God? Zechariah thought the miraculous return of the Jewish exiles from all over the world and God\’s reconciliation with His people would cause the nations to embrace the redemption and join in recognizing God: \”In that day many nations will attach themselves to the Lord and become His people and He will dwell in your midst…The Lord will take Judah to Himself as His portion in the Holy Land and He will choose Jerusalem once more. Be silent, all flesh before the Lord! For He is roused from his holy habitation.\” (2:15-17)
The following midrash offers a different answer: \”Said R. Pinhas: Five times in the first Book of Psalms does David petitions the Holy One, blessed be He, to rise: \’Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God\’ (3,8); \’Arise, O Lord, in Your anger\’ (7,7); \’Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand\’ (10,12); \’Arise, O Lord, let not man prevail\’ (9,20); \’Arise, O Lord, confront him\’. God replied to him: \’David, my son, even if you petition Me to rise many times, I will not rise. But when will I arise? When you [meaning, I, namely God] see the poor oppressed and the needy sighing,’ as it says, \’For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, said the Lord (12,6). R. Simeon b. Jonah said [offering a second interpretation]: ’Now will I arise’ – as long as she [Jerusalem] wallows in the dust, if one might say so [I, too, am oppressed]. But when that day comes, in connection with which it is written, Shake yourself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem.\’ (Isa. 52,2) When this happens, \’Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord.\’ (Zech. 2,17) Why? \’For He is aroused from His holy habitation\’. (ibid.) R. Aha said: Like a fowl which shakes itself free from the dust. (adapted from Genesis Rabba 75:1)
This midrash asserts that God \”arose\” to meet two different challenges. The first interpretation says that God rose up against the oppression of the weak and disenfranchised. The other claims that God could not bear that His people should continue to be downtrodden and oppressed. These two interpretations obviously share the common thread that God is awakened by those whom others disregard or harm. It wants us to know that God will not stand for the oppression of His creatures and it is His expectation that we will not either. It is this idea that will ultimately silence the world\’s oppressors and rally the world around God. Such an idea will truly create the ultimate Hanukah.
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. The United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem offers students of all backgrounds the skills for studying Jewish texts. We are a vibrant, open-minded egalitarian community of committed Jews who learn, practise and grow together. Our goal is to provide students the ability and desire to continue Jewish learning and practice throughout their lives. Rashei Yeshiva: Rabbi Joel Levy & Dr. Joshua Kulp. Rabbi Joel Roth, Rosh Yeshiva Emeritus . Sponsors – The Conservative Yeshiva would like to thank the following for their generous support of the Haftarah Commentary: