Ezra – Chapter 6

Grand Re-Opening

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Darius took the advice of the letter and called for the relevant documents. They were not “on file” in the capital city of Shushan, but they did find a copy in one of the “branch libraries” in Media. The scroll that was located detailed how Cyrus commanded the Temple be rebuilt so that sacrifices might once again be offered there. It should exceed the dimensions of the original Temple, 60 cubits high, 60 cubits wide and 60 cubits long (as opposed to the first Temple’s 30 x 20 x 60 cubits). It should be marble and wood, like Solomon’s Temple, with expenses covered by the royal treasury. The gold and silver vessels confiscated from the first Temple were also given over for use in the reconstructed Temple.

After reading up on the matter, Darius replied to Tatenai and company to stay away from the construction site and not to make trouble. Darius approved the work resuming and reiterated the original commitment to pay for it from the royal treasuries. Anything they needed, such as animals for sacrifices or the grain, wine and oil of other offerings, was to be provided to them daily so that they could proceed with the work without delay. This way, the Jews would be able to sacrifice to G-d and they would pray for the sake of Darius and his household. (The Sages of the Talmud in Rosh Hashana 3b-4a, while appreciative for the support of Darius, are not impressed by his ulterior motives.)

“Now,” the letter of Darius continued, “let’s say that someone doesn’t listen and tries to interfere with the construction. No problem. We’ll just rip the beams out of his house, have them built into gallows and have that person hanged on it. And we’ll bulldoze his house for good measure.” Darius also expressed a desire that G-d Himself should topple any monarch or nation that tried to impede construction. In light of this correspondence, Tatenai and his crew didn’t have much choice left but to acquiesce.

And so, the Temple was successfully completed, as Chagai and Zechariah had foretold. The second Temple was completed on the third day of Adar in the sixth year of the reign of Darius. (The letters had been exchanged in the second year of his reign.) The entire nation celebrated the inauguration of the Temple and they offered 100 oxen, 200 rams, 400 sheep, and 12 sin-offerings (one for each Tribe). The kohanim (priests) and Leviim (Levites) resumed their work, as described in the Torah.

The following month, the returnees brought the Passover sacrifice for the first time in almost a century. The kohanim and Leviim had all been purified and were able to perform the service. The whole nation was able to partake of the sacrifice, along with the members of the other nations who had converted to join them. They celebrated a joyous week of Passover with gratitude to G-d, Who had turned the heart of the king to favor their cause. The king ended up strengthening the Jews’ efforts in rebuilding the Temple to G-d.

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