Zechariah – Chapter 4

Happy Chanukah?

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

The angel who spoke with Zechariah returned and woke him up. He asked Zechariah what he had seen in his vision. Zechariah responded that he saw a golden menorah with its bowl of oil on top and seven lamps (in which the oil and wicks were placed). There were seven tubes going to the lamps. (Rashi says seven tubes to each lamp; the Radak says seven altogether, one going to each lamp.) There were two olive trees next to the menorah, one on either side. Zechariah asked the angel what these represent. (Rashi, based on materials that we will see shortly, explains that the menorah ran on “automatic.” The trees would beat themselves into the vats and the oil would flow into the lamps by itself.) The angel answered Zechariah that this is the word of G-d to Zerubbabel saying, “The Temple will be built not by military force or physical might but by the spirit of G-d, which He will place upon Darius.” Who do the officers of the other nations think they are to stop G-d’s Temple from being built? They will have no more power before Zerubbabel. When he brings out the cornerstone everyone will cheer how beautiful the Temple will be.

G-d spoke again to Zechariah saying that Zerubbabel started laying the foundation of the Temple in the days of Cyrus and he is the one who will complete its construction. When this happens, everyone will know that Zechariah’s prophecy was sent by G-d. Those who considered it a small thing when the Temple foundation was laid will rejoice when they see Zerubbabel coming to lay the cornerstone. G-d’s “eyes” are looking throughout the world to guard the Jews from those who would seek to prevent the Temple from being rebuilt.

Zechariah asked what the two olive trees on either side of the menorah are meant to represent. He was told that they represent the kingship and the priesthood, namely Zerubbabel (the governor of Judah) and Joshua (the High Priest). They are called the anointed ones of G-d even though they were not anointed with the special oil that was used from the time of Moses until it was hidden away by King Josiah. (The Radak says that Zerubbabel and Joshua were in fact anointed with this oil, but this opinion is hard to understand as it contradicts the statement throughout the Talmud that this oil did not exist in the time of the second Temple.)

There are those who interpret the prophecy of this chapter as referring to the Chanukah story, using the menorah as its central theme and stressing as it does that victory will not come through military might. (Remember. the Maccabees were greatly outnumbered by the Syrian-Greeks.) As we will soon see, Zechariah also addresses the threat of assimilation, which was the main conflict in the Chanukah story. There are other aspects of the prophecy that can easily apply to Chanukah as well. (And don’t we mention Zerubbabel in the song Maoz Tzur? Coincidence? I think not!)

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