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Three Reasons

Along with selecting special haftorot for each week to highlight an aspect of the Torah portion, the rabbis also chose special readings for the holidays. For the first Shabbat of Hanukah the rabbis selected Zechariah 2:14 -4:7. There are at least three reasons why it appears the rabbis were drawn to these verses.

The "peshat", or literal reason is because it describes a prophetic vision of the reconstruction of the first Temple which specifically focuses on the seven branched menorah. This, of course, is the very same image/symbol which, several hundreds of years later, will become the central theme of the celebration of Hanukah.

Theologically, the message contained within this selection parallels that of Hanukah for the rabbis of the previous millennium: Don't give up the hope that we may one day live in peace and under our own sovereignty in the Land of Israel. Implicit within this theological position is the idea that faith in God manifests itself by our acting to build a new world, symbolized by the Temple itself. One of my teachers at rabbinical school, Rabbi David Teutsch, taught that there are two kinds of people, those who are waiting for the Messiah (messianic times) to come and those who are working to bring the Messiah (messianic times). This is reinforced by the deeper meaning of the word hanukah. It means dedication, as when we dedicate ourselves towards our goals. It also means education. And what is the value of education if not to propel us forward in the process of building a better world.

Finally, a third way this selection relates to Hanukah is through the well known verse "not by might, not by power, but My spirit" (Zechariah 4:6). To the rabbis during the time these selections were made there was a great fear of the memory of Hanukah stirring an attempt by Jews to revolt against the political powers of the time. More realistically, however, was the fear that those in power would think that the holiday would foment rebellion and therefore provide a justification for a preemptive assault on the Jews. As oppressed people then it was prudent to cultivate a non-violent emphasis to an otherwise obvious military victory. Today, with Israel as militarily powerful as it is this profound verse from Zechariah has an opposite but equal urgency to it. True and lasting peace in Israel will come "not by might, not by power, but My spirit."
Type: Dvar Torah