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Miketz 5765

By: Rav Michael Susman

Shabbat Miketz is almost invariably Shabbat Chanukka. (Just to put in perspective how rare it is to have a year where Miketz is not Shabbat Channuka, the last time it happened was in 5761 and the next year it is scheduled to happen is 5781, a full twenty years later. Of course, it is not at all uncommon for there to be two Shabbatot Chanukka, falling on both Parshat VaYeshev and Parshat Miketz). As a result, this week we will focus on the Haftara for Shabbat Chanukka, which is taken from Sefer Zecharya (2:14-4:7).
The link to Chanukka in the Haftara is quite clear. In one of his visions (4:2-3), Zecharya apprehends a menorah with seven branches, a bowl on top of it, seven pipes leading to the branches, and two olive trees, one on either side of the menorah, feeding oil to all seven branches. This vision of the menorah and the oil flowing to it quite obviously evokes the spirit of Chanukka.
Yet the continuation of the Nevuah is somewhat perplexing. When Zecharya asks the angel who has presented him with the vision what its meaning might be, the angel first expresses surprise that Zecharya hasn’t figured the answer out for himself, and then replies in a cryptic manner. “And he answered and he said to me, these are the words of Hashem to Zerubavel, neither with might or power (will the Beit Hamikdash) be built, but rather with My spirit, said Hashem Tzevakot. (4:6)” The meforshim ask what is in fact an obvious question. How is this message to Zerubavel an answer to Zecharya’s query? (Zerubavel, a descendent of Beit David was one of the driving forces behind the rebuilding of the Second Temple, and was appointed provincial governor of the Judean region by the Persians).
Rashi explains that Zecharya’s question was not about the meaning of the menorah, but rather about nature of the oil which was keeping it burning. His answer is that just as the oil was reaching the menorah and keeping it aflame without outside intervention, so too would the power of the Jews be unnecessary to ensure the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash. Rather, the rebuilding would be accomplished by Hashem exerting his will on Darius to influence him to not only allow, but to aid in that rebuilding. The Radak answers in a similar vein, saying that just as the menora was burning without human intervention, so too, the Beit HaMikdash would be built through G-d’s will and not the actions of man.
The Abarbanel is troubled by the approach of Rashi and the Radak, since, in his opinion, it neither reflects Zecharya’s question nor does the answer reflect the reality of how the Second Temple was rebuilt. Zecharya’s question “what are these” (4:4) does not seem to be directed at the manner in which the menora was burning, but rather at the physical manifestation of the menorah in front of him. Moreover, how can one claim that the Temple was built without the contribution and involvement of man? After all, it was very much built by man!
Instead, the Abarbanel suggests that the nevuah in question has nothing to do with Zecharya’s era, an era that the Abarbanel sees as one of groping through the darkness. The people of this time live in a state defined by lack of enthusiasm and participation in the enterprise of rebuilding the Mikdash. They are still completely under the rule of the Persians, and all their actions are strictly controlled by that foreign power, not withstanding how benevolent it was at the moment. The nevuah is rather referring to the time of the ultimate Geula, when the Third Temple will be built. The menorah symbolizes the entire nation, who at the time of the final Geula will burn bright as a beacon to all other nations, beckoning them to join in the recognition of Hashem. This time will only come about when the entire nation has returned to the Land.
According to this approach, the reference to Zerubavel is not to Zerubavel himself but to a future descendent, one who will in fact be the Mashiach. Therefore, just as the Second Temple, built through the good offices of Darius by a small remnant of the nation is merely a shadow of the true temple, so too Zerubavel, a provincial governor whose rule is entirely predicated upon the goodwill of a foreign king, is but a shadow of what Melech HaMashaich will be.
If we accept this approach, then our original supposition linking the Haftara to Chanukka through the mention of the menora has just acquired another link. The Torah reading for Chanukka, taken from the end of Parshat Naso and the beginning of B’Haalotcha, describes the Chanukkat HaMizbeach, the consecration of the alter in the Mishkan. Our Haftara evokes the memory of the second consecration, accomplished with the rebuilding of the Second Temple, and Chanukka itself commemorates the third consecration. The approach advocated by the Abarbanel now extends the chain further, reminding us of yet another consecration, the final one that will take place when the Third Temple is built.
Rabbi Yehuda Shaviv, in his book “Bein Haftara L’Parsha”, explores the possibility of a different link between the Haftara and the Parsha, in this case by drawing attention to a critical distinction between the situation described in the Haftara and the situation that existed at the time of Chanukka. The Haftara begins with Zecharya’s vision of Yehosua Kohen HaGadol, the spiritual leader of his generation, being purified. He is then commanded to pass the message of the menorah on to Zerubavel. This symbolizes the preferred model of leadership, the temporal from Beit David side by side and working in tandem with the spiritual leadership, as symbolized by the Kohen Gadol.
This model was of course a far cry from the model presented by the Hasmonean leadership, a leadership which refused to yield its hold on the monarchy, leading to disastrous consequences for both Am Yisrael and the Hasmoneans themselves. (See, for example, the Ramban’s commentary on Bereishit 49:10). The Haftara presents us, then with both a positive and a negative link to Chanukka. But both messages are essential if we are to move toward Geula.
Shabbat Shalom


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