The connection between this week’s haftarah and Chanukah is both immediately clear and yet strangely cryptic. As we open up the nevuot of Zecharia, we find ourselves transported to the earliest days of the second temple era as a minority of the Jewish people struggle to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash. Zecharia’s visions are a “closed book” according to Rashi and very difficult to understand; and yet, they are hopeful and optimistic.
The haftarah opens with a a call to Jerusalem to rejoice: רני ושמחי בת ציון with a promise that Hashem will come and dwell in its midst once again. Zecharia then receives two significant visions. The first is of Yehoshua, the Kohen Gadol at the time, being cleansed from his previous sins and dressed in clean garments. Yehoshua is instructed to follow in the ways of Hashem and then the cornerstone of the Beit HaMikdash is placed before him. The second vision follows immediately: An angel awakens Zecharia and shows him a golden menorah with seven lamps. There is a bowl of oil above the menorah and olive trees standing on each side. When the angel asks the navi what the meaning of this vision is, Zecharia does not know. The angel responds with the famous message that Hashem would like to relay to Zerubavel, the political leader at the time:
״לא בחיל ולא בכח כי אם ברוחי״
“Not by might nor by power, rather through my spirit” (זכריה ד:ו).
A vision of a menorah on shabbat Chanukah could not be more obvious! And yet, what about this particular menorah makes it an appropriate haftarah? Not to mention that we begin the haftarah a full perek before with the vision of Yehoshua Kohen Gadol!
In order to understand Zecharia’s message let’s backtrack for a moment with some historical context. As mentioned above, the Jewish people living in Jerusalem at the time are a tiny minority of our people. Most of the Jews chose to stay in Bavel when given permission to return to Jerusalem. To make matters worse we are told in Sefer Ezra that shortly after Koresh gives permission for us to return and rebuild the surrounding nations start to cause trouble and the building process comes to a quick halt. It is only a few years later during the second year of the reign of Daryavesh II that permission is once again awarded to the Jewish people and Chagai and Zecharia appear on the scene.
At this point we must consider how much despair the people of Jerusalem are feeling. Why build again? Who says it will really work this time? They’re just a small number of people, what kind of Temple can they possibly produce? Chagai (the Navi immediately preceding Zecharia) comes to urge the people not to give up hope. Chagai (not coincidentally) gives nevuot on the 24th day of Kislev urging Zerubavel to lay down the foundation while promising that Hashem will be with them this time.
For the most part, Chagai’s short period of nevuah is directed to the political and national success of the people. Enter Zacharia and his strange visions! While the vision of Yehoshua Kohen Gadol may seem completely unrelated to that of the menorah, the underlying theme of both nevuot is exactly the same. It is time for a spiritual awakening! The Kohen Gadol is addressed in the first half of the haftarah, not Zerubavel the political leader. He is reminded to go in the ways of Hashem. Like many Neviim before him, Zecharia comes to remind the Jewish people that even as you lay down the framework for new political life in Jerusalem we can not forget that the main purpose is to connect to Hashem. Having a physical home without spiritual guidance and growth is not an end in it of itself! Is this not the main message of the Menorah that Zecharia sees? לא בחיל ולא בכח כי אם ברוחי. At the end of the day the message to Zerubavel, the political leader, is not to forget that Hashem is the central focus of our return to Jerusalem and we will not succeed in this endeavor without the spirit of Judaism.
Note that the menorah that Zecharia sees takes physical olive trees standing by it’s side and by complete miracle suddenly there is oil sitting in a bowl and dripping into the candelabra to light up the menorah. Many meforshim view this nevuah as a(n obvious) hint to the Chanukah story: oil that just keeps going, no one but Hashem creating the light. Even the victory of the Maccabim is hinted at here. We were few against many. But it was not truly by our strength rather by Hashem’s spirit that we succeeded.
It is Zecharia’s menorah (and vision of the Kohen Gadol) that we come to study on Shabbat Chanukah to remind us that the lighting of the menorah is not just about the miracle of an oil jug. It is a reminder of the endless power of Hashem’s spirit. We must do our part in this world as Chagai came to remind us. We can not sit back and expect the miracles, we must build. And yet, Zecharia comes to remind us that our effort is not the end. The light of the menorah is supernatural, something we can not hold nor contain, just like the power of Hashem. We can not forget that.
As our tremendous chayalim and chayalot continue to fight the physical battle, let us daven to see the revealed רוח ה that Zecharia spoke of and may this Chanukah reveal Hashem’s power in all of its glory.