art by Laya Crust
Numbers: ch 8- ch 12 Zechariah: ch 2:14 – 4:7 Zechariah was a prophet in Jerusalem around the year 520 BCE. The Jews had been exiled to Babylon but under King Cyrus were allowed to return to Jerusalem. Zechariah and Haggai encouraged the people to stop being so despondent and start rebuilding their destroyed temple.
Zechariah by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel
This haftarah is replete with angels- angels talking to Joshua and angels talking to and waking Zechariah. Zechariah tells the angel that he has had a vision of a golden menorah flanked by two olive trees. A bowl above the menorah has seven pipes funneling olive oil to the menorah. When the angel realizes that Zechariah doesn’t understand the symbolism of the vision he explains that the trees represent the leadership of Joshua and Zerubbabel in building the Second Temple. The angel says, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” meaning that the reestablishment of the Jewish people will come through faith, not war.
Cervera, Spain, c. 1300
My illustration at the top was based on this beautiful manuscript painting from Spain, with the menorah panted in gold leaf. The menorah was a central fixture in the Temple and was lit by the Kohanim. The wicks of the menorah were arranged to shed light in one flame. That light can be seen as the light we bring to the world.
Interestingly, is is the menorah that is the symbol of Judaism and the emblem of the State of Israel.
On that thought , may you have an illuminated week and weekend, full of flaming conversation and bright ideas.
Isaiah ch. 40:27 – 41:16
Isaiah (prophet) – c. 740 – 681 BCE
The picture we see here is a beautiful desertscape at night.
If you’ve ever been camped in the desert or in the countryside at night without artificial light, you will have seen a sky studded with stars. The heavens are so full of stars it seems amazing the sky can hold them all.
The parasha of Lech Lecha introduces us to Abraham, the man Gd chose to begin a new nation. Gd tells Abraham (called Avram in this section of the Torah) that Gd will bless him. Abraham’s descendants will be as numerous as the dust on the ground and the stars in the skies. Looking up at that night sky Avram couldn’t have begun to imagine how many stars there were. There were too many to count, too many to even guess at.
This week’s haftarah is from the Book of Isaiah. The Jews have been in Babylon, in exile, for decades. They are sure they will never be able to return home. It seems that King Cyrus is about to conquer Babylon and Isaiah is hopeful that Cyrus will allow the Jews to go back to Israel.
Isaiah tells his people that Gd will not abandon them. Previously (Isaiah ch. 39, v 12) Isaiah described Gd saying, “…[Gd] …meted out heaven with a span and and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure…” In this haftarah Gd reminds the Jews that, “…you, Yisrael are My servant Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham My friend. You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth and called you from the farthest corners…”ch. 40 v 8,9.
Avram was chosen to begin a new nation, the nation that would one day be known as Jews. Even back then Gd told Avram that his descendants would be slaves in a strange land, referring to their enslavement in Egypt. Avram was warned that life would be tough for them. The hardships have continued throughout history. In this haftarah Isaiah gave encouragement to his exiled brethren in Babylon, telling them that Gd will not abandon them.
Every time period is a time of challenge for the Jews. Right now we are still facing challenges and terrible anti- Semitic tides. We are reminded that Gd made a promise and will always keep that promise initialized with Avraham Avinu- Abraham our father.
Have a good week and a good Shabbat. May it be one of peace and health for klal Yisrael and the world.