In this week’s haftara we read the verses that provide the basis for the symbol of the State of Israel,
“Then the angel who talked with me returned and wakened me, as a man is wakened from his sleep. He asked me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”…This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” (Zecharya 1)
The haftara relates how the High Priest Yehoshua purifies himself from his “impurities”, i.e. that he had married non-Jewish wives, and, by doing so, was able to reach a spiritual level close to that of angels. In the same chapter we find mentioned Tzemach, the Messianic King (who is Zerubavel according to the commentaries). What needs to be understood is why do we need two leaders? The continuation of the prophecy also seems to emphasize the number two: two olive trees, two sheaves, the two sons of Yitzharwho stood by the side, as if, of the Almighty?
HaRav Kook, in his essay “The Misped in Jerusalem”speaks about a different verse in Zecharia, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.” (Zecharya 12, 10)
The chapter focuses on the period of redemption in which G-d will wrought vengeance on the nations of the world and will save the Jewish people. Nevertheless, the eulogy and agony of that day will be great. Yonatan ben Uziel interprets this to refer to two leaders of Israel, and that the eulogy would be as great as the one in the time of Achav in his war against Hadad upon the death ofYoshiahu HaMelech in the Megiddo Valley. The Gemara records that at the moment Yonatan ben Uziel explained this verse the entire land of Israel trembled and a heavenly voice exclaimed, “Who revealed this secret to my children?” Yonatan ben Uziel stood up and said it was he, and that he had not done so for any personal honor. He only wanted to decrease acrimonious dispute among the Jewish people. It is necessary to understand what is the great secret that Yonatan ben Uziel revealed to us?!
HaRav Kook explains that the Jewish nation has a “body and soul” just like a human being. The “body” refers to the necessities of being like any other nation with a language, flag, culture, stable economy, national security, etc. This is the objective of Zionism. However, the body cannot exist without the soul. This is the unique nature of the Jewish people that reposes in its Torah. This construct finds a parallel in the contrast between Yehuda and Yosef. Yosef supports his family during the famine and knows all seventy languages – indicative of his equality with the nations of the world. Yehuda represents the uniqueness of the Jewish people.
During the period of the First Temple this objective was not achieved. The Kingdom of Yehuda and the Kingdom of Ephraimseparated and even fought between them. The Northern Kingdom rapidly disintegrated into idolatry because it did not have proper spiritual guidance, “Ephraim mixes with the nations…” (Hoshe’a 7,8).The spiritual power of Yehuda was also weakened due to the lack of physical support, and, he too, went after Israel, “Judah also stumbles with them” (Hoshe’a 5,5).
As such, the Midrash says that G-d called to Yeravam ben Navat, King of Israel to repent and that he and Ben Yishai would walk together in the Garden of Eden. Nevertheless, Yeravam refuses when he hears that Ben Yishai would be at the head. Yonatan ben Uziel corrected this mistake by revealing “the secret” in order to decrease argumentation among the Jewish people. Achavrepresents love for the nation of Israel. He builds a new city in the land of Israel and remains till the end of the battle in spite of his being wounded so that the army would not lose and flee. However, he does not recognize the uniqueness of the Jewish nation, and therefore he turns to “other gods”. Yoshiahu does recognize this spiritual individuality, perhaps, too much. He does not heed the words of Yirmiyahu to allow the warring nations to pass through the land. He is killed in the Megiddo Valley by Pharaoh.
Zechariacalls to the Jewish people upon their return to the Land not to repeat these mistakes! There are two leaders and each one is responsible for his sector. They must remember that each one reinforces the work of the other. “Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jehozadak. Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD . It is he who will build the temple of the LORD , and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two” (Zecharya 6).According to Sanhedrin 38a Zerubavel is Nechemia who was responsible for the rebuilding of the walls of the Beit HaMikdash and their protection. He was an officer of Yehuda and succeeded in alleviating the economic burden of the people, he “blossomed”! The Navi exhorts Zerubavel that he should never forget, “’Not by might and not by power (shall one succeed), but by My spirit,’ says G-d…” The King must acknowledge that “Ben Yishai” should lead!
Our tradition teaches us that there will be two Messiahs, Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David – each one strengthening the other. Zecharia describes a situation (based on the first source quoted by HaRav Kook) that, in spite of the salvation, Mashiach ben Yosef will die. HaRav Kook explains that the verse compares this to young parents who do not yet know how to raise children, and, as such, make mistakes that cause the death of their first born son.
The Jewish people have returned to their land after two thousand years of exile without the knowledge of how to “conduct affairs of state”. “The eulogy of Yerushayim” is that we do not know how to integrate the two dimensions represtented by Achav andYoshiahu. We, as Orthodox Jews, have the responsibility to strengthen the hands of our brothers and sisters in the Land of Israel – to increase belief and holiness in order to guarantee that “Mashiach ben Yosef” will not die, Chas Veshalom . Those two olive trees that provide oil for the Menora represent the institutions of priesthood and kingship that are consecrated with the anointing oil.They stand together with the Menora which represents the spiritual confluence that permeates the world and illuminates it through Am Yisrael when it dwells in its Land and keeps the mitzvot of G-d!