So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. — Zechariah 4:6
The Torah portion for this week is Behaalotecha, which means “when you raise up,” from Numbers 8:1–12:16, and the Haftorah is from Zechariah 2:14–4:7.
David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, once said: “In Israel, to be a realist, you have to believe in miracles.” Ben Gurion recognized that the creation of Israel and her ability to survive was nothing other than miraculous. Israel is a living testimony that God – not politics or armies – controls the world. Our world is not a product of strength; it is a reflection of spirit.
In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the menorah, the seven-branched lamp that the priests would light in the Temple. In the Haftorah, we read a portion from Zechariah that includes his vision involving a menorah. This is also the Haftorah read on the Shabbat of Hanukkah, the holiday when we light our own menorahs in memory of the miraculous defeat of the Greek oppressors by the Jewish Maccabees.
Here is what Zechariah saw: A gold menorah with seven branches, each being filled by streams of oil emanating from one bowl situated above the menorah. There were also two olive trees on either side of the menorah.
The angel showing Zechariah this vision asked him, “Do you not know what these are?” (v.5). Zechariah replied, “No, my lord” (v.5). The angel explained the meaning of the vision with these words: “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit . . . ’”
How are we to understand the angel’s explanation?
Usually, to produce olive oil, olives first need to be cultivated on trees, then plucked, crushed, and made into oil in a process that takes weeks. The olive trees in Zechariah’s vision represent our efforts. However, the menorah is not illuminated by our efforts. The oil comes straight from above. In other words, our world is not animated by our efforts; it is the product of God’s will, flowing from above and into our lives.
This isn’t to say that our efforts don’t count or don’t matter to God. Our efforts are necessary and valued by our Father in heaven. But ultimately, His will is greater than ours, and His will alone will determine the fate of humanity. This was God’s message to Zerubbabel, the leader of the Jews who had returned to Israel after the first exile. If God willed it, mighty mountains would become leveled ground (v.7).
This is also a message to us. As we go through our busy lives, let’s not lose sight of who is ultimately in control.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President