Torah Study Notes 5-25-13

May 25, 2013
p. 974 – Zechariah
The related Torah portion describes the objects that are to be used in the tabernacle such as the menorah and rams horn. It also describes the Israelites leaving the base of Mt. Sinai and proceeding into the wilderness.
2:14 Z is speaking to the people before the 2nd temple is rebuilt. Construction is lagging. Note that the Judeans have never left the land and have lived under Babylonian hegemony. Now the exiled leadership has returned from Babylon and have tried to reassert themselves. The Judeans eventually become sectarian with the passage of time and are known as the Samaritans. The Babylonians do not want the returning group to establish an independent state. The reestablishment of Jerusalem and the reconstruction of the Temple suggests to the Babylonians an effort toward independence.
3:1 The Accuser is Satan who plays the role of the prosecuting attorney. See footnote. “Most likely he represents those who opposed Temple building…” El Hassakan? is the Hebrew for The Satan. Here this figure allows the writer to have a philosophical debate – much like the Greek philosophers who set up a dialog with a straw man. The presence of angels and a “court” is problematic in terms of monotheism – it suggests separate divine individuals. The enduring idea of the Great Chain of Being established a hierarchy of items ranging from perhaps a pebble to God. It won’t have a gap – absolute continuity – which requires the fill in presence of super-luminaries such as Satan and angels. See Lovejoy on The Great Chain of Being. He is one of the first great historians of ideas.
The presence of a heavenly host is not problematic in proto-Judaism. Note that Joshua has been put forward as high priest but this is a subject of dispute. Here Satan plays the role of the opposition to Joshua’s selection – and hence to a more vigorous effort to complete the Temple.
3:3 Here the dirty clothing may be a metaphor for dirty laundry – there may be something in his past conduct that he needs to be cleansed of. This finds analogy in modern political campaigns.
3:6 There is a suggestion here of the advent of messianic times. Z is the first of the eschatological authors. It is assumed that God has created the world with intentionality. Before that there was no telos or program to history. Compare to the ideas of the modern creationists. Read the writings of Ezra and Nehemiah who opposed the notion that the creation of the temple was the beginning of a slippery slope to independence. Similarly, doubting the veracity of the first 6 days of creation does not lead to atheism. In the entire literature of scripture the omega is not really dealt with until Z starts to bring it up. This notion of telos is central to the work of Franz Rosenzweig
and idealist philosophy or progressivism. WWI was a massive wound to Hegelian thinking. In The Star of Redemption Rosenzweig addresses the issue if creation, revelation and redemption. There is a pervasive notion that each of us make a difference – or we wouldn’t get out of bed. This leads to positive existentialism (Buber) vs the negative (Sartre.)
4:1 Here is the relationship to the Torah portion. Note they would not rebuild the ark – containing the covenant – because it had disappeared with its contents during the captivity. There were disputes as to what the seraphim and menorah looked like but Z is saying that the light from the menorah is what is important – not the minutia of construction. Zerubbabel is only mentioned in Zechariah. He appears to be an administrator in charge of the reconstruction or he represents – in messianic language – the restoration of the monarchy which comes with the end of days. In terms of the politics of the situation this messianic role of Zerubbabel is diminished. This also represents the notion of “OK we disagree let’s move forward.”

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