Haftorah This Week
Welcome to Haftorah This Week, the place where you will find thoughts and
reflections by CLAL faculty and associates on this week's Haftorah.
Zechariah's vision of a
gold candlestick with seven branches is an appropriate prophetic reading for Hanukah,
the festival of lights. Not only is the menorah a central symbol of this Haftarah,
but Zechariah's message is one of hope for
the rebuilding of the Temple under the leadership of Zerubavel, the Governor of Judah, and
Joshua, the high priest. Thus, Hanukah's celebration of the rededication of the
Temple by the Maccabees in the year 165 BCE is seen as an echo of the rebuilding of the Temple following its destruction
by the Babylonians more than 500 years before.
However, it is the
angel's interpretation of Zechariah's vision of the menorah which provides us with an
insight into the meaning of Hanukah according to the rabbis. The angel tells
Zechariah that the vision should be understood as a lesson, "Not by might, nor by
power, but by My spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." The light of the menorah is
a symbol of God's presence in the course of human history. While there may be many
obstacles along the Jewish people's path toward renewal, God's light will illuminate our
By emphasizing the
kindling of lights as the central ritual of Hanukah, our sages are offering an
interpretation of the Maccabean revolt and the subsequent rededication of the Temple in
Jerusalem. The victory of the Maccabees,
according to our Rabbis, was an expression of God's spiritual power and not merely the
result of a well planned military campaign. And yet, the military victory is not ignored
by our tradition, for it forms an important theme in the liturgical insertions for Hanukah.
Thus we should not be
trapped in an either/or choice as we seek to interpret the unfolding of Jewish history.
God's presence and human responsibility must be conjoined in our quest for the meaning
that underlies the historical process.
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