Introduction to Zecharia
Zecharia was a contemporary of Chaggai; he lived during the period after the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash, when Bnei Yisrael were in Galus in Bavel. He was one of the anshei kenesses hagdolah. He was either a student of Yechezkel or Baruch ben Neriah. His prophecies are often cryptic, and Rashi writes that we will not fully understand them until the days of Moshiach.
Perek 1: Zecharia related that Hashem displayed His “wrath with your ancestors” at the time of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash (Rashi). Zecharia demanded that Bnei Yisrael repent, although their parents ignored the countless warnings of the Neviim, as the Navi says “Your fathers, where are they?” Zecharia noted that their eventual end with the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash is history, and the Neviim’s prophecies were fulfilled. Zecharia saw a vision of an angel riding a red horse alongside a river, with three horses colored red, sorrel, and white in the background. A different angel explained to Zecharia that the angels had scoured the world and found that Bnei Yisrael lay in ruins while the rest of the world enjoyed stability and tranquillity. They beseeched Hashem to redeem Bnei Yisrael after their seventy years of suffering. Hashem responded that He was enraged by the gentiles’ mistreatment of Bnei Yisrael beyond His allocated punishment for Bnei Yisrael. Therefore, Hashem would treat Bnei Yisrael compassionately and grant them a Beis Hamikdash. In addition, He would rebuild Yerushalayim, enable Eretz Yisrael to flourish, and finally, select Eretz Yisrael as His dwelling place once again.
The Haftara of Beha’aloscha and of Shabbos Chanukah is from Zechariah 2:14-4:7
Zecharia saw four horns representing the four kingdoms that inflicted suffering upon Bnei Yisrael (Radak). Then, Zecharia witnessed four craftsmen that symbolized the four empires that would overthrow these kingdoms (Radak). Zecharia viewed an angel (Radak) measuring the dimensions of Yerushalayim to compare the size of Yerushalayim prior to and after the arrival of Moshiach (Metzudas David). Another angel told Zecharia to stop the angel measuring, as Yerushalayim would not be confined by any fixed measurements; it would not be surrounded by walls as they would live in serenity. Hashem would scatter Bnei Yisrael in Bavel, but will wreak havoc upon any nation that attacks Bnei Yisrael (Radak), even causing them to be subservient to Bnei Yisrael (Rashi). Only Bnei Yisrael will merit Hashem’s presence, but many nations will flock to serve Him. This will serve to validate the prophecies directed at Bnei Yisrael (Metzudas David). Zecharia instructed the nations to be silent while Hashem “awakens” from Galus and will compensate them for tormenting Bnei Yisrael. Meanwhile, Bnei Yisrael will be able to live peacefully in Eretz Yisrael once again.
Perek 3: Zecharia saw a vision of Yehoshua the Kohen Gadol with the Satan and an angel. The Satan criticized Yehoshua for his “filthy clothes”. Hashem told Yehoshua that if he serves Him devotedly in the Beis Hamikdash and follows in the ways of Hashem, then he would merit ‘A position amongst the angels’ in Olam Haba (Radak). Hashem showed Yehoshua and his colleagues Chananya, Mishael, and Azariah, that Zerubavel, a lowly governor, would “flourish” and eventually would be responsible for Paras’s agreement to construct the Beis Hamikdash (Rashi). One insignificant foundation stone would be adorned/rapidly increased (Rashi) and Hashem will prepare the adornments of the Beis Hamikdash. Finally, Zecharia concludes by consoling that Bnei Yisrael will live in absolute peace.
Perek 4: Zecharia was woken by the angel and shown a golden Menorah with seven branches. He was additionally shown a bowl of oil, with two olive trees on each side of the Menorah to demonstrate the ongoing supply of oil. This vision represented that Hashem, and not human toil, would build the Beis Hamikdash. Furthermore, this vision refers to the special spiritual light being returned to us in the future (Rashi). Zecharia added that the former “mountain”, the powerful Sanvalat who obstructed the construction of the Beis Hamikdash, would fail before Zerubavel who instigated work of the foundations and was responsible for the overall project. The two olive trees symbolize Yehoshua the Kohen Gadol and Zerubavel (Radak).
Perek 5: Zecharia saw a flying scroll with measurements of 20 by 10 Amos. It contained a curse and would traverse Eretz Yisrael to target individuals who swore falsely and stole (Radak). Zecharia viewed a measuring container holding an ephah, which symbolized Hashem’s allocation of a precise punishment for those that scour the land to manipulate measurements in commerce (Rashi). Zecharia watched a woman who epitomized evil being cast into this ephah container with a lead weight in her mouth. This highlighted that not only would the wicked be punished for their wrongdoings, but the weight would prevent them from exploiting others (Rashi). Two women representing Yehuda and Yisrael (Radak) with stork’s wings, along with the ephah container, were flying to Shinar where both kingdoms “will be established” during Galus.
Perek 6: Zecharia witnessed four chariots exit from two mountains. These horses were red (representing Bavel), black (Madai), white (Paras), and a mixture of grey with dots (Yavan and Edom) (Rashi). Hashem’s wrath abated once the “black horses (Madai)”attempted to attack Bavel. Hashem instructed Zecharia to use the gold and silver donated by Cheldai, Tuviah, and Yedayah to fashion two crowns (Radak), one of which was designated for Yehoshua the Kohen Gadol. Furthermore, Hashem told Zecharia to tell Yehoshua that he would work together cooperatively with Zerubavel, and would rule over Bnei Yisrael. These crowns would demonstrate that Zerubavel would be king and would build the Beis Hamikdash. Hashem also promised that if Bnei Yisrael follow Hashem’s dictates, foreign nations will help with the construction of the Beis Hamikdash.
Perek 7: Saretzer and Regem-melech from Bavel sent men from Beis El to pray to Hashem in Yerushalayim. Additionally, they were instructed to inquire from the Kohanim whether they should observe the mourning days of the first Beis Hamikdash, now that it was being rebuilt (Rashi). Hashem responded that He gains nothing from people fasting, but they should fast as repentance for their sins. Hashem demanded that Bnei Yisrael repent and behave righteously including judging fairly, dealing compassionately, and assisting the vulnerable (Radak). As the Bnei Yisrael did not listen to Hashem’s instructions through the Neviim, He thus refused to listen to them. This led to them suffering in Galus and being expelled from a desolate Eretz Yisrael (Radak 6:15).
Perek 8: Zecharia foretold that Hashem will dispel His wrath upon the nations and the Shechinah will return to Yerushalayim in the period of Moshiach (Radak). Yerushalayim, in addition to other cities throughout Eretz Yisrael, (Radak) will be called the ‘city of truth’ as they adhere to the Torah (Metzudas David). The elderly will sit in the streets of Yerushalayim, with children playing freely. Hashem will gather Bnei Yisrael from across the globe and they will be a people to Him and He a G-d for them. Zecharia encouraged Bnei Yisrael to be inspired by the optimistic future and persevere in the construction of the Beis Hamikdash. Zecharia related that previously, there had been a Divine curse upon the agriculture of Eretz Yisrael and people were unable to earn a livelihood, however, since the Beis Hamikdash has started being rebuilt, the crops have flourished. Moreover, Hashem will ensure that Bnei Yisrael will return to Him. Hashem further requests that they deal genuinely with each other and do not backstab each other. The fast days will become days of celebration. Finally, in the era of Moshiach, a multitude of nations will approach and beseech Hashem due to their recognition that Hashem is the only authentic G-d.
Perek 9: Hashem informed Zecharia that even Damasek, Chamos, Tzor, and Tzidon would be part of Eretz Yisrael due to the large Jewish population (Radak). Despite Tzor believing they were too “clever” and wealthy to be conquered (Radak), Hashem would ensure their wealth would be transported at sea (Rashi) and its buildings decimated. This would cause the Plishtim to fear Bnei Yisrael as they relied heavy upon Tzor for support (Rashi). The Plishti cities would be placed under Bnei Yisrael’s control, and Hashem would eradicate the Plishti idolatry to enable them to serve Him. Hashem promised to protect Bnei Yisrael from the enemy (Radak). The King Moshiach will be successful in battle, but would ride on a donkey displaying his humility (Rashi). Hashem will eliminate weapons. Bnei Yisrael would merit salvation, due to their covenant declared at Har Sinai to observe the Torah (Rashi). Hashem promised Bnei Yisrael that He would return to them imminently and would make them rejoice and be mighty in war against their enemies.
Perek 10: Zecharia related that Hashem will provide rain when beseeched, even in the “season of late rain” where it is unusual for it to be provided. The false prophets and idols delivered false optimism and were damaged by inadequate leadership, and thus the leaders would be punished (Metzudas David). Bnei Yisrael will be victorious in war while their enemies will be unsuccessful. Bnei Yisrael will rejoice. During the Messianic era, Hashem will “whistle” to those of Bnei Yisrael who have strayed from their roots and all Bnei Yisrael will return and assemble in Eretz Yisrael, making Eretz Yisrael extraordinarily overpopulated. Egypt and Ashur among other nations will be punished for afflicting Bnei Yisrael (Radak) and Hashem will make Bnei Yisrael a force to be reckoned with (Metzudas David).
Perek 11: Hashem will ensure that the “cedars” – the oppressors amongst “Lebanon” – will be punished for their actions (Rashi). Zecharia forewarned that Bnei Yisrael will be purchased and massacred by the gentiles. He stated that Hashem will not save them from their enemies unless they repent (Radak). Hashem has two staffs; if they follow Him, they will experience tranquillity, but if they abandon Him, they will endure suffering (Radak). However, Hashem will always protect Bnei Yisrael from extinction (Radak). In the days of the “three shepherds,” Yehoachaz, Yehoyakim and Tzidkiyah, Hashem wished to forsake Bnei Yisrael to the nations and broke one staff. This was because Bnei Yisrael transgressed the covenant of observing the Torah, and unless they repented through the Neviim and “paid 30 coins, meaning they kept their side of the bargain, Hashem would not keep His share of the covenant and provide them with serenity. Zecharia was to throw these 30 coins to the treasurer of the Beis Hamikdash. Hashem then broke the second staff, symbolizing Tzidkiyah’s expulsion from Eretz Yisrael, and how He would place Bnei Yisrael under the leadership of foreign nations. Not only would the foreign nations not care for the vulnerable of Bnei Yisrael, but they would rob and murder the wealthy (Rashi).
Perek 12: Hashem, the Creator of all mankind will “Make Yerushalayim a cup of poison for all the nations”; meaning that if they attack Yerushalayim, they will reap the consequences (Radak). Zecharia compared Yerushalayim to a large stone that if one lifts, he will get cuts and bruises. Similarly, Hashem will confound the enemies’ armies. Some generals of Yehuda will be forced to join the coalition forces against Yerushalayim; they will discover that they will not be punished with the rest of the army as they were not fighting willingly (Rashi). These generals will fight against their former colleagues (Rashi) and Yerushalayim will remain in existence. During the war of Gog and Magog, Hashem will guard Bnei Yisrael (Metzudas David) and the King Moshiach himself will “be like an angel”. Hashem will massacre Bnei Yisrael’s enemies, while He will instill within Bnei Yisrael a longing to beseech Him (Rashi). Their victory in war will be so extraordinary that if even one soldier succumbs in battle, the entire nation will mourn (Radak).
Perek 13: In the era of Moshiach there will be a spring to purify the impure. Hashem will eradicate idolatry and false prophecy in Eretz Yisrael (Rashi). There will be a pervading attitude whereby ‘Parents will kill their children who are false prophets’ and the false prophets will admit their lack of authenticity. Hashem will destroy “His shepherd”; the nations who were supposed to host Bnei Yisrael throughout Galus, but inflicted torment instead. Then “The flock (Bnei Yisrael) will disperse” (Rashi). Only one third of the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael will survive and these will be purged like one refines silver. As a result, Bnei Yisrael will be known as “My people” and they will proclaim “Hashem is my G-d”.
The Haftara for the first day of Succos is Zechariah 14
There will be a time when Hashem will be recognized internationally (Radak) and Bnei Yisrael will seize the spoils of their enemies (Rashi). Hashem will lure the nations to attack Yerushalayim in the battle of Gog and Magog, and they will capture the city. They will proceed to abuse the women, decimate the houses, and exile half of her residents. However, Hashem will startle the enemies by turning against them and splitting Har Hazeisim, and they will flee while Hashem guards Yerushalayim. Bnei Yisrael will then experience a “light not very bright or dim,” meaning a combination of celebration and suffering (Rashi), and this light will progressively get brighter as Hashem reveals Himself (Radak). Hashem will rule over the entire globe and water will flow in Eretz Yisrael in both summer and winter. Mountainous terrain will be flattened worldwide (Rashi), but Yerushalayim will be raised. Yerushalayim will be rebuilt and its inhabitants will dwell in serenity forever. Meanwhile, Hashem will send a miraculous plague upon Bnei Yisrael’s enemies and their animals. These nations will travel to visit Hashem annually in the Beis Hamikdash during Sukkos to commemorate the battle of Gog and Magog (Radak). If they do not pray for rain, they will not receive any rain. There will be many sacrifices offered in the Beis Hamikdash and due to the many donations, there will be no need to purchase anything for the Beis Hamikdash.