Background

The Haftorah that is read in Israel this week is from the Book of Zechariah, Chap. 2:14-17, Chap. 3:1-10 and Chap. 4:1-7. Yemenite Jews read the same selections except that in Chap. 4 they conclude with verse 9. Outside of Israel, due to last week?s observance on the Sabbath of a second day of the festival of Shavuot, the Haftorah for Parshat Naso is read.



According to the Talmud in Tractate Sanhedrin (99a), the prophet Zechariah prophesied during the era of the Second Temple. Together with Haggai and Malachi, he was among the last prophets of Israel. Zechariah?s grandfather Iddo was also a prophet, and the Talmud in Tractate Megillah (23a) says that Zechariah was also referred to as Meshulam (in the Book of Nehemiah 8:4) because he was perfect [shalem in Hebrew] in his deeds. Zechariah?s tomb is located in Nahal Kidron at the foot of the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem.



Summary:

The Haftorah begins with the prophet Zechariah foretelling the Final Redemption, when G-d?s presence will again dwell among the Jewish people. Many nations will recognize G-d and cleave to Him, and G-d will again cause Judah to inherit his share in the Holy Land. G-d will once more choose Jerusalem as the seat of His earthly abode and the nations of the world will be silent when they see what G-d has wrought. The prophet then describes his vision of Joshua the High Priest dressed in filthy garments, who stands facing an angel as well as Satan, there to accuse him. However, G-d rebukes Satan, and then instructs that the dirty clothes be removed from the High Priest and replaced with clean garments, signifying atonement. The angel says to the High Priest that if he walks in the ways of G-d, his children will be meritorious and he will be rewarded. The prophet then relates a vision he was shown depicting a golden menorah with seven branches, surrounded on each side by an olive tree. Miraculously, the olives press themselves, and the oil flows of its own accord into the lamps on the menorah. This, concludes the Haftorah, is intended to demonstrate that ?not by might, nor by strength, but by My spirit, says the L-rd of Hosts,? (Chap. 4:6) because just as the Menorah is filled because it is the will of G-d for that to happen, so too will the Messiah come and redeem Israel, because that is what G-d desires.



Connection Between the Haftorah and the Parsha:

The Haftorah contains the prophet Zechariah?s vision of the Menorah and its lamps, and the Parsha describes the Menorah, its construction and the kindling of its light.



An Eternal Inheritance



At the beginning of the Haftorah, the prophet Zechariah foretells the end of days, prophesying ?And the L-rd shall cause Judah to inherit his share on the Holy Land, and He shall again choose Jerusalem.? (Chap. 3:16)



The Question:

What is the meaning of the verse?



The Answer:

The Mahari Kra (Rabbi Joseph Kara, a contemporary of Rashi) explains it to mean that G-d will cause Judah to inherit its share, as before, in the Land of Israel. Though he offers a different interpretation, the Radak says that Judah is mentioned specifically because he was the ruling tribe, the tribe from which the monarchy emerged. Put together, these two explanations tells us that eventually, the Jewish people will again inherit their original ancestral patrimony in full ? the Land of Israel.



The Lesson:

Over the past decade, since the signing of the Oslo accords in September 1993, the Land of Israel has been sliced and diced, cut apart and divided, as Israel turned over major portions of it to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Never before in history has a nation so willingly yielded control over the cradle of its birth to a foreign entity who had not defeated it on the battlefield. Even now, after 20 months of Palestinian terror and violence, when it is patently clear that Yasser Arafat?s aim is to destroy the Jewish state, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and others still speak of ?reforming? the PA, as if it were just an errant student requiring a little rehabilitation. Rather than dismantling the terrorist entity that has arisen alongside Israel?s borders and reasserting Israeli control, our government allows the problem to fester, leaving the PA in place. So, while various parts of the Land of Israel are still under foreign control, with sites such as Joseph?s Tomb in Nablus or the ancient synagogue of Gaza currently out of reach, we can take solace in the fact that this is but a temporary situation. For, as the prophet Zechariah so vividly reassured us, Judah will again regain his inheritance, all of his inheritance, and the entire Land of Israel will again be ours. May it happen speedily and in our time.



Basking in the Silence



In his vision of the Final Redemption, the prophet Zechariah says that G-d will again dwell in the midst of the Jewish people, and that they shall return to their Land, which will be theirs as an inheritance. (Chap. 3:16) This is followed by a verse stating, ?Be silent, all flesh, before the L-rd, for He is aroused out of His holy habitation.? (Chap. 3:17)



The Question:

What is the meaning of this silence to which the prophet is referring?



The Answer:

The Metzudat David says that the nations of the world will suddenly fall silent out of fear of G-d, and they will no longer speak out against Israel. In other words, when the nations see that G-d has redeemed the Jewish people and restored them to their land to dwell among them, they will no longer dare to raise their voices in protest against Israel.



The Lesson:

In recent months, Israel has come under unprecedented criticism. Around the world, from the halls of the United Nations to the seats of power in Europe, the Jewish state has been condemned, censured and disparaged for doing what any other nation on earth would not hesitate to do: defend itself against a ruthless foe. The loss of innocent Jewish life is blithely ignored, callously swept aside by a barrage of anti-Israel invective. Indeed, the vilification has become so routine, especially in much of the Western press, that it is hardly surprising that the world was so quick to believe the Jenin blood libel, in which Israel was falsely accused of perpetrating a massacre against innocent civilians. Having demonized the Jewish state for so long as ?militaristic?, ?colonialist? and an ?occupier?, it must have seemed entirely plausible to many people that Israel might actually carry out atrocities. Try as we might to fight this phenomenon, the challenge of swaying public opinion often seems daunting and insurmountable. However, as we saw above, we need not allow the vicious verbiage directed against Israel to weaken our resolve. Let our foes say what the wish ? what matters more is what we do, not what they say. Hypocrisy and disapproval are ephemeral, but the Jewish people are eternal. As the prophet Zechariah foretold, there will yet come a day when Israel?s enemies and critics alike will fall silent. May we all merit to bask in that silence very soon.

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Michael Freund served as Deputy Director of Communications and Policy Planning in the Prime Minister?s Office from 1996 to 1999.