Ezra – Chapter 1

Get Back to Where You Once Belonged

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

It was during the first year of the reign of Cyrus (Koresh in Hebrew), king of Persia, that the period of exile, which G-d had foretold through Jeremiah, came to an end. (Jeremiah had prophesied a 70-year exile in chapter 29, verse 10 of his Book, though the starting and end points of that period were vague.) G-d caused Cyrus to be favorably disposed towards the Jews, with the result that Cyrus issued a proclamation to the following effect:

“G-d, King of Heaven, has placed all the kingdoms of the world under my control and He commanded that I build a Temple to Him in Jerusalem.” (G-d did not actually command Cyrus, but He did prophesy about Cyrus through Isaiah. See chapters 44-45 of Isaiah.) “Any one of the Jews that wishes to return to Jerusalem and work on the Temple may do so! If any Jew feels forced to remain behind because of financial limitations, the people of his neighborhood should give him the means to go, along with contributions for the Temple.”

Upon hearing this, the Tribal heads of Judah and Benjamin (who constituted the nation of Judah), as well as the Kohanim and Leviim (priests and Levites) arose, along with all those who were inspired to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. Sure enough, their neighbors contributed gold, silver, animals and other valuables, in addition to the contributions for the Temple itself.

Cyrus took the Temple vessels, which Nebuchadnezzar had removed and placed in the temples of his idols, and had them turned over to Sheshbazzar, a prince of Judah. (There are those who identify Sheshbazzar with Daniel or with Zerubavel.) There were 30 basins of gold, 1,000 silver basins, 29 knives, 30 gold bowls, 410 silver bowls, and 1,000 other vessels. There were other utensils, as well. All told, there were 5,400 vessels of gold and silver, which Sheshbazzar brought up from Babylonia to Jerusalem.

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