Haftarah of BeHaalotcha

Zechariah 2:14 – 4:7


Zechariah is one of the last prophets in the Tanach. He lived during the generation of the Return to Zion, after Cyrus, King of Persia, allowed the Jewish People to go back to Judea under the governorship of Zerubavel, a descendent of King David, and rebuild the Temple.


That generation was plagued with problems from every direction. First of all, only 42,000 people came back, mainly those who hadn't done well in Babylonia. The wealthy, the successful, as well as the pious and the learned, all stayed back. Those that did come had intermarried, and brought their non-Jewish wives with them. This included the families of the leaders, such as the sons of the new Cohen Gadol, Yehoshua ben Yotzadak.


The new Temple went up in fits and starts. Those who had seen the original Temple before it was destroyed, seventy years earlier, cried at the dedication of the new one, not necessarily from joy.


During the intervening time, Judea had been populated by foreign peoples who were not happy to see the Jews come back. They did everything in their power to sabotage the rebuilding:  violence, terrorism , political maneuvering, even libelous letters to the Persian rulers claiming that the Jews were planning a rebellion. Some of these actions succeeded in halting the project for years at a time.


Our Haftarah contains several different visions, in which Zechariah offers encouragement and hope to the pioneers and builders of the original Return to Zion.


The Haftarah begins with G-d describing His renewed relationship with the Jewish People: our return to our land and to Jerusalem,  the return of His Presence among us, a new path for the nations of the world to connect to Him through us, and the renewal of prophecy. All our detractors will be silenced - we're back, and G-d is back with us.


14) Sing and rejoice, Daughter of Tzion!

For I am coming,

and I will dwell in your midst,

says Hashem.

(יד) רָנִּי וְשִׂמְחִי בַּת צִיּוֹן

כִּי הִנְנִי בָא

וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְתוֹכֵךְ

נְאֻם ה’:

15) Many nations will attach to Hashem on that day,

and become My people;

and I will dwell in your midst,

and you will know that Hashem Tzva-ot sent me to you.

(טו) וְנִלְווּ גוֹיִם רַבִּים אֶל הבַּיּוֹם הַהוּא

וְהָיוּ לִי לְעָם

וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְתוֹכֵךְ

וְיָדַעַתְּ כִּי הצְבָא-וֹת שְׁלָחַנִי אֵלָיִךְ:

16) Hashem will set Yehuda, his portion,

upon the holy land,

and once again choose Yerushalaim.

(טז) וְנָחַל האֶת יְהוְדָה חֶלְקוֹ

עַל אַדְמַת הַקֹּדֶשׁ

וּבָחַר עוֹד בִּירוּשָׁלִָם:

17) Hush, all living beings, before Hashem,

for He arises from His holy abode!

(יז) הַס כָּל בָּשָׂר מִפְּנֵי ה

כִּי נֵעוֹר מִמְּעוֹן קָדְשׁוֹ: ס



Zechariah then relates a vision of the Heavenly Court judging the new Cohen Gadol, Yehoshua. G-d Himself defends Yehoshua: this is not a time to find fault among those who returned to rebuild. They may be imperfect, but they are all that G-d has left, "a twig saved from the fire". In the vision, Yehoshua is cleaned up by the angels and given new clothes; he  - and all of the Jewish People - get to start afresh.


1) Then he showed me Yehoshua the Cohen Gadol

standing before Hashem’s angel;

and the Accuser standing on his right to accuse him.

 (א) וַיַּרְאֵנִי אֶת יְהוֹשֻׁעַ הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל

עֹמֵד לִפְנֵי מַלְאַךְ ה

וְהַשָּׂטָן עֹמֵד עַל יְמִינוֹ לְשִׂטְנוֹ:

2) Hashem said to the Accuser:

“Hashem reproaches you, Accuser!

Hashem reproaches you,

He who chooses Jerusalem.

Is this not a twig saved from the fire?”

(ב) וַיֹּאמֶר האֶל הַשָּׂטָן

יִגְעַר הבְּךָ הַשָּׂטָן

וְיִגְעַר הבְּךָ

הַבֹּחֵר בִּירוּשָׁלִָם

הֲלוֹא זֶה אוּד מֻצָּל מֵאֵשׁ:

3) And Yehoshua was wearing soiled clothing,

and was standing before the angel.

(ג) וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ הָיָה לָבֻשׁ בְּגָדִים צוֹאִים

וְעֹמֵד לִפְנֵי הַמַּלְאָךְ:

4) He spoke up and said to those standing before him:

“Removed the soiled clothing from him.”

He said to him: “See, I have taken away your sin,

and dressed you in fine robes.”

(ד) וַיַּעַן וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל הָעֹמְדִים לְפָנָיו לֵאמֹר

הָסִירוּ הַבְּגָדִים הַצֹּאִים מֵעָלָיו

וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו רְאֵה הֶעֱבַרְתִּי מֵעָלֶיךָ עֲוֹנֶךָ

וְהַלְבֵּשׁ אֹתְךָ מַחֲלָצוֹת:

5) Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.”

They put the clean turban on his head.

They dressed him in clothes,

while Hashem’s angel was standing.

(ה) וָאֹמַר יָשִׂימוּ צָנִיף טָהוֹר עַל רֹאשׁוֹ

וַיָּשִׂימוּ הַצָּנִיף הַטָּהוֹר עַל רֹאשׁוֹ

וַיַּלְבִּשֻׁהוּ בְּגָדִים

וּמַלְאַךְ העֹמֵד:


However, G-d has expectations: as a Cohen, Yehoshua must keep His laws, especially the laws of the Temple. If he does this, he will be greater than the angels standing at the tribunal. He is asked to pass this message to the rest of the leadership: the flowering of the Redemption is about to begin. G-d has His eye on them and the new building, and will make sure it gets finished. Their sins will be erased and peace is on its way.


6) Hashem’s angel charged Yehoshua, saying:

(ו) וַיָּעַד מַלְאַךְ הבִּיהוֹשֻׁעַ לֵאמֹר:

7) Thus says Hashem Tzva-ot:

“If you will walk in my path and protect my charge,

and also judge My house,

and also guard My courtyards,

then I will give you those who walk

among those standing here.

(ז) כֹּה אָמַר הצְבָ-אוֹת

אִם בִּדְרָכַי תֵּלֵךְ וְאִם אֶת מִשְׁמַרְתִּי תִשְׁמֹר

וְגַם אַתָּה תָּדִין אֶת בֵּיתִי

וְגַם תִּשְׁמֹר אֶת חֲצֵרָי

וְנָתַתִּי לְךָ מַהְלְכִים

בֵּין הָעֹמְדִים הָאֵלֶּה:

8) Please listen, Yehoshua the Cohen Gadol,

you and your friends who sit before you,

for they are men of consequence.

For I am now bringing my servant, Tzemach.

(ח) שְׁמַע נָא יְהוֹשֻׁעַ הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל

אַתָּה וְרֵעֶיךָ הַיֹּשְׁבִים לְפָנֶיךָ

כִּי אַנְשֵׁי מוֹפֵת הֵמָּה

כִּי הִנְנִי מֵבִיא אֶת עַבְדִּי צֶמַח:

9) For this stone that I now place before Yehoshua,

there are seven eyes upon a single stone.

I am chiseling them, says Hashem Tzva-ot,

and I am erasing the guilt of this land, in one day.

(ט) כִּי הִנֵּה הָאֶבֶן אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לִפְנֵי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ

עַל אֶבֶן אַחַת שִׁבְעָה עֵינָיִם

הִנְנִי מְפַתֵּחַ פִּתֻּחָהּ נְאֻם הצְבָא-וֹת

וּמַשְׁתִּי אֶת עֲוֹן הָאָרֶץ הַהִיא בְּיוֹם אֶחָד:

10) On that day, says Hashem Tzva-ot,

people will invite each other,

to sit under the vine and under the fig tree.

(י) בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא נְאֻם הצְבָא-וֹת

תִּקְרְאוּ אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ

אֶל תַּחַת גֶּפֶן וְאֶל תַּחַת תְּאֵנָה:


The final vision of the Haftarah is that of the Menorah. As one of the last prophets, Zechariah's visions are directed through an angel; they are murky and unclear, and he struggles to understand their meaning. He now sees a seven-branched Menorah with two olive trees on either side providing it with oil. Zechariah asks the angel to clarify the message, which turns out to be: they may feel weak and powerless, their obstacles seem insurmountable, but G-d is the source of their strength, and succeed they will.


1) The Angel who spoke with me came back,

and woke me like a person awoken from sleep.

(א) וַיָּשָׁב הַמַּלְאָךְ הַדֹּבֵר בִּי

וַיְעִירֵנִי כְּאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יֵעוֹר מִשְּׁנָתוֹ:

2) He said to me,

“What do you see?”

I said, “I saw, and there was a golden Menorah,

and a bowl over its top,

and seven candles on it,

seven and seven pipes

to the candles at its top.

(ב) וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי

מָה אַתָּה רֹאֶה

וָאֹמַר רָאִיתִי וְהִנֵּה מְנוֹרַת זָהָב כֻּלָּהּ

וְגֻלָּהּ עַל רֹאשָׁהּ

וְשִׁבְעָה נֵרֹתֶיהָ עָלֶיהָ

שִׁבְעָה וְשִׁבְעָה מוּצָקוֹת

לַנֵּרוֹת אֲשֶׁר עַל רֹאשָׁהּ:

3) There were two olives over it,

one to the right of the bowl,

and one to its left.”

(ג) וּשְׁנַיִם זֵיתִים עָלֶיהָ

אֶחָד מִימִין הַגֻּלָּה

וְאֶחָד עַל שְׂמֹאלָהּ:

4) I spoke up and said

to the Angel that spoke with me, saying,

“What are these, my lord?”

(ד) וָאַעַן וָאֹמַר

אֶל הַמַּלְאָךְ הַדֹּבֵר בִּי לֵאמֹר

מָה אֵלֶּה אֲדֹנִי:

5) The Angel who spoke with me answered, and said to me,

“Don’t you know what these are?”

I said, “No, my lord.”

(ה) וַיַּעַן הַמַּלְאָךְ הַדֹּבֵר בִּי וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי

הֲלוֹא יָדַעְתָּ מָה הֵמָּה אֵלֶּה

וָאֹמַר לֹא אֲדֹנִי:

6) He answered, and said to me, as follows:

“This is the word of Hashem

to Zerubavel as follows:

“Not by might, and not by strength,

but only by My spirit!” "

says Hashem Tzva-ot.

(ו) וַיַּעַן וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי לֵאמֹר

זֶה דְּבַר ה

אֶל זְרֻבָּבֶל לֵאמֹר

לֹא בְחַיִל וְלֹא בְכֹחַ

כִּי אִם בְּרוּחִי

אָמַר הצְבָא-וֹת:

7) What are you, great mountain, to Zerubavel, as a plain!

He will take out the foundation stone,

amid cheers of “Hail! Hail!” to it.

(ז) מִי אַתָּה הַר הַגָּדוֹל לִפְנֵי זְרֻבָּבֶל לְמִישֹׁר

וְהוֹצִיא אֶת הָאֶבֶן הָרֹאשָׁה

תְּשֻׁאוֹת חֵן חֵן לָהּ:



Copyright © Kira Sirote 
In memory of my father, Peter Rozenberg, z"l
לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי פנחס בן נתן נטע ז''ל

"Haftarot Unrolled" at http://www.torahforum.org/haftara