The Repair of Zerubavel's Error


The Repair of Zerubavel's Error

By Moshe Lerman

During the dark days around Hanukka, the weekly readings from the Torah are about the difficult birth process of the nation of Israel. Driven by baseless hatred, Joseph’s brothers sell him to be a slave in Egypt. In the end, they understand and acknowledge the sin they committed, the hatred is removed from their hearts, and the sons of Israel get to be united.

Our sages teach us that baseless hatred later returned to the people of Israel, and was the principal cause of our current exile. Zechariah's prophecy of the broken staffs tells us when the baseless hatred returned:

"I will not be your shepherd. Let the dying die, and the perishing perish. Let those who are left eat one another's flesh. Then I took my staff called Favor and broke it, revoking My covenant that I had made with all the nations." (Zechariah 11:9-10)

"Then I broke my second staff called Union, breaking the brotherhood between Yehudah and Yisrael." (Zechariah 11:14)

Ibn Ezra explains that the breaking of the two staffs refers to the deaths of two shepherds of Israel, Zerubavel and Nehemia. The prophecy hints at the backgrounds of their deaths. Zerubavel, the staff called Favor, had made peace covenants with the nations around Jerusalem. The prophecy speaks about "My covenant", explains Ibn Ezra, because the land which the nations swore to Zerubavel is the Land of HaShem.

Zerubavel partially failed his mission. Despite the powerful prophecies said about him, such as "Who are you, great mountain, before Zerubavel (Zechariah 4:7)" and "I will take you, O Zerubavel, my servant (Haggai 2:23)," Zerubavel did not manage to re-establish Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel. The prophecy about Nehemia, the staff called Union, reflects a subsequent failure, namely to fulfill the prophecy of Jeremiah: "In those days, the house of Yehudah will walk with the house of Yisrael (Jeremiah 3:18)."

The immediate consequence was the re-emergence of internal hatred. After the death of Nehemia, explains Ibn Ezra, Israel became corrupt and returned to fighting amongst each other.

To be restored as a truly united nation exercising full sovereignty over the Land of Israel, we must repair the historical mistakes that led to the exile. We have come a very long way repairing the failure of Yehudah to walk with the house of Yisrael. Jews from all corners of the world, with backgrounds of all kinds, have been gathered into the State of Israel.

However, because of our small understanding, we have repeated Zerubavel's error. Also we have made failed peace covenants. Also we have given away parts of the Land of HaShem. It is therefore certain that we will be challenged further, until we will understand. In the end, we will be pressured to make compromises in and around Jerusalem. We must refuse.

"On that day, says the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubavel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, says the Lord, and will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, says the Lord of hosts." (Haggai 2:23).

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