Haftarah: Shabbat Chanukah
Zechariah 2:14 – 4:7 The people building the second Temple knew that it would never match the first in beauty or holiness. They were not a powerful nation constructing a House for God
as they reached the peak of their power. They were not the generation of Solomon. These few poor and non-inspired people came only with the permission of the great Persian king, Cyrus. Israel could only erect the Temple to God with the authorization of a very human king. There were no clouds to fill the sanctuary as there were for Moses and the Tabernacle and Solomon and the first Temple. It was not an auspicious beginning.
Zechariah chose to focus his vision on one person, a leader known to the tired, scared, poor and frustrated people who were risking their lives to build a Temple for a God in which not all of them believed. All respected Yehoshua, the High Priest, even though they knew of his imperfections. Perhaps his greatest weakness was his children. They did not reflect their great father. The prophet begins his vision with a picture of Yehoshua standing before a Heavenly Tribunal in tattered clothing. Yehoshua and his imperfections is the perfect symbol of the bedraggled people building an imperfect building for God. Even their leader was imperfect.
The Second Temple would always be associated with imperfection, even at its highest moments such as Chanukah. The Chashmonaim were a priestly family. They achieved greatness, but they had their issues. They reached beyond their priestly rights, assumed the role of king. The spiritual representatives of God and the people cannot have such power. It was the Chashmonaim who invited the Romans into Israel, an invitation that had disastrous results for the country and nation. The Second Temple was definitely not the First, nor was it even equal to the Tabernacle.
Satan was also present in Zechariah’s vision, but rather than stand in his accustomed place on the left, the accuser stood on Yehoshua’s right, as if to say, “I am your friend.” There are times we push ourselves too hard in our spiritual lives, and we set ourselves up for failure. Zechariah knew exactly what the people were feeling. He sensed their disappointment in themselves and their conviction that their building was a failure even before they began. The prophet was crying out to them that Satan, the Accuser, was standing on their right. The only failure was their perception of failure. This Temple was to be different. It would serve an altered role. Zechariah described his frustration upon seeing Yehoshua so vulnerable in his dirty clothes and his accuser pretending to be a friend. Zechariah wanted to warn Yehoshua, but it was a dream, and the High Priest could not hear.
A voice cried out, “Remove his dirty clothes.” There is movement. Yehoshua is dressed, much as were Adam and Eve dressed by God even after their sin, even when they were imperfect. His faults were no longer so apparent.
Zechariah focused his vision on the movement. People are called “walkers” as in the Hebrew word “Halacha”. Angels, as perfect as they are, are only standers. It is easy to remain perfect when you do not move. People who walk will find stains and small tears on their clothing. They will be imperfect.
The Second Temple is for walkers, movers and shakers. It is an imperfect place where imperfect people will do their best to relate to God. It is the place where Israel would learn how to relate to God in a damaged world, even in Exile.
Zechariah describes a stone, the Foundation Stone, with eyes all over, looking in every direction for those who are moving around. There must be multiple views because it is not looking for standers, people who have achieved. It is looking for and over people who would move and search. People who would constantly strive to achieve more no matter their circumstances. People such as those listening to Zechariah. People such as us.
An olive tree, dripping its oil to fill a menorah is the symbol of the Second Temple. It is the place that will fuel Israel’s ability to discover light no matter where they will be.