Parashat Vayeishev: Haftarah
Ilustration Credit: Elad Lifshitz, Dov Abramson Studio

Haftarah הַפְטָרָה

Hanukkah means “initiation” or “dedication,” starting something new or celebrating doing it for the first time. (That’s why the word for “education” in Hebrew is חִנּוּךְ (hinukh) - because it’s about teaching people new things for the first time.) When the Jews re-lit the Menorah, it was a way of starting over fresh or dedicating it after the Greeks made it impure. On Shabbat Hanukkah, we read a maftir (additional reading) and a haftarah that describe other times when our ancestors celebrated initiating holy spaces for God.
We read from Sefer Bemidbar about חֲנֻכַּת הַמִּזְבֵּחַ (hanukkat ha-mizbe’ah), when Benei Yisrael celebrating using the altar in the newly built מִשְׁכָּן (mishkan, sanctuary for God) for the first time.
We read from Zekhariah about rebuilding and rededicating the בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ (Beit Ha-Mikdash, Temple in Jerusalem) following גָּלוּת בָּבֶל (galut Bavel, the Babylonian exile). Zekhariah’s prophecy encourages the Jewish people to take this job seriously.
Our haftarah also contains an image that is obviously appropriate for Hanukkah: a really fancy menorah that appears to Zekhariah in a vision! (Look it up! See Zekhariah 4:2-3. What do you imagine when you read these pesukim?)
An angel explains the meaning of this vision:
לֹא בְחַיִל וְלֹא בְכֹחַ כִּי אִם בְּרוּחִי אָמַר ה'.
Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, says God.
The idea here is that true success happens through God’s spirit, and not through physical or military strength.
  • How can this message apply to our Hanukkah celebration? Should we focus more on the Maccabees’ victory, or on God’s miracles? What would Zekhariah say?