This week’s haftorah, read in conjunction with Shabbos Chanukah reveals to us a hidden dimension of Hashem’s compassionate ways. The prophet Zechariah predicts the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash and says, “Rejoice and be happy daughter of Zion for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says Hashem. This prophecy refers to the rebuilding of the second Temple which is finally becoming a reality after seventy dark years of exile. In fact, early construction had once begun but, due to the slander to the government by our own Jewish brethren all construction came to a halt. The result of this was that Jews fell into total despair and forfeited all hope of experiencing Hashem’s return. Suddenly, as if out of oblivion, the prophet Zechariah came and announced the immediate plans for the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash.
The prophet continues and reveals a private discussion between Hashem and the prosecuting angel. It revolved around Yehoshua, the high priest, who had been previously designated to served in the new Bais Hamikdash. Hashem said, “Is he not an ember spared from the fire?Œ The prophet continues “And Yehoshua was wearing soiled garments and standing before the angel. And the angel responded, “Remove the soiled garments from upon Yehoshua…and they placed the turban upon his head.’ ” This dialogue shows to us that the future Kohain Gadol was held seriously at fault for his actions. Our Chazal explain that Yehoshua was being judged for his failure to involve himself in the lives of his children. They married wives forbidden to them according to the laws of the priesthood and their father Yehoshua failed to interfere in their marriages. Hashem defended Yehoshua and argued that he deserved special consideration being that he was an ember spared from the fire. Yehoshua received a second chance and immediately influenced his children to terminate their inappropriate relationships. Hashem responded to this and restored Yehoshua to the prestigious position of priesthood.
The above incident reveals a special characteristic of Hashem’s judgement and compassion. In truth Yehoshua was at fault for his children’s violation of their priesthood status and did not deserve to be the Kohain Gadol. However, Hashem turned His focus on the special merit of Yehoshua, being an ember spared from the fire. Our Chazal (Sanhedrin 93a) explain that the wicked Nebuchadnezar tested the faith and merit of Yehoshua and had cast him into a fiery furnace. Yehoshua was miraculously spared which demonstrated his supreme level of devotion to Hashem. Hashem argued that His tzadik Yehoshua whose every fiber was devoted to Hashem deserved review of status. Although a serious fault presented itself, Yehoshua received a second chance and after rectifying his children’s conduct Yehoshua regained his status of the High Priest.
This lesson rings with a familiar tone in the famous story of Chanukah. In the early years of the second Temple we were privileged to be represented by the illustrious Shimon Hatzadik as the High Priest. During his days the western lamp of the menorah continuously burned which indicated Hashem’s constant presence. However as the years went on the priesthood became somewhat of a mockery. It assumed a political status and was even obtained through handsome sums of money. This eventually resulted in the Greek control over the Bais Hamikdash which brought all sacrifices to a halt. The Chashmonaim who were Kohanim took charge of the situation and risked their own lives to restore the service in the Bais Hamikdash. They demonstrated unprecedented levels of devotion to Hashem and in their merit Hashem restored the service of the priesthood to them. Although, historically speaking, the broader family of the Chashmonaim always had their own faults, Hashem focused on this display of devotion and granted them the privilege of the priesthood.
As a family, they were, after all, embers miraculously spared from the fire and deserved a fair chance to rectify their faults. (see Malbim, Zechariah 3:7)
This lesson is also found in our weekly sedra regarding Yehuda, the leader of the tribes. In Parshas Vayeishev we read of Yehuda’s demotion from his royal position of leadership. The brothers, following the suggestion of Yehuda refrained from physically harming Yoseif and resorted to selling him as a slave. The brothers witnessed afterwards their father’s grief over Yoseif’s absence and blamed Yehuda for his insensitivity. In expression of their disturbance, they removed Yehuda from his position of leadership indefinitely.
In this week’s sedra Yehuda stepped forward and risked his total eternal existence for the sake of his brother Binyomin. His father Yaakov accepted this sincere display of devotion and Yehuda was eventually restored to his post. Such devotion does not go unnoticed and eventually resulted in his return to the position of authority.
It is with this quality that the prophet concludes our haftorah and states “So says Hashem, ‘Behold I am bringing my servant Mashiach.. and he will uncover the cornerstone resounding the voice of graciousness.” In the end of days, the tribe of Yehuda, after straying for years , will demonstrate total devotion to Hashem and in response to this Hashem will bring from amongst Yehuda, the Mashiach.