The Prophet Zechariah was one of the last of the Prophets, and he prophesied to our people during the era when some Jews returned from the Babylonian exile to the Land of Israel. In this letter, we will discuss a prophecy that he received before the rebuilding of the Second Temple. In this prophecy, he was shown a vision which contains a message for Zerubabel, a descendant of King David who was one of the leaders of the people who had returned to the Land. In terms of physical power, the people were weak and under Persian domination; however, the vision of the Prophet reveals the source of power which will enable the people to rebuild the Temple. And it is this source of power which later enabled the Maccabees to rededicate the Temple.
This past Shabbos, the first day of Chanukah, we chanted a portion from the Prophets that contains the following vision of the Prophet Zechariah:
I see and behold - there is a menorah made entirely of gold with its bowl on its top; its seven lamps are upon it, and there are seven ducts for each of the lamps on its top. There are two olive trees over it, one at the right of the bowl and one on its left. I spoke up and said to the angel who was speaking to me, saying, “What are these, my lord?” The angel who was speaking to me answered, and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord!” He answered and said to me, stating: “This is the word of the Compassionate One to Zerubabel, saying: ‘Not through the might of arms and not through physical strength, but through My spirit, said the Compassionate One, God of all the hosts of creation.’ ”(Zechariah 4:2-6)
The oil from the olives enables the Menorah to give light, and this light represents the light of the Divine Teaching, as it is written, “Torah is light” (Proverbs 6:23). In the above prophecy, the Prophet is told to convey the following message regarding the power of this light: Not through the might of arms and not through physical strength, but through My spirit, said the Compassionate One, God of all the hosts of creation.
How is it possible for the spiritual light of Torah to have power within the physical world? The beginning of an answer can be found in the following teaching from the Zohar which is cited by the Chofetz Chaim in his essay, “The Gate of Torah”:
“Through the Torah, the world is built and perfected, as it is written, ‘The Compassionate One founded the earth with wisdom’ (Proverbs 3:19).…Come and see: Through spirit the Holy One, blessed be He, made the world and through spirit the world endures. And this is the spirit of those who labor in the study of Torah.” (Zohar, Parshas Bereishis, p. 47a)
Our power to build and perfect the world is not derived from the might of arms or through physical strength; our power is derived from the Divine spirit - the Torah – through which the Holy One made the world. And this spirit can be found among those who labor in the study of Torah.
The Zohar also states: “Fortunate are those who strive and occupy themselves with the Torah, for when the Holy One, Blessed be He, created the world, He looked into the Torah and created the world" (Zohar, Terumah, p. 161a).
The Torah has power within this world, as the Torah served as the blueprint for the creation of this world. A biblical source for this teaching can be found in the Book of Proverbs where Torah states, “I am wisdom” (8:12), and Torah adds:
“The Compassionate One made me as the beginning of His way, before His deeds of yore. I have reigned for eternity – from the beginning, from before there was the earth…Then I was with Him as an artisan” (8:22,23,30)
The Compassionate One looked into the Torah and created the world; thus, when we look deeper into the world, we can rediscover the Torah – the Divine Teaching which infuses the world with meaning and purpose. And through the words of the Divine Teaching, we, the people of Zion, gain the power to renew the world, as the Compassionate One proclaimed:
“And I have placed My words in your mouth – and with the shade of My hand have I covered you – to implant the heavens and to set a foundation for the earth and to say unto Zion, ‘You are My people.’ ” (Isaiah 51:16).
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
The Talmud states in the name of Rav: “Whoever is occupied with the study of Torah for its own sake, it’s as if he built a palace above and below, as it is written, ‘And I have placed My words in your mouth… to implant the heavens and to set a foundation for the earth and to say unto Zion, ‘You are My people’ (Isaiah 51:16).
The Talmud (Shabbos 33a) discusses the following verse: “The Compassionate One said: “If not for My Covenant which endures day and night, I would not have established the laws of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25). The Talmud explains that “Covenant” refers to the Torah. The verse therefore has the following deeper meaning: It is the Torah that infuses the creation with meaning and purpose; thus, without the Torah, the Creator would not have created the world.
3. The Torah says: “With me there is counsel and wisdom; I am understanding; with me is might. Through me, sovereigns will reign, and nobles will decree righteousness” (Proverbs 8:14,15).
4. “It is written, “The Compassionate One gives might to His people” (Psalm 29:11) – Might is Torah (Yalkut Shimoni).