Haggai – Chapter 1

Building Resumes

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

During the reign of King Darius of Persia, who was the son of Esther and Achashverosh, G-d spoke to Haggai and gave him a message for Zerubbabel, son of the governor of Judah, and for Joshua, son of Yehotzadak, the high priest. G-d said that the people claimed that the time to rebuild the Temple had not yet arrived and He told Chaggai to tell the people that it was inappropriate for them to sit in their houses of cedar while the Temple remained in ruins. G-d told the people to consider the fact that there was no blessing in their endeavors; they plant much but harvest little, they eat and drink but are not satisfied, and their clothes do not provide them with warmth. All of this is because the Temple has been destroyed. Therefore, G-d says that they should consider their ways in order to improve them. They should ascend the Temple Mount and bring building materials and G-d will accept them. G-d says, “I will be honored.” (The word “I will be honored” in Hebrew, v’ekavda, is spelled missing the letter heh, whose numerical value is five. Rashi says that this alludes to the five items from the first Temple which were not present in the second Temple, namely the Ark, the Urim and Tumim, the fire from Heaven that consumes the sacrifices, G-d’s Presence, and the prophetic spirit, as described in Talmud Yoma 21b.)

G-d told the people that they expected to yield much but they in fact received little and when they brought home what little they produced, He caused it to be destroyed because the Temple was lying in ruins. This is why G-d has held the heavens back so that there is no rain and kept the earth from yielding produce. G-d has caused a drought of grain, wine and oil, on man and beast.

Zerubbabel and Joshua and all the people listened to the words of G-d, which He had sent through Haggai, and they feared G-d. Haggai related to the people that G-d said, “I am with you,” meaning that they should not be afraid of their enemies because He will protect them from harm.

The building of the Second Temple had previously been started under the reign of King Cyrus, but it had been opposed by the enemies of the Jews and it remained incomplete for three years during the reign of Cyrus, the fourteen years which Achashverosh reigned and the first year of the reign of his son Darius. Now G-d inspired Zerubbabel, Joshua and the people to resume construction of the Second Temple, which began in the second year of the reign of Darius.

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