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1:1  In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, when the word of Hashem spoken by Yirmiyahu was fulfilled, Hashem roused the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia to issue a proclamation throughout his realm by word of mouth and in writing as follows:

א:א  וּבִשְׁנַת אַחַת לְכוֹרֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ פָּרַס לִכְלוֹת דְּבַר־יְהֹוָה מִפִּי יִרְמְיָה הֵעִיר יְהֹוָה אֶת־רוּחַ כֹּרֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ־פָּרַס וַיַּעֲבֶר־קוֹל בְּכָל־מַלְכוּתוֹ וְגַם־בְּמִכְתָּב לֵאמֹר׃

2  “Thus said King Cyrus of Persia: God of Heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has charged me with building Him a house in Yerushalayim, which is in Yehuda.

ב  כֹּה אָמַר כֹּרֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ פָּרַס כֹּל מַמְלְכוֹת הָאָרֶץ נָתַן לִי יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי הַשָּׁמָיִם וְהוּא־פָקַד עָלַי לִבְנוֹת־לוֹ בַיִת בִּירוּשָׁלַ ִם אֲשֶׁר בִּיהוּדָה׃

3  Anyone of you of all His people—may his God be with him, and let him go up to Yerushalayim that is in Yehuda and build the House of God of Yisrael, the God that is in Yerushalayim;

ג  מִי־בָכֶם מִכָּל־עַמּוֹ יְהִי אֱלֹהָיו עִמּוֹ וְיַעַל לִירוּשָׁלַ ִם אֲשֶׁר בִּיהוּדָה וְיִבֶן אֶת־בֵּית יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר בִּירוּשָׁלָ ִם׃

4  and all who stay behind, wherever he may be living, let the people of his place assist him with silver, gold, goods, and livestock, besides the freewill offering to the House of Hashem that is in Yerushalayim.”

ד  וְכָל־הַנִּשְׁאָר מִכָּל־הַמְּקֹמוֹת אֲשֶׁר הוּא גָר־שָׁם יְנַשְּׂאוּהוּ אַנְשֵׁי מְקֹמוֹ בְּכֶסֶף וּבְזָהָב וּבִרְכוּשׁ וּבִבְהֵמָה עִם־הַנְּדָבָה לְבֵית הָאֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר בִּירוּשָׁלָ ִם׃

5  So the chiefs of the clans of Yehuda and Binyamin, and the Kohanim and Leviim, all whose spirit had been roused by Hashem, got ready to go up to build the House of Hashem that is in Yerushalayim.

ה  וַיָּקוּמוּ רָאשֵׁי הָאָבוֹת לִיהוּדָה וּבִנְיָמִן וְהַכֹּהֲנִים וְהַלְוִיִּם לְכֹל הֵעִיר הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת־רוּחוֹ לַעֲלוֹת לִבְנוֹת אֶת־בֵּית יְהֹוָה אֲשֶׁר בִּירוּשָׁלָ ִם׃

6  All their neighbors supported them with silver vessels, with gold, with goods, with livestock, and with precious objects, besides what had been given as a freewill offering.

ו  וְכָל־סְבִיבֹתֵיהֶם חִזְּקוּ בִידֵיהֶם בִּכְלֵי־כֶסֶף בַּזָּהָב בָּרְכוּשׁ וּבַבְּהֵמָה וּבַמִּגְדָּנוֹת לְבַד עַל־כָּל־הִתְנַדֵּב׃

7  King Cyrus of Persia released the vessels of Hashem‘s house which Nebuchadnezzar had taken away from Yerushalayim and had put in the house of his god.

ז  וְהַמֶּלֶךְ כּוֹרֶשׁ הוֹצִיא אֶת־כְּלֵי בֵית־יְהֹוָה אֲשֶׁר הוֹצִיא נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר מִירוּשָׁלַ ִם וַיִּתְּנֵם בְּבֵית אֱלֹהָיו׃

8  These King Cyrus of Persia released through the office of Mithredath the treasurer, who gave an inventory of them to Sheshbatzar the prince of Yehuda.

ח  וַיּוֹצִיאֵם כּוֹרֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ פָּרַס עַל־יַד מִתְרְדָת הַגִּזְבָּר וַיִּסְפְּרֵם לְשֵׁשְׁבַּצַּר הַנָּשִׂיא לִיהוּדָה׃

9  This is the inventory: 30 gold basins, 1,000 silver basins, 29 knives,

ט  וְאֵלֶּה מִסְפָּרָם אֲגַרְטְלֵי זָהָב שְׁלֹשִׁים אֲגַרְטְלֵי־כֶסֶף אָלֶף מַחֲלָפִים תִּשְׁעָה וְעֶשְׂרִים׃

10  30 gold bowls, 410 silver double bowls, 1,000 other vessels;

י  כְּפוֹרֵי זָהָב שְׁלֹשִׁים כְּפוֹרֵי כֶסֶף מִשְׁנִים אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת וַעֲשָׂרָה כֵּלִים אֲחֵרִים אָלֶף׃

11  in all, 5,400 gold and silver vessels. Sheshbatzar brought all these back when the exiles came back from Babylon to Yerushalayim.

kol kay-LEEM la-za-HAV v’-la-KE-sef kha-MAY-shet a-la-FEEM v’-ar-BA may-OT ha-KOL he-e-LAH shaysh-ba-TZAR IM hay-a-LOT ha-go-LAH mi-ba-VEL lee-ru-sha-LA-im

יא  כָּל־כֵּלִים לַזָּהָב וְלַכֶּסֶף חֲמֵשֶׁת אֲלָפִים וְאַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת הַכֹּל הֶעֱלָה שֵׁשְׁבַּצַּר עִם הֵעָלוֹת הַגּוֹלָה מִבָּבֶל לִירוּשָׁלָ ִם׃

 1:11   When the exiles came back from Bavel to Yerushalayim.

The beloved Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach would quip, “Did you know that Jerusalem is the highest city in the world?” Many were skeptical, but he was correct – in the spiritual, if not topographical, sense. The Bible states that “Avram went down to Egypt” from Canaan (Genesis 12:10), and when the people returned to the Land of Israel from the Babylonian exile, although translated here as “the exiles came back,” the more exacting translation is “the exiles ascended.” Ever since the magnetic north has dictated the directional illustration of maps, people have said things like, “I’m going down south,” or “I’m heading up north.” However, this verse teaches that no matter where a person is in the world, his “spiritual compass” should always indicate that Yerushalayim is “up.”3 comments

2:1  These are the people of the province who came up from among the captive exiles whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had carried into exile to Babylon, who returned to Yerushalayim and Yehuda, each to his own city,

ב:א  וְאֵלֶּה בְּנֵי הַמְּדִינָה הָעֹלִים מִשְּׁבִי הַגּוֹלָה אֲשֶׁר הֶגְלָה נבוכדנצור [נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר] מֶלֶךְ־בָּבֶל לְבָבֶל וַיָּשׁוּבוּ לִירוּשָׁלַ ִם וִיהוּדָה אִישׁ לְעִירוֹ׃

2  who came with Zerubavel, Yeshua, Nechemya, Seraya, Reelaiah, Mordechai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah: The list of the men of the people of Yisrael:

ב  אֲשֶׁר־בָּאוּ עִם־זְרֻבָּבֶל יֵשׁוּעַ נְחֶמְיָה שְׂרָיָה רְעֵלָיָה מָרְדֳּכַי בִּלְשָׁן מִסְפָּר בִּגְוַי רְחוּם בַּעֲנָה מִסְפַּר אַנְשֵׁי עַם יִשְׂרָאֵל׃

3  the sons of Parosh—2,172;

ג  בְּנֵי פַרְעֹשׁ אַלְפַּיִם מֵאָה שִׁבְעִים וּשְׁנָיִם׃

4  the sons of Shephatiah—372;

ד  בְּנֵי שְׁפַטְיָה שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת שִׁבְעִים וּשְׁנָיִם׃

5  the sons of Arah—775;

ה  בְּנֵי אָרַח שְׁבַע מֵאוֹת חֲמִשָּׁה וְשִׁבְעִים׃

6  the sons of Pahath-moab: the sons of Yeshua and Yoav—2,812;

ו  בְּנֵי־פַחַת מוֹאָב לִבְנֵי יֵשׁוּעַ יוֹאָב אַלְפַּיִם שְׁמֹנֶה מֵאוֹת וּשְׁנֵים עָשָׂר׃

7  the sons of Elam—1,254;

ז  בְּנֵי עֵילָם אֶלֶף מָאתַיִם חֲמִשִּׁים וְאַרְבָּעָה׃

8  the sons of Zattu—945;

ח  בְּנֵי זַתּוּא תְּשַׁע מֵאוֹת וְאַרְבָּעִים וַחֲמִשָּׁה׃

9  the sons of Zaccai—760;

ט  בְּנֵי זַכָּי שְׁבַע מֵאוֹת וְשִׁשִּׁים׃

10  the sons of Bani—642;

י  בְּנֵי בָנִי שֵׁשׁ מֵאוֹת אַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁנָיִם׃

11  the sons of Bebai—623;

יא  בְּנֵי בֵבָי שֵׁשׁ מֵאוֹת עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה׃

12  the sons of Azgad—1,222;

יב  בְּנֵי עַזְגָּד אֶלֶף מָאתַיִם עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁנָיִם׃

13  the sons of Adonikam—666;

יג  בְּנֵי אֲדֹנִיקָם שֵׁשׁ מֵאוֹת שִׁשִּׁים וְשִׁשָּׁה׃

14  the sons of Bigvai—2,056;

יד  בְּנֵי בִגְוָי אַלְפַּיִם חֲמִשִּׁים וְשִׁשָּׁה׃

15  the sons of Adin—454;

טו  בְּנֵי עָדִין אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת חֲמִשִּׁים וְאַרְבָּעָה׃

16  the sons of Ater: Chizkiyahu—98;

טז  בְּנֵי־אָטֵר לִיחִזְקִיָּה תִּשְׁעִים וּשְׁמֹנָה׃

17  the sons of Bezai—323;

יז  בְּנֵי בֵצָי שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה׃

18  the sons of Jorah—112;

יח  בְּנֵי יוֹרָה מֵאָה וּשְׁנֵים עָשָׂר׃

19  the sons of Hashum—223;

יט  בְּנֵי חָשֻׁם מָאתַיִם עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה׃

20  the sons of Gibbar—95;

כ  בְּנֵי גִבָּר תִּשְׁעִים וַחֲמִשָּׁה׃

21  the sons of Beit Lechem— 123;

כא  בְּנֵי בֵית־לָחֶם מֵאָה עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה׃

22  the sons of Netophah—56;

כב  אַנְשֵׁי נְטֹפָה חֲמִשִּׁים וְשִׁשָּׁה׃

23  the sons of Anatot—128;

כג  אַנְשֵׁי עֲנָתוֹת מֵאָה עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁמֹנָה׃

24  the sons of Azmaveth—42;

כד  בְּנֵי עַזְמָוֶת אַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁנָיִם׃

25  the sons of Kiriath-arim: Chephirah and Beeroth—743;

כה  בְּנֵי קִרְיַת עָרִים כְּפִירָה וּבְאֵרוֹת שְׁבַע מֵאוֹת וְאַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה׃

26  the sons of Rama and Geba—621;

כו  בְּנֵי הָרָמָה וָגָבַע שֵׁשׁ מֵאוֹת עֶשְׂרִים וְאֶחָד׃

27  the men of Michmas—122;

כז  אַנְשֵׁי מִכְמָס מֵאָה עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁנָיִם׃

28  the men of Beit El and Ai—223;

כח  אַנְשֵׁי בֵית־אֵל וְהָעָי מָאתַיִם עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה׃

29  the men of Nebo—52;

כט  בְּנֵי נְבוֹ חֲמִשִּׁים וּשְׁנָיִם׃

30  the sons of Magbish—156;

ל  בְּנֵי מַגְבִּישׁ מֵאָה חֲמִשִּׁים וְשִׁשָּׁה׃

31  the sons of the other Elam—1,254;

לא  בְּנֵי עֵילָם אַחֵר אֶלֶף מָאתַיִם חֲמִשִּׁים וְאַרְבָּעָה׃

32  the sons of Harim—320;

לב  בְּנֵי חָרִם שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת וְעֶשְׂרִים׃

33  the sons of Lod, Hadid, and Ono—725;

לג  בְּנֵי־לֹד חָדִיד וְאוֹנוֹ שְׁבַע מֵאוֹת עֶשְׂרִים וַחֲמִשָּׁה׃

34  the sons of Yericho—345;

לד  בְּנֵי יְרֵחוֹ שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת אַרְבָּעִים וַחֲמִשָּׁה׃

35  the sons of Senaah—3,630.

לה  בְּנֵי סְנָאָה שְׁלֹשֶׁת אֲלָפִים וְשֵׁשׁ מֵאוֹת וּשְׁלֹשִׁים׃

36  The Kohanim: the sons of Jedaiah: the house of Yeshua—973;

לו  הַכֹּהֲנִים בְּנֵי יְדַעְיָה לְבֵית יֵשׁוּעַ תְּשַׁע מֵאוֹת שִׁבְעִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה׃

37  the sons of Immer—1,052;

לז  בְּנֵי אִמֵּר אֶלֶף חֲמִשִּׁים וּשְׁנָיִם׃

38  the sons of Pashhur—1,247;

לח  בְּנֵי פַשְׁחוּר אֶלֶף מָאתַיִם אַרְבָּעִים וְשִׁבְעָה׃

39  the sons of Harim—1,017.

לט  בְּנֵי חָרִם אֶלֶף וְשִׁבְעָה עָשָׂר׃

40  The Leviim: the sons of Yeshua and Kadmiel: the sons of Hodaviah—74.

מ  הַלְוִיִּם בְּנֵי־יֵשׁוּעַ וְקַדְמִיאֵל לִבְנֵי הוֹדַוְיָה שִׁבְעִים וְאַרְבָּעָה׃

41  The singers: the sons of Asaf—128.

מא  הַמְשֹׁרְרִים בְּנֵי אָסָף מֵאָה עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁמֹנָה׃

42  The gatekeepers: the sons of Shalum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, the sons of Shobai, all told—139.

מב  בְּנֵי הַשֹּׁעֲרִים בְּנֵי־שַׁלּוּם בְּנֵי־אָטֵר בְּנֵי־טַלְמוֹן בְּנֵי־עַקּוּב בְּנֵי חֲטִיטָא בְּנֵי שֹׁבָי הַכֹּל מֵאָה שְׁלֹשִׁים וְתִשְׁעָה׃

43  The temple servants: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth,

מג  הַנְּתִינִים בְּנֵי־צִיחָא בְנֵי־חֲשׂוּפָא בְּנֵי טַבָּעוֹת׃

44  the sons of Keros, the sons of Siaha, the sons of Padon,

מד  בְּנֵי־קֵרֹס בְּנֵי־סִיעֲהָא בְּנֵי פָדוֹן׃

45  the sons of Lebanah, the sons of Hagabah, the sons of Akkub,

מה  בְּנֵי־לְבָנָה בְנֵי־חֲגָבָה בְּנֵי עַקּוּב׃

46  the sons of Hagab, the sons of Salmai, the sons of Hanan,

מו  בְּנֵי־חָגָב בְּנֵי־שמלי [שַׁלְמַי] בְּנֵי חָנָן׃

47  the sons of Giddel, the sons of Gahar, the sons of Reaiah,

מז  בְּנֵי־גִדֵּל בְּנֵי־גַחַר בְּנֵי רְאָיָה׃

48  the sons of Rezin, the sons of Nekoda, the sons of Gazzam,

מח  בְּנֵי־רְצִין בְּנֵי־נְקוֹדָא בְּנֵי גַזָּם׃

49  the sons of Uzza, the sons of Paseah, the sons of Besai,

מט  בְּנֵי־עֻזָּא בְנֵי־פָסֵחַ בְּנֵי בֵסָי׃

50  the sons of Asnah, the sons of Meunim, the sons of Nephusim,

נ  בְּנֵי־אַסְנָה בְנֵי־מעינים [מְעוּנִים] בְּנֵי נפיסים [נְפוּסִים׃]

51  the sons of Bakbuk, the sons of Hakupha, the sons of Harhur,

נא  בְּנֵי־בַקְבּוּק בְּנֵי־חֲקוּפָא בְּנֵי חַרְחוּר׃

52  the sons of Bazluth, the sons of Mehida, the sons of Harsha,

נב  בְּנֵי־בַצְלוּת בְּנֵי־מְחִידָא בְּנֵי חַרְשָׁא׃

53  the sons of Barkos, the sons of Sisera, the sons of Temah,

נג  בְּנֵי־בַרְקוֹס בְּנֵי־סִיסְרָא בְּנֵי־תָמַח׃

54  the sons of Neziah, the sons of Hatipha.

נד  בְּנֵי נְצִיחַ בְּנֵי חֲטִיפָא׃

55  The sons of Shlomo‘s servants: the sons of Sotai, the sons of Hassophereth, the sons of Peruda,

נה  בְּנֵי עַבְדֵי שְׁלֹמֹה בְּנֵי־סֹטַי בְּנֵי־הַסֹּפֶרֶת בְּנֵי פְרוּדָא׃

56  the sons of Jaalah, the sons of Darkon, the sons of Giddel,

נו  בְּנֵי־יַעְלָה בְנֵי־דַרְקוֹן בְּנֵי גִדֵּל׃

57  the sons of Shephatiah, the sons of Hattil, the sons of Pochereth-hazzebaim, the sons of Ami.

נז  בְּנֵי שְׁפַטְיָה בְנֵי־חַטִּיל בְּנֵי פֹּכֶרֶת הַצְּבָיִים בְּנֵי אָמִי׃

58  The total of temple servants and the sons of Shlomo‘s servants—392.

נח  כָּל־הַנְּתִינִים וּבְנֵי עַבְדֵי שְׁלֹמֹה שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת תִּשְׁעִים וּשְׁנָיִם׃

59  The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer—they were unable to tell whether their father’s house and descent were Israelite:

נט  וְאֵלֶּה הָעֹלִים מִתֵּל מֶלַח תֵּל חַרְשָׁא כְּרוּב אַדָּן אִמֵּר וְלֹא יָכְלוּ לְהַגִּיד בֵּית־אֲבוֹתָם וְזַרְעָם אִם מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל הֵם׃

60  the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, the sons of Nekoda—652.

ס  בְּנֵי־דְלָיָה בְנֵי־טוֹבִיָּה בְּנֵי נְקוֹדָא שֵׁשׁ מֵאוֹת חֲמִשִּׁים וּשְׁנָיִם׃

61  Of the sons of the Kohanim, the sons of Habaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, the sons of Barzilai who had married a daughter of Barzilai and had taken his name—

סא  וּמִבְּנֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים בְּנֵי חֳבַיָּה בְּנֵי הַקּוֹץ בְּנֵי בַרְזִלַּי אֲשֶׁר לָקַח מִבְּנוֹת בַּרְזִלַּי הַגִּלְעָדִי אִשָּׁה וַיִּקָּרֵא עַל־שְׁמָם׃

62  these searched for their genealogical records, but they could not be found, so they were disqualified for the priesthood.

סב  אֵלֶּה בִּקְשׁוּ כְתָבָם הַמִּתְיַחְשִׂים וְלֹא נִמְצָאוּ וַיְגֹאֲלוּ מִן־הַכְּהֻנָּה׃

63  The Tirshatha ordered them not to eat of the most holy things until a Kohen with Urim and Thummim should appear.

סג  וַיֹּאמֶר הַתִּרְשָׁתָא לָהֶם אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יֹאכְלוּ מִקֹּדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים עַד עֲמֹד כֹּהֵן לְאוּרִים וּלְתֻמִּים׃

64  The sum of the entire community was 42,360,

סד  כָּל־הַקָּהָל כְּאֶחָד אַרְבַּע רִבּוֹא אַלְפַּיִם שְׁלֹשׁ־מֵאוֹת שִׁשִּׁים׃

65  not counting their male and female servants, those being 7,337; they also had 200 male and female singers.

סה  מִלְּבַד עַבְדֵיהֶם וְאַמְהֹתֵיהֶם אֵלֶּה שִׁבְעַת אֲלָפִים שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת שְׁלֹשִׁים וְשִׁבְעָה וְלָהֶם מְשֹׁרְרִים וּמְשֹׁרְרוֹת מָאתָיִם׃

66  Their horses—736; their mules—245;

סו  סוּסֵיהֶם שְׁבַע מֵאוֹת שְׁלֹשִׁים וְשִׁשָּׁה פִּרְדֵיהֶם מָאתַיִם אַרְבָּעִים וַחֲמִשָּׁה׃

67  their camels—435; their asses—6,720.

סז  גְּמַלֵּיהֶם אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שְׁלֹשִׁים וַחֲמִשָּׁה חֲמֹרִים שֵׁשֶׁת אֲלָפִים שְׁבַע מֵאוֹת וְעֶשְׂרִים׃

68  Some of the chiefs of the clans, on arriving at the House of Hashem in Yerushalayim, gave a freewill offering to erect the House of Hashem on its site.

סח  וּמֵרָאשֵׁי הָאָבוֹת בְּבוֹאָם לְבֵית יְהֹוָה אֲשֶׁר בִּירוּשָׁלָ ִם הִתְנַדְּבוּ לְבֵית הָאֱלֹהִים לְהַעֲמִידוֹ עַל־מְכוֹנוֹ׃

69  In accord with their means, they donated to the treasury of the work: gold—6,100 drachmas, silver—5,000 manim, and priestly robes—100.

סט  כְּכֹחָם נָתְנוּ לְאוֹצַר הַמְּלָאכָה זָהָב דַּרְכְּמוֹנִים שֵׁשׁ־רִבֹּאות וָאֶלֶף וְכֶסֶף מָנִים חֲמֵשֶׁת אֲלָפִים וְכָתְנֹת כֹּהֲנִים מֵאָה׃

70  The Kohanim, the Leviim and some of the people, and the singers, gatekeepers, and the temple servants took up residence in their towns and all Yisrael in their towns.

va-yay-sh’-VU ha-ko-ha-NEEM v’-hal-vi-YIM u-min ha-AM v’-ham-sho-r’-REEM v’-ha-sho-a-REEM v’-ha-n’-tee-NEEM b’-a-ray-HEM v’-khol yis-ra-AYL b’-a-ray-HEM

ע  וַיֵּשְׁבוּ הַכֹּהֲנִים וְהַלְוִיִּם וּמִן־הָעָם וְהַמְשֹׁרְרִים וְהַשּׁוֹעֲרִים וְהַנְּתִינִים בְּעָרֵיהֶם וְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּעָרֵיהֶם׃

 2:70   And all Yisrael in their towns

In this chapter we learn of the many Jewish families who return to their ancestral lands and villages, establishing new communities on the deserted and ruined old sites of the Land of Israel. As one travels across the landscape of the contemporary State of Israel, it is amazing to see this very process reoccurring. The communities of Beersheva, Kibbutz Dan, Givon and dozens of others were all constructed on the very same locations as their original, biblical namesakes. It is indeed wondrous to witness the fulfillment of the prophecy “… children shall return to their country” (Jeremiah 31:16), and to see “all Yisrael in their towns.”Comment

3:1  When the seventh month arrived—the Israelites being settled in their towns—the entire people assembled as one man in Yerushalayim.

va-yi-GA ha-KHO-desh ha-sh’-vee-EE uv-NAY yis-ra-AYL be-a-REEM va-yay-a-s’-FU ha-AM k’-EESH e-KHAD el y’-ru-sha-LA-im

ג:א  וַיִּגַּע הַחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בֶּעָרִים וַיֵּאָסְפוּ הָעָם כְּאִישׁ אֶחָד אֶל־יְרוּשָׁלָ ִם׃

 3:1   The entire people assembled as one man in Yerushalayim

This particular wording recalls the Revelation at Mount Sinai, in reference to which it says: “They [plural] encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel [singular] encamped before the mount.” (Exodus 19:2). The great medieval commentator, Rashi, points out that the transition from the plural to the singular form of the verb indicates that at Sinai, the Israelites were “as one person, with one heart.” Just as the magnitude of the Sinai experience had the power to unite the multitudes of people from twelve independent tribes into one nation, such is the power of Yerushalayim. The Talmudic sage Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi homiletically explains the verse “Yerushalayim built up, a city knit together,” (Psalms 122:3), to mean that Jerusalem is a city “that makes all of Israel friends” (Yerushalmi Chagiga 3:6). As it did in the time of the return from Babylonia, today as well Yerushalayim has the power to bring Israel together as one, and to serve as a source of unity for all humanity.2 comments

2  Then Yeshua son of Yotzadak and his brother Kohanim, and Zerubavel son of Shealtiel and his brothers set to and built the mizbayach of the God of Yisrael to offer burnt offerings upon it as is written in the Teaching of Moshe, the man of Hashem.

ב  וַיָּקָם יֵשׁוּעַ בֶּן־יוֹצָדָק וְאֶחָיו הַכֹּהֲנִים וּזְרֻבָּבֶל בֶּן־שְׁאַלְתִּיאֵל וְאֶחָיו וַיִּבְנוּ אֶת־מִזְבַּח אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהַעֲלוֹת עָלָיו עֹלוֹת כַּכָּתוּב בְּתוֹרַת מֹשֶׁה אִישׁ־הָאֱלֹהִים׃

3  They set up the mizbayach on its site because they were in fear of the peoples of the land, and they offered burnt offerings on it to Hashem, burnt offerings each morning and evening.

ג  וַיָּכִינוּ הַמִּזְבֵּחַ עַל־מְכוֹנֹתָיו כִּי בְּאֵימָה עֲלֵיהֶם מֵעַמֵּי הָאֲרָצוֹת ויעל [וַיַּעֲלוּ] עָלָיו עֹלוֹת לַיהֹוָה עֹלוֹת לַבֹּקֶר וְלָעָרֶב׃

4  Then they celebrated the festival of Sukkot as is written, with its daily burnt offerings in the proper quantities, on each day as is prescribed for it,

ד  וַיַּעֲשׂוּ אֶת־חַג הַסֻּכּוֹת כַּכָּתוּב וְעֹלַת יוֹם בְּיוֹם בְּמִסְפָּר כְּמִשְׁפַּט דְּבַר־יוֹם בְּיוֹמוֹ׃

5  followed by the regular burnt offering and the offerings for the new moons and for all the sacred fixed times of Hashem, and whatever freewill offerings were made to Hashem.

ה  וְאַחֲרֵיכֵן עֹלַת תָּמִיד וְלֶחֳדָשִׁים וּלְכָל־מוֹעֲדֵי יְהֹוָה הַמְקֻדָּשִׁים וּלְכֹל מִתְנַדֵּב נְדָבָה לַיהֹוָה׃

6  From the first day of the seventh month they began to make burnt offerings to Hashem, though the foundation of the Temple of Hashem had not been laid.

ו  מִיּוֹם אֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי הֵחֵלּוּ לְהַעֲלוֹת עֹלוֹת לַיהֹוָה וְהֵיכַל יְהֹוָה לֹא יֻסָּד׃

7  They paid the hewers and craftsmen with money, and the Sidonians and Tyrians with food, drink, and oil to bring cedarwood from Lebanon by sea to Yaffo, in accord with the authorization granted them by King Cyrus of Persia.

ז  וַיִּתְּנוּ־כֶסֶף לַחֹצְבִים וְלֶחָרָשִׁים וּמַאֲכָל וּמִשְׁתֶּה וָשֶׁמֶן לַצִּדֹנִים וְלַצֹּרִים לְהָבִיא עֲצֵי אֲרָזִים מִן־הַלְּבָנוֹן אֶל־יָם יָפוֹא כְּרִשְׁיוֹן כּוֹרֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ־פָּרַס עֲלֵיהֶם׃

8  In the second year after their arrival at the House of Hashem, at Yerushalayim, in the second month, Zerubavel son of Shealtiel and Yeshua son of Yotzadak, and the rest of their brother Kohanim and Leviim, and all who had come from the captivity to Yerushalayim, as their first step appointed Leviim from the age of twenty and upward to supervise the work of the House of Hashem.

ח  וּבַשָּׁנָה הַשֵּׁנִית לְבוֹאָם אֶל־בֵּית הָאֱלֹהִים לִירוּשָׁלַ ִם בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי הֵחֵלּוּ זְרֻבָּבֶל בֶּן־שְׁאַלְתִּיאֵל וְיֵשׁוּעַ בֶּן־יוֹצָדָק וּשְׁאָר אֲחֵיהֶם הַכֹּהֲנִים וְהַלְוִיִּם וְכָל־הַבָּאִים מֵהַשְּׁבִי יְרוּשָׁלַ ִם וַיַּעֲמִידוּ אֶת־הַלְוִיִּם מִבֶּן עֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וָמַעְלָה לְנַצֵּחַ עַל־מְלֶאכֶת בֵּית־יְהֹוָה׃

9  Yeshua, his sons and brothers, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Yehuda, together were appointed in charge of those who did the work in the House of Hashem; also the sons of Henadad, their sons and brother Leviim.

ט  וַיַּעֲמֹד יֵשׁוּעַ בָּנָיו וְאֶחָיו קַדְמִיאֵל וּבָנָיו בְּנֵי־יְהוּדָה כְּאֶחָד לְנַצֵּחַ עַל־עֹשֵׂה הַמְּלָאכָה בְּבֵית הָאֱלֹהִים בְּנֵי חֵנָדָד בְּנֵיהֶם וַאֲחֵיהֶם הַלְוִיִּם׃

10  When the builders had laid the foundation of the Temple of Hashem, Kohanim in their vestments with trumpets, and Leviim sons of Asaf with cymbals were stationed to give praise to Hashem, as King David of Yisrael had ordained.

י  וְיִסְּדוּ הַבֹּנִים אֶת־הֵיכַל יְהֹוָה וַיַּעֲמִידוּ הַכֹּהֲנִים מְלֻבָּשִׁים בַּחֲצֹצְרוֹת וְהַלְוִיִּם בְּנֵי־אָסָף בַּמְצִלְתַּיִם לְהַלֵּל אֶת־יְהֹוָה עַל־יְדֵי דָּוִיד מֶלֶךְ־יִשְׂרָאֵל׃

11  They sang songs extolling and praising Hashem, “For He is good, His steadfast love for Yisrael is eternal.” All the people raised a great shout extolling Hashem because the foundation of the House of Hashem had been laid.

יא  וַיַּעֲנוּ בְּהַלֵּל וּבְהוֹדֹת לַיהֹוָה כִּי טוֹב כִּי־לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵל וְכָל־הָעָם הֵרִיעוּ תְרוּעָה גְדוֹלָה בְהַלֵּל לַיהֹוָה עַל הוּסַד בֵּית־יְהֹוָה׃

12  Many of the Kohanim and Leviim and the chiefs of the clans, the old men who had seen the first house, wept loudly at the sight of the founding of this house. Many others shouted joyously at the top of their voices.

יב  וְרַבִּים מֵהַכֹּהֲנִים וְהַלְוִיִּם וְרָאשֵׁי הָאָבוֹת הַזְּקֵנִים אֲשֶׁר רָאוּ אֶת־הַבַּיִת הָרִאשׁוֹן בְּיָסְדוֹ זֶה הַבַּיִת בְּעֵינֵיהֶם בֹּכִים בְּקוֹל גָּדוֹל וְרַבִּים בִּתְרוּעָה בְשִׂמְחָה לְהָרִים קוֹל׃

13  The people could not distinguish the shouts of joy from the people’s weeping, for the people raised a great shout, the sound of which could be heard from afar.

יג  וְאֵין הָעָם מַכִּירִים קוֹל תְּרוּעַת הַשִּׂמְחָה לְקוֹל בְּכִי הָעָם כִּי הָעָם מְרִיעִים תְּרוּעָה גְדוֹלָה וְהַקּוֹל נִשְׁמַע עַד־לְמֵרָחוֹק׃

4:1  When the adversaries of Yehuda and Binyamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to God of Yisrael,

ד:א  וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ צָרֵי יְהוּדָה וּבִנְיָמִן כִּי־בְנֵי הַגּוֹלָה בּוֹנִים הֵיכָל לַיהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל׃

2  they approached Zerubavel and the chiefs of the clans and said to them, “Let us build with you, since we too worship your God, having offered sacrifices to Him since the time of King Esarhaddon of Assyria, who brought us here.”

ב  וַיִּגְּשׁוּ אֶל־זְרֻבָּבֶל וְאֶל־רָאשֵׁי הָאָבוֹת וַיֹּאמְרוּ לָהֶם נִבְנֶה עִמָּכֶם כִּי כָכֶם נִדְרוֹשׁ לֵאלֹהֵיכֶם ולא [וְלוֹ ] אֲנַחְנוּ זֹבְחִים מִימֵי אֵסַר חַדֹּן מֶלֶךְ אַשּׁוּר הַמַּעֲלֶה אֹתָנוּ פֹּה׃

3  Zerubavel, Yeshua, and the rest of the chiefs of the clans of Yisrael answered them, “It is not for you and us to build a House to our God, but we alone will build it to God of Yisrael, in accord with the charge that the king, King Cyrus of Persia, laid upon us.”

ג  וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם זְרֻבָּבֶל וְיֵשׁוּעַ וּשְׁאָר רָאשֵׁי הָאָבוֹת לְיִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא־לָכֶם וָלָנוּ לִבְנוֹת בַּיִת לֵאלֹהֵינוּ כִּי אֲנַחְנוּ יַחַד נִבְנֶה לַיהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּנוּ הַמֶּלֶךְ כּוֹרֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ־פָּרָס׃

4  Thereupon the people of the land undermined the resolve of the people of Yehuda, and made them afraid to build.

ד  וַיְהִי עַם־הָאָרֶץ מְרַפִּים יְדֵי עַם־יְהוּדָה ומבלהים [וּמְבַהֲלִים] אוֹתָם לִבְנוֹת׃

5  They bribed ministers in order to thwart their plans all the years of King Cyrus of Persia and until the reign of King Darius of Persia.

ה  וְסֹכְרִים עֲלֵיהֶם יוֹעֲצִים לְהָפֵר עֲצָתָם כָּל־יְמֵי כּוֹרֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ פָּרַס וְעַד־מַלְכוּת דָּרְיָוֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ־פָּרָס׃

6  And in the reign of Ahasuerus, at the start of his reign, they drew up an accusation against the inhabitants of Yehuda and Yerushalayim.

ו  וּבְמַלְכוּת אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ בִּתְחִלַּת מַלְכוּתוֹ כָּתְבוּ שִׂטְנָה עַל־יֹשְׁבֵי יְהוּדָה וִירוּשָׁלָ ִם׃

7  And in the time of Artaxerxes, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their colleagues wrote to King Artaxerxes of Persia, a letter written in Aramaic and translated. Aramaic:

ז  וּבִימֵי אַרְתַּחְשַׁשְׂתָּא כָּתַב בִּשְׁלָם מִתְרְדָת טָבְאֵל וּשְׁאָר כנותו [כְּנָוׂתָיו] עַל־ארתחששתא [אַרְתַּחְשַׁשְׂתְּ] מֶלֶךְ פָּרָס וּכְתָב הַנִּשְׁתְּוָן כָּתוּב אֲרָמִית וּמְתֻרְגָּם אֲרָמִית׃

8  Rehum the commissioner and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter concerning Yerushalayim to King Artaxerxes as follows: (

ח  רְחוּם בְּעֵל־טְעֵם וְשִׁמְשַׁי סָפְרָא כְּתַבוּ אִגְּרָה חֲדָה עַל־יְרוּשְׁלֶם לְאַרְתַּחְשַׁשְׂתְּא מַלְכָּא כְּנֵמָא׃

9  Then Rehum the commissioner and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their colleagues, the judges, officials, officers, and overseers, the men of Erech, and of Babylon, and of Susa—that is the Elamites—

ט  אֱדַיִן רְחוּם בְּעֵל־טְעֵם וְשִׁמְשַׁי סָפְרָא וּשְׁאָר כְּנָוָתְהוֹן דִּינָיֵא וַאֲפַרְסַתְכָיֵא טַרְפְּלָיֵא אֲפָרְסָיֵא ארכוי [אַרְכְּוָיֵא] בָבְלָיֵא שׁוּשַׁנְכָיֵא דהוא [דֶּהָיֵא] עֵלְמָיֵא׃

10  and other peoples whom the great and glorious Osnappar deported and settled in the city of Shomron and the rest of the province Beyond the River [wrote]—and now

י  וּשְׁאָר אֻמַּיָּא דִּי הַגְלִי אָסְנַפַּר רַבָּא וְיַקִּירָא וְהוֹתֵב הִמּוֹ בְּקִרְיָה דִּי שָׁמְרָיִן וּשְׁאָר עֲבַר־נַהֲרָה וּכְעֶנֶת׃

11  this is the text of the letter which they sent to him:)—“To King Artaxerxes [from] your servants, men of the province Beyond the River. And now

יא  דְּנָה פַּרְשֶׁגֶן אִגַּרְתָּא דִּי שְׁלַחוּ עֲלוֹהִי עַל־אַרְתַּחְשַׁשְׂתְּא מַלְכָּא עַבְדָיךְ אֱנָשׁ עֲבַר־נַהֲרָה וּכְעֶנֶת׃

12  be it known to the king that the Yehudim who came up from you to us have reached Yerushalayim and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city; they are completing the walls and repairing the foundation.

y’-DEE-a le-he-VAY l’-mal-KA DEE y’-hu-da-YAY DEE s’-LI-ku min l’-va-TAKH a-LE-na a-TO lee-ru-sh’-LEM kir-y’-TA ma-ra-d’-TA u-veesh-TA ba-NA-yin v’-shu-ra-YA shakh-LEE-lu v’-u-sha-YA ya-KHEE-tu

יב  יְדִיעַ לֶהֱוֵא לְמַלְכָּא דִּי יְהוּדָיֵא דִּי סְלִקוּ מִן־לְוָתָךְ עֲלֶינָא אֲתוֹ לִירוּשְׁלֶם קִרְיְתָא מָרָדְתָּא ובאישתא [וּבִישְׁתָּא] בָּנַיִן ושורי [וְשׁוּרַיָּא] אשכללו [שַׁכְלִילוּ] וְאֻשַּׁיָּא יַחִיטוּ׃

 4:12   The Yehudim

The chosen people have many biblical titles: Hebrews, children of Yaakov, and Israelites, to name a few. What is the origin of the branding ‘Jew’, in Hebrew Yehudi (יהודי)? The term is first employed as a specific ethnic title during the Babylonian exile, as can be seen in this verse and also in the books of Daniel and Esther. Historically, this name indicated an association with the tribe of Yehuda (יהודה), from which most of the Babylonian exiles descended. However, the name ultimately derives from the Hebrew root which means to ‘praise’ or ‘give thanks’, as it says “She [Leah] conceived again and bore a son, and declared, ‘This time I will praise Hashem.’ Therefore she named him Yehudah” (Genesis 29:35). The name thus highlights the inherent Jewish value of gratitude to God. The fact that this collective name was given in exile shows that sometimes one has to travel far away to discover who he really is.Comment

13  Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls completed, they will not pay tribute, poll-tax, or land-tax, and in the end it will harm the kingdom.

יג  כְּעַן יְדִיעַ לֶהֱוֵא לְמַלְכָּא דִּי הֵן קִרְיְתָא דָךְ תִּתְבְּנֵא וְשׁוּרַיָּה יִשְׁתַּכְלְלוּן מִנְדָּה־בְלוֹ וַהֲלָךְ לָא יִנְתְּנוּן וְאַפְּתֹם מַלְכִים תְּהַנְזִק׃

14  Now since we eat the salt of the palace, and it is not right that we should see the king dishonored, we have written to advise the king [of this]

יד  כְּעַן כָּל־קֳבֵל דִּי־מְלַח הֵיכְלָא מְלַחְנָא וְעַרְוַת מַלְכָּא לָא אֲ‍רִיךְ לַנָא לְמֶחֱזֵא עַל־דְּנָה שְׁלַחְנָא וְהוֹדַעְנָא לְמַלְכָּא׃

15  so that you may search the records of your fathers and find in the records and know that this city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and states. Sedition has been rife in it from early times; on that account this city was destroyed.

טו  דִּי יְבַקַּר בִּסְפַר־דָּכְרָנַיָּא דִּי אֲבָהָתָךְ וּתְהַשְׁכַּח בִּסְפַר דָּכְרָנַיָּא וְתִנְדַּע דִּי קִרְיְתָא דָךְ קִרְיָא מָרָדָא וּמְהַנְזְקַת מַלְכִין וּמְדִנָן וְאֶשְׁתַּדּוּר עָבְדִין בְּגַוַּהּ מִן־יוֹמָת עָלְמָא עַל־דְּנָה קִרְיְתָא דָךְ הָחָרְבַת׃

16  We advise the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, you will no longer have any portion in the province Beyond the River.”

טז  מְהוֹדְעִין אֲנַחְנָה לְמַלְכָּא דִּי הֵן קִרְיְתָא דָךְ תִּתְבְּנֵא וְשׁוּרַיָּה יִשְׁתַּכְלְלוּן לָקֳבֵל דְּנָה חֲלָק בַּעֲבַר נַהֲרָא לָא אִיתַי לָךְ׃

17  The king sent back the following message: “To Rehum the commissioner and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their colleagues, who dwell in Shomron and in the rest of the province of Beyond the River, greetings.

יז  פִּתְגָמָא שְׁלַח מַלְכָּא עַל־רְחוּם בְּעֵל־טְעֵם וְשִׁמְשַׁי סָפְרָא וּשְׁאָר כְּנָוָתְהוֹן דִּי יָתְבִין בְּשָׁמְרָיִן וּשְׁאָר עֲבַר־נַהֲרָה שְׁלָם וּכְעֶת׃

18  Now the letter that you wrote me has been read to me in translation.

יח  נִשְׁתְּוָנָא דִּי שְׁלַחְתּוּן עֲלֶינָא מְפָרַשׁ קֱרִי קָדָמָי׃

19  At my order a search has been made, and it has been found that this city has from earliest times risen against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been rife in it.

יט  וּמִנִּי שִׂים טְעֵם וּבַקַּרוּ וְהַשְׁכַּחוּ דִּי קִרְיְתָא דָךְ מִן־יוֹמָת עָלְמָא עַל־מַלְכִין מִתְנַשְּׂאָה וּמְרַד וְאֶשְׁתַּדּוּר מִתְעֲבֶד־בַּהּ׃

20  Powerful kings have ruled over Yerushalayim and exercised authority over the whole province of Beyond the River, and tribute, poll-tax, and land-tax were paid to them.

כ  וּמַלְכִין תַּקִּיפִין הֲווֹ עַל־יְרוּשְׁלֶם וְשַׁלִּיטִין בְּכֹל עֲבַר נַהֲרָה וּמִדָּה בְלוֹ וַהֲלָךְ מִתְיְהֵב לְהוֹן׃

21  Now issue an order to stop these men; this city is not to be rebuilt until I so order.

כא  כְּעַן שִׂימוּ טְּעֵם לְבַטָּלָא גֻּבְרַיָּא אִלֵּךְ וְקִרְיְתָא דָךְ לָא תִתְבְּנֵא עַד־מִנִּי טַעְמָא יִתְּשָׂם׃

22  Take care not to be lax in this matter or there will be much damage and harm to the kingdom.”

כב  וּזְהִירִין הֱווֹ שָׁלוּ לְמֶעְבַּד עַל־דְּנָה לְמָה יִשְׂגֵּא חֲבָלָא לְהַנְזָקַת מַלְכִין׃

23  When the text of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their colleagues, they hurried to Yerushalayim, to the Yehudim, and stopped them by main force.

כג  אֱדַיִן מִן־דִּי פַּרְשֶׁגֶן נִשְׁתְּוָנָא דִּי ארתחששתא [אַרְתַּחְשַׁשְׂתְּ] מַלְכָּא קֱרִי קֳדָם־רְחוּם וְשִׁמְשַׁי סָפְרָא וּכְנָוָתְהוֹן אֲזַלוּ בִבְהִילוּ לִירוּשְׁלֶם עַל־יְהוּדָיֵא וּבַטִּלוּ הִמּוֹ בְּאֶדְרָע וְחָיִל׃

24  At that time, work on the House of Hashem in Yerushalayim stopped and remained in abeyance until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.

כד  בֵּאדַיִן בְּטֵלַת עֲבִידַת בֵּית־אֱלָהָא דִּי בִּירוּשְׁלֶם וַהֲוָת בָּטְלָא עַד שְׁנַת תַּרְתֵּין לְמַלְכוּת דָּרְיָוֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ־פָּרָס׃

5:1  Then the Neviim, Chagai the Navi and Zecharya son of Ido, prophesied to the Yehudim in Yehuda and Yerushalayim, inspired by the God of Yisrael.

ה:א  וְהִתְנַבִּי חַגַּי נביאה [נְבִיָּא] וּזְכַרְיָה בַר־עִדּוֹא נביאיא [נְבִיַּיָּא] עַל־יְהוּדָיֵא דִּי בִיהוּד וּבִירוּשְׁלֶם בְּשֻׁם אֱלָהּ יִשְׂרָאֵל עֲלֵיהוֹן׃

2  Thereupon Zerubavel son of Shealtiel and Yeshua son of Yotzadak began rebuilding the House of Hashem in Yerushalayim, with the full support of the Neviim of Hashem.

bay-DA-yin KA-mu z’-ru-ba-VEL bar sh’-al-tee-AYL v’-yay-SHU-a bar yo-tza-DAK v’-sha-REEV l’-miv-NAY BAYT e-la-HA DEE vee-ru-sh’-LEM v’-i-m’-HON n’-vi-ya-YA dee e-la-HA m’-sa-a-DEEN l’-HON

ב  בֵּאדַיִן קָמוּ זְרֻבָּבֶל בַּר־שְׁאַלְתִּיאֵל וְיֵשׁוּעַ בַּר־יוֹצָדָק וְשָׁרִיו לְמִבְנֵא בֵּית אֱלָהָא דִּי בִירוּשְׁלֶם וְעִמְּהוֹן נביאיא [נְבִיַּיָּא] דִי־אֱלָהָא מְסָעֲדִין לְהוֹן׃

 5:2   With the full support of the Neviim of Hashem

Starting with chapter 4, verse 8, the language of Sefer Ezra switches from Hebrew to Aramaic. However, the Neviim of the time, Chagai, Zecharya and Malachi, address the nation exclusively in Hebrew. The Jewish people have been exiled to every corner of the world and, in the process, have learned many different languages. This is as true in the modern Diaspora as it was during the Babylonian and Persian eras. And yet, with the minor exceptions of the Aramaic sections of Daniel and Ezra, the Tanakh was written entirely in Hebrew. Although the Jews spoke other languages, Hebrew remained their essential language. Even if they did not speak it for everyday matter, it continued to be the language used for prayer and study, connecting to Hashem.. The fact that Hebrew is again the vibrant and dynamic language of communication in contemporary Israel should not be underestimated. The revival of Hebrew as a spoken language in the 19th century, due largely to the efforts of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, is as miraculous as the survival of the Hebrew people themselves. As Shimon Peres, former president of Israel, pointed out, “None in the Middle East speak their original language, except for Israel.”Comment

3  At once Tattenai, governor of the province of Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues descended upon them and said this to them, “Who issued orders to you to rebuild this house and complete its furnishing?”

ג  בֵּהּ־זִמְנָא אֲתָא עֲלֵיהוֹן תַּתְּנַי פַּחַת עֲבַר־נַהֲרָה וּשְׁתַר בּוֹזְנַי וּכְנָוָתְהוֹן וְכֵן אָמְרִין לְהֹם מַן־שָׂם לְכֹם טְעֵם בַּיְתָא דְנָה לִבְּנֵא וְאֻשַּׁרְנָא דְנָה לְשַׁכְלָלָה׃

4  Then we said to them, “What are the names of the men who are engaged in the building?”

ד  אֱדַיִן כְּנֵמָא אֲמַרְנָא לְּהֹם מַן־אִנּוּן שְׁמָהָת גֻּבְרַיָּא דִּי־דְנָה בִנְיָנָא בָּנַיִן׃

5  But Hashem watched over the elders of the Yehudim and they were not stopped while a report went to Darius and a letter was sent back in reply to it.

ה  וְעֵין אֱלָהֲהֹם הֲוָת עַל־שָׂבֵי יְהוּדָיֵא וְלָא־בַטִּלוּ הִמּוֹ עַד־טַעְמָא לְדָרְיָוֶשׁ יְהָךְ וֶאֱדַיִן יְתִיבוּן נִשְׁתְּוָנָא עַל־דְּנָה׃

6  This is the text of the letter that Tattenai, governor of the province of Beyond the River, and Shethar-bozenai and his colleagues, the officials of Beyond the River, sent to King Darius.

ו  פַּרְשֶׁגֶן אִגַּרְתָּא דִּי־שְׁלַח תַּתְּנַי פַּחַת עֲבַר־נַהֲרָה וּשְׁתַר בּוֹזְנַי וּכְנָוָתֵהּ אֲפַרְסְכָיֵא דִּי בַּעֲבַר נַהֲרָה עַל־דָּרְיָוֶשׁ מַלְכָּא׃

7  They sent a message to him and this is what was written in it: “To King Darius, greetings, and so forth.

ז  פִּתְגָמָא שְׁלַחוּ עֲלוֹהִי וְכִדְנָה כְּתִיב בְּגַוֵּהּ לְדָרְיָוֶשׁ מַלְכָּא שְׁלָמָא כֹלָּא׃

8  Be it known to the king, that we went to the province of Yehuda, to the house of the great Hashem. It is being rebuilt of hewn stone, and wood is being laid in the walls. The work is being done with dispatch and is going well.

ח  יְדִיעַ לֶהֱוֵא לְמַלְכָּא דִּי־אֲזַלְנָא לִיהוּד מְדִינְתָּא לְבֵית אֱלָהָא רַבָּא וְהוּא מִתְבְּנֵא אֶבֶן גְּלָל וְאָע מִתְּשָׂם בְּכֻתְלַיָּא וַעֲבִידְתָּא דָךְ אָסְפַּרְנָא מִתְעַבְדָא וּמַצְלַח בְּיֶדְהֹם׃

9  Thereupon we directed this question to these elders, ‘Who issued orders to you to rebuild this house and to complete its furnishings?’

ט  אֱדַיִן שְׁאֵלְנָא לְשָׂבַיָּא אִלֵּךְ כְּנֵמָא אֲמַרְנָא לְּהֹם מַן־שָׂם לְכֹם טְעֵם בַּיְתָא דְנָה לְמִבְנְיָה וְאֻשַּׁרְנָא דְנָה לְשַׁכְלָלָה׃

10  We also asked their names so that we could write down the names of their leaders for your information.

י  וְאַף שְׁמָהָתְהֹם שְׁאֵלְנָא לְּהֹם לְהוֹדָעוּתָךְ דִּי נִכְתֻּב שֻׁם־גֻּבְרַיָּא דִּי בְרָאשֵׁיהֹם׃

11  This is what they answered us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth; we are rebuilding the house that was originally built many years ago; a great king of Yisrael built it and completed it.

יא  וּכְנֵמָא פִתְגָמָא הֲתִיבוּנָא לְמֵמַר אֲנַחְנָא הִמּוֹ עַבְדוֹהִי דִי־אֱלָהּ שְׁמַיָּא וְאַרְעָא וּבָנַיִן בַּיְתָא דִּי־הֲוָא בְנֵה מִקַּדְמַת דְּנָה שְׁנִין שַׂגִּיאָן וּמֶלֶךְ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל רַב בְּנָהִי וְשַׁכְלְלֵהּ׃

12  But because our fathers angered the God of Heaven, He handed them over to Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who demolished this house and exiled the people to Babylon.

יב  לָהֵן מִן־דִּי הַרְגִּזוּ אֲבָהֳתַנָא לֶאֱלָהּ שְׁמַיָּא יְהַב הִמּוֹ בְּיַד נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר מֶלֶךְ־בָּבֶל כסדיא [כַּסְדָּאָה] וּבַיְתָה דְנָה סַתְרֵהּ וְעַמָּה הַגְלִי לְבָבֶל׃

13  But in the first year of King Cyrus of Babylon, King Cyrus issued an order to rebuild this House of Hashem.

יג  בְּרַם בִּשְׁנַת חֲדָה לְכוֹרֶשׁ מַלְכָּא דִּי בָבֶל כּוֹרֶשׁ מַלְכָּא שָׂם טְעֵם בֵּית־אֱלָהָא דְנָה לִבְּנֵא׃

14  Also the silver and gold vessels of the House of Hashem that Nebuchadnezzar had taken away from the temple in Yerushalayim and brought to the temple in Babylon—King Cyrus released them from the temple in Babylon to be given to the one called Sheshbatzar whom he had appointed governor.

יד  וְאַף מָאנַיָּא דִי־בֵית־אֱלָהָא דִּי דַהֲבָה וְכַסְפָּא דִּי נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר הַנְפֵּק מִן־הֵיכְלָא דִּי בִירוּשְׁלֶם וְהֵיבֵל הִמּוֹ לְהֵיכְלָא דִּי בָבֶל הַנְפֵּק הִמּוֹ כּוֹרֶשׁ מַלְכָּא מִן־הֵיכְלָא דִּי בָבֶל וִיהִיבוּ לְשֵׁשְׁבַּצַּר שְׁמֵהּ דִּי פֶחָה שָׂמֵהּ׃

15  He said to him, “Take these vessels, go, deposit them in the temple in Yerushalayim, and let the House of Hashem be rebuilt on its original site.”

טו  וַאֲמַר־לֵהּ אלה [אֵל] מָאנַיָּא שֵׂא אֵזֶל־אֲחֵת הִמּוֹ בְּהֵיכְלָא דִּי בִירוּשְׁלֶם וּבֵית אֱלָהָא יִתְבְּנֵא עַל־אַתְרֵהּ׃

16  That same Sheshbatzar then came and laid the foundations for the House of Hashem in Yerushalayim; and ever since then it has been under construction, but is not yet finished.’

טז  אֱדַיִן שֵׁשְׁבַּצַּר דֵּךְ אֲתָא יְהַב אֻשַּׁיָּא דִּי־בֵית אֱלָהָא דִּי בִירוּשְׁלֶם וּמִן־אֱדַיִן וְעַד־כְּעַן מִתְבְּנֵא וְלָא שְׁלִם׃

17  And now, if it please the king, let the royal archives there in Babylon be searched to see whether indeed an order had been issued by King Cyrus to rebuild this House of Hashem in Yerushalayim. May the king convey to us his pleasure in this matter.”

יז  וּכְעַן הֵן עַל־מַלְכָּא טָב יִתְבַּקַּר בְּבֵית גִּנְזַיָּא דִּי־מַלְכָּא תַמָּה דִּי בְּבָבֶל הֵן אִיתַי דִּי־מִן־כּוֹרֶשׁ מַלְכָּא שִׂים טְעֵם לְמִבְנֵא בֵּית־אֱלָהָא דֵךְ בִּירוּשְׁלֶם וּרְעוּת מַלְכָּא עַל־דְּנָה יִשְׁלַח עֲלֶינָא׃

6:1  Thereupon, at the order of King Darius, they searched the archives where the treasures were stored in Babylon.

ו:א  בֵּאדַיִן דָּרְיָוֶשׁ מַלְכָּא שָׂם טְעֵם וּבַקַּרוּ בְּבֵית סִפְרַיָּא דִּי גִנְזַיָּא מְהַחֲתִין תַּמָּה בְּבָבֶל׃

2  But it was in the citadel of Ecbatana, in the province of Media, that a scroll was found in which the following was written: “Memorandum:

ב  וְהִשְׁתְּכַח בְּאַחְמְתָא בְּבִירְתָא דִּי בְּמָדַי מְדִינְתָּה מְגִלָּה חֲדָה וְכֵן־כְּתִיב בְּגַוַּהּ דִּכְרוֹנָה׃

3  In the first year of King Cyrus, King Cyrus issued an order concerning the House of Hashem in Yerushalayim: ‘Let the house be rebuilt, a place for offering sacrifices, with a base built up high. Let it be sixty amot high and sixty amot wide,

ג  בִּשְׁנַת חֲדָה לְכוֹרֶשׁ מַלְכָּא כּוֹרֶשׁ מַלְכָּא שָׂם טְעֵם בֵּית־אֱלָהָא בִירוּשְׁלֶם בַּיְתָא יִתְבְּנֵא אֲתַר דִּי־דָבְחִין דִּבְחִין וְאֻשּׁוֹהִי מְסוֹבְלִין רוּמֵהּ אַמִּין שִׁתִּין פְּתָיֵהּ אַמִּין שִׁתִּין׃

4  with a course of unused timber for each three courses of hewn stone. The expenses shall be paid by the palace.

ד  נִדְבָּכִין דִּי־אֶבֶן גְּלָל תְּלָתָא וְנִדְבָּךְ דִּי־אָע חֲדַת וְנִפְקְתָא מִן־בֵּית מַלְכָּא תִּתְיְהִב׃

5  And the gold and silver vessels of the House of Hashem which Nebuchadnezzar had taken away from the temple in Yerushalayim and transported to Babylon shall be returned, and let each go back to the temple in Yerushalayim where it belongs; you shall deposit it in the House of Hashem.’

ה  וְאַף מָאנֵי בֵית־אֱלָהָא דִּי דַהֲבָה וְכַסְפָּא דִּי נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר הַנְפֵּק מִן־הֵיכְלָא דִי־בִירוּשְׁלֶם וְהֵיבֵל לְבָבֶל יַהֲתִיבוּן וִיהָךְ לְהֵיכְלָא דִי־בִירוּשְׁלֶם לְאַתְרֵהּ וְתַחֵת בְּבֵית אֱלָהָא׃

6  “Now you, Tattenai, governor of the province of Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai and colleagues, the officials of the province of Beyond the River, stay away from that place.

ו  כְּעַן תַּתְּנַי פַּחַת עֲבַר־נַהֲרָה שְׁתַר בּוֹזְנַי וּכְנָוָתְהוֹן אֲפַרְסְכָיֵא דִּי בַּעֲבַר נַהֲרָה רַחִיקִין הֲווֹ מִן־תַּמָּה׃

7  Allow the work of this House of Hashem to go on; let the governor of the Yehudim and the elders of the Yehudim rebuild this House of Hashem on its site.

ז  שְׁבֻקוּ לַעֲבִידַת בֵּית־אֱלָהָא דֵךְ פַּחַת יְהוּדָיֵא וּלְשָׂבֵי יְהוּדָיֵא בֵּית־אֱלָהָא דֵךְ יִבְנוֹן עַל־אַתְרֵהּ׃

8  And I hereby issue an order concerning what you must do to help these elders of the Yehudim rebuild this House of Hashem: the expenses are to be paid to these men with dispatch out of the resources of the king, derived from the taxes of the province of Beyond the River, so that the work not be stopped.

ח  וּמִנִּי שִׂים טְעֵם לְמָא דִי־תַעַבְדוּן עִם־שָׂבֵי יְהוּדָיֵא אִלֵּךְ לְמִבְנֵא בֵּית־אֱלָהָא דֵךְ וּמִנִּכְסֵי מַלְכָּא דִּי מִדַּת עֲבַר נַהֲרָה אָסְפַּרְנָא נִפְקְתָא תֶּהֱוֵא מִתְיַהֲבָא לְגֻבְרַיָּא אִלֵּךְ דִּי־לָא לְבַטָּלָא׃

9  They are to be given daily, without fail, whatever they need of young bulls, rams, or lambs as burnt offerings for the God of Heaven, and wheat, salt, wine, and oil, at the order of the Kohanim in Yerushalayim,

ט  וּמָה חַשְׁחָן וּבְנֵי תוֹרִין וְדִכְרִין וְאִמְּרִין לַעֲלָוָן לֶאֱלָהּ שְׁמַיָּא חִנְטִין מְלַח חֲמַר וּמְשַׁח כְּמֵאמַר כָּהֲנַיָּא דִי־בִירוּשְׁלֶם לֶהֱוֵא מִתְיְהֵב לְהֹם יוֹם בְּיוֹם דִּי־לָא שָׁלוּ׃

10  so that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of Heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons.

י  דִּי־לֶהֱוׂן מְהַקְרְבִין נִיחוֹחִין לֶאֱלָהּ שְׁמַיָּא וּמְצַלַּיִן לְחַיֵּי מַלְכָּא וּבְנוֹהִי׃

11  I also issue an order that whoever alters this decree shall have a beam removed from his house, and he shall be impaled on it and his house confiscated.

יא  וּמִנִּי שִׂים טְעֵם דִּי כָל־אֱנָשׁ דִּי יְהַשְׁנֵא פִּתְגָמָא דְנָה יִתְנְסַח אָע מִן־בַּיְתֵהּ וּזְקִיף יִתְמְחֵא עֲלֹהִי וּבַיְתֵהּ נְוָלוּ יִתְעֲבֵד עַל־דְּנָה׃

12  And may the God who established His name there cause the downfall of any king or nation that undertakes to alter or damage that House of Hashem in Yerushalayim. I, Darius, have issued the decree; let it be carried out with dispatch.”

יב  וֵאלָהָא דִּי שַׁכִּן שְׁמֵהּ תַּמָּה יְמַגַּר כָּל־מֶלֶךְ וְעַם דִּי יִשְׁלַח יְדֵהּ לְהַשְׁנָיָה לְחַבָּלָה בֵּית־אֱלָהָא דֵךְ דִּי בִירוּשְׁלֶם אֲנָה דָרְיָוֶשׁ שָׂמֶת טְעֵם אָסְפַּרְנָא יִתְעֲבִד׃

13  Then Tattenai, governor of the province of Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues carried out with dispatch what King Darius had written.

יג  אֱדַיִן תַּתְּנַי פַּחַת עֲבַר־נַהֲרָה שְׁתַר בּוֹזְנַי וּכְנָוָתְהוֹן לָקֳבֵל דִּי־שְׁלַח דָּרְיָוֶשׁ מַלְכָּא כְּנֵמָא אָסְפַּרְנָא עֲבַדוּ׃

14  So the elders of the Yehudim progressed in the building, urged on by the prophesying of Chagai the Navi and Zecharya son of Ido, and they brought the building to completion under the aegis of the God of Yisrael and by the order of Cyrus and Darius and King Artaxerxes of Persia.

v’-sha-VAY y’-hu-da-YAY ba-NA-yin u-matz-l’-KHEEN bin-vu-AT kha-GAI n’-vi-YAH uz-khar-YAH bar i-DO uv-NO v’-shakh-LI-lu min TA-am e-LAH yis-ra-AYL u-mi-t’-AYM KO-resh v’-dar-YA-vesh v’-ar-takh-SHAS-t’ ME-lekh pa-RAS

יד  וְשָׂבֵי יְהוּדָיֵא בָּנַיִן וּמַצְלְחִין בִּנְבוּאַת חַגַּי נביאה [נְבִיָּא] וּזְכַרְיָה בַּר־עִדּוֹא וּבְנוֹ וְשַׁכְלִלוּ מִן־טַעַם אֱלָהּ יִשְׂרָאֵל וּמִטְּעֵם כּוֹרֶשׁ וְדָרְיָוֶשׁ וְאַרְתַּחְשַׁשְׂתְּא מֶלֶךְ פָּרָס׃

 6:14   By the order of Cyrus and Darius and King Artaxerxes

The autonomy of the Jewish people has often been subject to the blessings or restraints of foreigners. Cyrus’s edict to allow the People of Israel to return to the Land of Israel and rebuild the Beit Hamikdash was a ray of hope in a bleak time. Persian approval of Jewish authority constituted a remarkable turning of the tide for the exiled Jews. Though construction of the Temple was temporarily halted, it was eventually completed in the sixth year of the reign of Darius, with his permission. The British Government’s 1917 Balfour Declaration possessed similar promise when it declared: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.” In fact, Harry Truman said of his May 1948 recognition of the State of Israel as president of the United States: “I am Cyrus.” In all these cases, it was non-Jews serving as God’s agents who facilitated the return of the Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael.1 comment

15  The house was finished on the third of the month of Adar in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.

טו  וְשֵׁיצִיא בַּיְתָה דְנָה עַד יוֹם תְּלָתָה לִירַח אֲדָר דִּי־הִיא שְׁנַת־שֵׁת לְמַלְכוּת דָּרְיָוֶשׁ מַלְכָּא׃

16  The Israelites, the Kohanim, and the Leviim, and all the other exiles celebrated the dedication of the House of Hashem with joy.

טז  וַעֲבַדוּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל כָּהֲנַיָּא וְלֵוָיֵא וּשְׁאָר בְּנֵי־גָלוּתָא חֲנֻכַּת בֵּית־אֱלָהָא דְנָה בְּחֶדְוָה׃

17  And they sacrificed for the dedication of this House of Hashem one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and twelve goats as a purification offering for all of Yisrael, according to the number of the tribes of Yisrael.

יז  וְהַקְרִבוּ לַחֲנֻכַּת בֵּית־אֱלָהָא דְנָה תּוֹרִין מְאָה דִּכְרִין מָאתַיִן אִמְּרִין אַרְבַּע מְאָה וּצְפִירֵי עִזִּין לחטיא [לְחַטָּאָה] עַל־כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵל תְּרֵי־עֲשַׂר לְמִנְיָן שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל׃

18  They appointed the Kohanim in their courses and the Leviim in their divisions for the service of Hashem in Yerushalayim, according to the prescription in the Book of Moshe.

יח  וַהֲקִימוּ כָהֲנַיָּא בִּפְלֻגָּתְהוֹן וְלֵוָיֵא בְּמַחְלְקָתְהוֹן עַל־עֲבִידַת אֱלָהָא דִּי בִירוּשְׁלֶם כִּכְתָב סְפַר מֹשֶׁה׃

19  The returned exiles celebrated the Pesach on the fourteenth day of the first month,

יט  וַיַּעֲשׂוּ בְנֵי־הַגּוֹלָה אֶת־הַפָּסַח בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר לַחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן׃

20  for the Kohanim and Leviim had purified themselves to a man; they were all pure. They slaughtered the Pesach offering for all the returned exiles, and for their brother Kohanim and for themselves.

כ  כִּי הִטַּהֲרוּ הַכֹּהֲנִים וְהַלְוִיִּם כְּאֶחָד כֻּלָּם טְהוֹרִים וַיִּשְׁחֲטוּ הַפֶּסַח לְכָל־בְּנֵי הַגּוֹלָה וְלַאֲחֵיהֶם הַכֹּהֲנִים וְלָהֶם׃

21  The children of Yisrael who had returned from the exile, together with all who joined them in separating themselves from the uncleanliness of the nations of the lands to worship God of Yisrael, ate of it.

כא  וַיֹּאכְלוּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל הַשָּׁבִים מֵהַגּוֹלָה וְכֹל הַנִּבְדָּל מִטֻּמְאַת גּוֹיֵ־הָאָרֶץ אֲלֵהֶם לִדְרֹשׁ לַיהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל׃

22  They joyfully celebrated the festival of Pesach for seven days, for Hashem had given them cause for joy by inclining the heart of the Assyrian king toward them so as to give them support in the work of the House of Hashem, the God of Yisrael.

כב  וַיַּעֲשׂוּ חַג־מַצּוֹת שִׁבְעַת יָמִים בְּשִׂמְחָה כִּי שִׂמְּחָם יְהֹוָה וְהֵסֵב לֵב מֶלֶךְ־אַשּׁוּר עֲלֵיהֶם לְחַזֵּק יְדֵיהֶם בִּמְלֶאכֶת בֵּית־הָאֱלֹהִים אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל׃

7:1  After these events, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, Ezra son of Seraya son of Azarya son of Chilkiya

ז:א  וְאַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה בְּמַלְכוּת אַרְתַּחְשַׁסְתְּא מֶלֶךְ־פָּרָס עֶזְרָא בֶּן־שְׂרָיָה בֶּן־עֲזַרְיָה בֶּן־חִלְקִיָּה׃

2  son of Shalum son of Tzadok son of Achituv

ב  בֶּן־שַׁלּוּם בֶּן־צָדוֹק בֶּן־אֲחִיטוּב׃

3  son of Amariah son of Azarya son of Meraioth

ג  בֶּן־אֲמַרְיָה בֶן־עֲזַרְיָה בֶּן־מְרָיוֹת׃

4  son of Zerahiah son of Uzzi son of Bukki

ד  בֶּן־זְרַחְיָה בֶן־עֻזִּי בֶּן־בֻּקִּי׃

5  son of Abishua son of Pinchas son of Elazar son of Aharon the chief Kohen

ה  בֶּן־אֲבִישׁוּעַ בֶּן־פִּינְחָס בֶּן־אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן־אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן הָרֹאשׁ׃

6  that Ezra came up from Babylon, a scribe expert in the Teaching of Moshe which God of Yisrael had given, whose request the king had granted in its entirety, thanks to the benevolence of Hashem toward him.

HU ez-RA a-LAH mi-ba-VEL v’-hu so-FAYR ma-HEER b’-to-RAT mo-SHEH a-sher na-TAN a-do-NAI e-lo-HAY yis-ra-AYL va-yi-ten LO ha-ME-lekh k’-yad a-do-NAI e-lo-HAV a-LAV KOL ba-ka-sha-TO

ו  הוּא עֶזְרָא עָלָה מִבָּבֶל וְהוּא־סֹפֵר מָהִיר בְּתוֹרַת מֹשֶׁה אֲשֶׁר־נָתַן יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיִּתֶּן־לוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ כְּיַד־יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהָיו עָלָיו כֹּל בַּקָּשָׁתוֹ׃

 Ezra 7:6 A scribe expert in the Teaching of Moshe

Ezra was known as a sofer (סופר), a ‘scribe’ who reintroduced the Torah to public life in Jerusalem following the Babylonian exile. According the Talmud (Bava Kama 82a), he instituted public reading of the Torah on Shabbat in order to make it more dear to the People of Israel. In modern times, another “scribe” made a great contribution to Israel’s love for the Torah. Eliyahu Koren (1907-2001) was a master typographer who emigrated from Germany to Israel in 1933. He opened Koren Publishers Jerusalem in 1961, and the following year published the “Koren Tanakh,” the first Bible edited, designed, produced and bound by Jews in nearly 500 years. David Ben Gurion responded to the publication of the Tanakh, “Israel is redeemed from shame.” Koren, along with his team of experts, considered the precision of every letter, the placement of every word on every page and designed a new font to ensure maximum clarity and to signify the renewal of ancient Hebrew in modern times. The Koren Tanakh’s textual accuracy, innovative design and superior quality won it worldwide acclaim. After its publication, it became the Bible that IDF soldiers received, along with a gun, upon their induction into the Israel Defense Forces, and it is the Bible upon which Knesset members are sworn into office. As then Speaker of the Knesset Mr. Kadish Luz declared, “From this day forth, all of Israel’s presidents shall take their oaths of office upon this Bible. We have been governed by a Provisional State Council, a Provisional Government and even now sit in the temporary Knesset building. To date, Israeli presidents have been sworn in using a temporary edition of the Bible. This occasion symbolizes our overcoming of foreign heritage and return to our origins”.Comment

7  Some of the Israelites, the Kohanim and Leviim, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the temple servants set out for Yerushalayim in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes,

ז  וַיַּעֲלוּ מִבְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל וּמִן־הַכֹּהֲנִים וְהַלְוִיִּם וְהַמְשֹׁרְרִים וְהַשֹּׁעֲרִים וְהַנְּתִינִים אֶל־יְרוּשָׁלָ ִם בִּשְׁנַת־שֶׁבַע לְאַרְתַּחְשַׁסְתְּא הַמֶּלֶךְ׃

8  arriving in Yerushalayim in the fifth month in the seventh year of the king.)

ח  וַיָּבֹא יְרוּשָׁלַ ִם בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַחֲמִישִׁי הִיא שְׁנַת הַשְּׁבִיעִית לַמֶּלֶךְ׃

9  On the first day of the first month the journey up from Babylon was started, and on the first day of the fifth month he arrived in Yerushalayim, thanks to the benevolent care of his God for him.

KEE b’-e-KHAD la-KHO-desh ha-ri-SHON HU y’-SUD ha-ma-a-LAH mi-ba-VEL uv-e-KHAD la-KHO-desh ha-kha-mee-SHEE BA el y’-ru-sha-LA-im k’-yad e-lo-HAV ha-to-VAH a-LAV

ט  כִּי בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן הוּא יְסֻד הַמַּעֲלָה מִבָּבֶל וּבְאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הַחֲמִישִׁי בָּא אֶל־יְרוּשָׁלַ ִם כְּיַד־אֱלֹהָיו הַטּוֹבָה עָלָיו׃

 7:9   The journey up from Babylon was started

The late nineteenth and twentieth centuries witnessed a series of massive waves of Jewish immigration to Israel, known as Aliyot, literally, ‘ascents.’ Each Aliya had a specific demographic character. The nature of the returning Babylonian Jews was similar to the immigrants who came during the years 1882-1904 on what is known as the “First Aliya”. In both cases, the groups were mostly comprised of poor religious families. But to call these modern Zionists immigrants “first” is not entirely correct. Not only have there been waves of immigration to Israel throughout the centuries, but their forefathers returning from Babylon preceded them by two-thousand five-hundred years. In 1883, the first modern Jewish community in the northern Hula Valley was established by members of the “First aliyah.” Inspired by this verse in Ezra describing the return of the Babylonian Jews, its founders named it Yesud Ha’Ma’ala, translated here as ‘the journey up was started.’Comment

10  For Ezra had dedicated himself to study the Teaching of Hashem so as to observe it, and to teach laws and rules to Yisrael.

י  כִּי עֶזְרָא הֵכִין לְבָבוֹ לִדְרוֹשׁ אֶת־תּוֹרַת יְהֹוָה וְלַעֲשֹׂת וּלְלַמֵּד בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל חֹק וּמִשְׁפָּט׃

11  The following is the text of the letter which King Artaxerxes gave Ezra the Kohen-scribe, a scholar in matters concerning the commandments of Hashem and His laws to Yisrael:

יא  וְזֶה פַּרְשֶׁגֶן הַנִּשְׁתְּוָן אֲשֶׁר נָתַן הַמֶּלֶךְ אַרְתַּחְשַׁסְתְּא לְעֶזְרָא הַכֹּהֵן הַסֹּפֵר סֹפֵר דִּבְרֵי מִצְוׂת־יְהֹוָה וְחֻקָּיו עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵל׃

12  “Artaxerxes king of kings, to Ezra the Kohen, scholar in the law of the God of heaven, and so forth. And now,

יב  אַרְתַּחְשַׁסְתְּא מֶלֶךְ מַלְכַיָּא לְעֶזְרָא כָהֲנָא סָפַר דָּתָא דִּי־אֱלָהּ שְׁמַיָּא גְּמִיר וּכְעֶנֶת׃

13  I hereby issue an order that anyone in my kingdom who is of the people of Yisrael and its Kohanim and Leviim who feels impelled to go to Yerushalayim may go with you.

יג  מִנִּי שִׂים טְעֵם דִּי כָל־מִתְנַדַּב בְּמַלְכוּתִי מִן־עַמָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל וְכָהֲנוֹהִי וְלֵוָיֵא לִמְהָךְ לִירוּשְׁלֶם עִמָּךְ יְהָךְ׃

14  For you are commissioned by the king and his seven advisers to regulate Yehuda and Yerushalayim according to the law of your God, which is in your care,

יד  כָּל־קֳבֵל דִּי מִן־קֳדָם מַלְכָּא וְשִׁבְעַת יָעֲטֹהִי שְׁלִיחַ לְבַקָּרָא עַל־יְהוּד וְלִירוּשְׁלֶם בְּדָת אֱלָהָךְ דִּי בִידָךְ׃

15  and to bring the freewill offering of silver and gold, which the king and his advisers made to the God of Yisrael, whose dwelling is in Yerushalayim,

טו  וּלְהֵיבָלָה כְּסַף וּדְהַב דִּי־מַלְכָּא וְיָעֲטוֹהִי הִתְנַדַּבוּ לֶאֱלָהּ יִשְׂרָאֵל דִּי בִירוּשְׁלֶם מִשְׁכְּנֵהּ׃

16  and whatever silver and gold that you find throughout the province of Babylon, together with the freewill offerings that the people and the Kohanim will give for the House of their God, which is in Yerushalayim.

טז  וְכֹל כְּסַף וּדְהַב דִּי תְהַשְׁכַּח בְּכֹל מְדִינַת בָּבֶל עִם הִתְנַדָּבוּת עַמָּא וְכָהֲנַיָּא מִתְנַדְּבִין לְבֵית אֱלָהֲהֹם דִּי בִירוּשְׁלֶם׃

17  You shall, therefore, with dispatch acquire with this money bulls, rams, and lambs, with their meal offerings and libations, and offer them on the mizbayach of the House of your God in Yerushalayim.

יז  כָּל־קֳבֵל דְּנָה אָסְפַּרְנָא תִקְנֵא בְּכַסְפָּא דְנָה תּוֹרִין דִּכְרִין אִמְּרִין וּמִנְחָתְהוֹן וְנִסְכֵּיהוֹן וּתְקָרֵב הִמּוֹ עַל־מַדְבְּחָה דִּי בֵּית אֱלָהֲכֹם דִּי בִירוּשְׁלֶם׃

18  And whatever you wish to do with the leftover silver and gold, you and your kinsmen may do, in accord with the will of your God.

יח  וּמָה דִי עליך [עֲלָךְ] וְעַל־אחיך [אֶחָךְ] יֵיטַב בִּשְׁאָר כַּסְפָּא וְדַהֲבָה לְמֶעְבַּד כִּרְעוּת אֱלָהֲכֹם תַּעַבְדוּן׃

19  The vessels for the service of the House of your God that are given to you, deliver to Hashem in Yerushalayim,

יט  וּמָאנַיָּא דִּי־מִתְיַהֲבִין לָךְ לְפָלְחָן בֵּית אֱלָהָךְ הַשְׁלֵם קֳדָם אֱלָהּ יְרוּשְׁלֶם׃

20  and any other needs of the House of your God that it falls to you to supply, do so from the royal treasury.

כ  וּשְׁאָר חַשְׁחוּת בֵּית אֱלָהָךְ דִּי יִפֶּל־לָךְ לְמִנְתַּן תִּנְתֵּן מִן־בֵּית גִּנְזֵי מַלְכָּא׃

21  I, King Artaxerxes, for my part, hereby issue an order to all the treasurers in the province of Beyond the River that whatever request Ezra the Kohen, scholar in the law of the God of Heaven, makes of you is to be fulfilled with dispatch

כא  וּמִנִּי אֲנָה אַרְתַּחְשַׁסְתְּא מַלְכָּא שִׂים טְעֵם לְכֹל גִּזַּבְרַיָּא דִּי בַּעֲבַר נַהֲרָה דִּי כָל־דִּי יִשְׁאֲלֶנְכוֹן עֶזְרָא כָהֲנָה סָפַר דָּתָא דִּי־אֱלָהּ שְׁמַיָּא אָסְפַּרְנָא יִתְעֲבִד׃

22  up to the sum of one hundred kikarot of silver, one hundred kor of wheat, one hundred batim of wine, one hundred batim of oil, and salt without limit.

כב  עַד־כְּסַף כַּכְּרִין מְאָה וְעַד־חִנְטִין כֹּרִין מְאָה וְעַד־חֲמַר בַּתִּין מְאָה וְעַד־בַּתִּין מְשַׁח מְאָה וּמְלַח דִּי־לָא כְתָב׃

23  Whatever is by order of the God of Heaven must be carried out diligently for the House of the God of Heaven, else wrath will come upon the king and his sons.

כג  כָּל־דִּי מִן־טַעַם אֱלָהּ שְׁמַיָּא יִתְעֲבֵד אַדְרַזְדָּא לְבֵית אֱלָהּ שְׁמַיָּא דִּי־לְמָה לֶהֱוֵא קְצַף עַל־מַלְכוּת מַלְכָּא וּבְנוֹהִי׃

24  We further advise you that it is not permissible to impose tribute, poll tax, or land tax on any Kohen, Levi, singer, gatekeeper, temple servant, or other servant of this House of Hashem.

כד  וּלְכֹם מְהוֹדְעִין דִּי כָל־כָּהֲנַיָּא וְלֵוָיֵא זַמָּרַיָּא תָרָעַיָּא נְתִינַיָּא וּפָלְחֵי בֵּית אֱלָהָא דְנָה מִנְדָּה בְלוֹ וַהֲלָךְ לָא שַׁלִּיט לְמִרְמֵא עֲלֵיהֹם׃

25  And you, Ezra, by the divine wisdom you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to judge all the people in the province of Beyond the River who know the laws of your God, and to teach those who do not know them.

כה  וְאַנְתְּ עֶזְרָא כְּחָכְמַת אֱלָהָךְ דִּי־בִידָךְ מֶנִּי שָׁפְטִין וְדַיָּנִין דִּי־לֶהֱוׂן דאנין [דָּאיְנִין] לְכָל־עַמָּה דִּי בַּעֲבַר נַהֲרָה לְכָל־יָדְעֵי דָּתֵי אֱלָהָךְ וְדִי לָא יָדַע תְּהוֹדְעוּן׃

26  Let anyone who does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king be punished with dispatch, whether by death, corporal punishment, confiscation of possessions, or imprisonment.”

כו  וְכָל־דִּי־לָא לֶהֱוֵא עָבֵד דָּתָא דִי־אֱלָהָךְ וְדָתָא דִּי מַלְכָּא אָסְפַּרְנָא דִּינָה לֶהֱוֵא מִתְעֲבֵד מִנֵּהּ הֵן לְמוֹת הֵן לשרשו [לִשְׁרֹשִׁי] הֵן־לַעֲנָשׁ נִכְסִין וְלֶאֱסוּרִין׃

27  Blessed is God of our fathers, who put it into the mind of the king to glorify the House of Hashem in Yerushalayim,

כז  בָּרוּךְ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ אֲשֶׁר נָתַן כָּזֹאת בְּלֵב הַמֶּלֶךְ לְפָאֵר אֶת־בֵּית יְהֹוָה אֲשֶׁר בִּירוּשָׁלָ ִם׃

28  and who inclined the king and his counselors and the king’s military officers to be favorably disposed toward me. For my part, thanks to the care of Hashem for me, I summoned up courage and assembled leading men in Yisrael to go with me.

כח  וְעָלַי הִטָּה־חֶסֶד לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וְיוֹעֲצָיו וּלְכָל־שָׂרֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ הַגִּבֹּרִים וַאֲנִי הִתְחַזַּקְתִּי כְּיַד־יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהַי עָלַי וָאֶקְבְּצָה מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל רָאשִׁים לַעֲלוֹת עִמִּי׃

8:1  These are the chiefs of the clans and the register of the genealogy of those who came up with me from Babylon in the reign of King Artaxerxes:

ח:א  וְאֵלֶּה רָאשֵׁי אֲבֹתֵיהֶם וְהִתְיַחְשָׂם הָעֹלִים עִמִּי בְּמַלְכוּת אַרְתַּחְשַׁסְתְּא הַמֶּלֶךְ מִבָּבֶל׃

2  Of the sons of Pinchas, Gershom; of the sons of Itamar, Daniel; of the sons of David, Hattush.

ב  מִבְּנֵי פִינְחָס גֵּרְשֹׁם מִבְּנֵי אִיתָמָר דָּנִיֵּאל מִבְּנֵי דָוִיד חַטּוּשׁ׃

3  Of the sons of Shechanya: of the sons of Parosh, Zecharya; through him the genealogy of 150 males was registered.

ג  מִבְּנֵי שְׁכַנְיָה מִבְּנֵי פַרְעֹשׁ זְכַרְיָה וְעִמּוֹ הִתְיַחֵשׂ לִזְכָרִים מֵאָה וַחֲמִשִּׁים׃

4  Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah, of the sons of Pahathmoab, and with him 200 males.

ד  מִבְּנֵי פַּחַת מוֹאָב אֶלְיְהוֹעֵינַי בֶּן־זְרַחְיָה וְעִמּוֹ מָאתַיִם הַזְּכָרִים׃

5  Of the sons of Shechanya son of Yachaziel; and with him 300 males.

ה  מִבְּנֵי שְׁכַנְיָה בֶּן־יַחֲזִיאֵל וְעִמּוֹ שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת הַזְּכָרִים׃

6  And of the sons of Adin, Ebed son of Yonatan; and with him 50 males.

ו  וּמִבְּנֵי עָדִין עֶבֶד בֶּן־יוֹנָתָן וְעִמּוֹ חֲמִשִּׁים הַזְּכָרִים׃

7  And of the sons of Elam, Jeshaiah son of Atalya; and with him 70 males.

ז  וּמִבְּנֵי עֵילָם יְשַׁעְיָה בֶּן־עֲתַלְיָה וְעִמּוֹ שִׁבְעִים הַזְּכָרִים׃

8  And of the sons of Shephatiah, Zebadiah son of Michael; and with him 80 males.

ח  וּמִבְּנֵי שְׁפַטְיָה זְבַדְיָה בֶּן־מִיכָאֵל וְעִמּוֹ שְׁמֹנִים הַזְּכָרִים׃

9  Of the sons of Yoav, Ovadya son of Yechiel; and with him 218 males.

ט  מִבְּנֵי יוֹאָב עֹבַדְיָה בֶּן־יְחִיאֵל וְעִמּוֹ מָאתַיִם וּשְׁמֹנָה עָשָׂר הַזְּכָרִים׃

10  And of the sons of Shelomith, the son of Josiphiah; and with him 160 males.

י  וּמִבְּנֵי שְׁלוֹמִית בֶּן־יוֹסִפְיָה וְעִמּוֹ מֵאָה וְשִׁשִּׁים הַזְּכָרִים׃

11  And of the sons of Bebai, Zecharya son of Bebai; and with him 28 males.

יא  וּמִבְּנֵי בֵבַי זְכַרְיָה בֶּן־בֵּבָי וְעִמּוֹ עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁמֹנָה הַזְּכָרִים׃

12  And of the sons of Azgad, Yochanan son of Hakkatan; and with him 110 males.

יב  וּמִבְּנֵי עַזְגָּד יוֹחָנָן בֶּן־הַקָּטָן וְעִמּוֹ מֵאָה וַעֲשָׂרָה הַזְּכָרִים׃

13  And of the sons of Adonikam, who were the last; and these are their names: Eliphelet, Jeiel, and Shemaya; and with them 60 males.

יג  וּמִבְּנֵי אֲדֹנִיקָם אַחֲרֹנִים וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹתָם אֱלִיפֶלֶט יְעִיאֵל וּשְׁמַעְיָה וְעִמָּהֶם שִׁשִּׁים הַזְּכָרִים׃

14  And of the sons of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur; and with them 70 males.

יד  וּמִבְּנֵי בִגְוַי עוּתַי וזבוד [וְזַכּוּר] וְעִמּוֹ שִׁבְעִים הַזְּכָרִים׃

15  These I assembled by the river that enters Ahava, and we encamped there for three days. I reviewed the people and the Kohanim, but I did not find any Leviim there.

טו  וָאֶקְבְּצֵם אֶל־הַנָּהָר הַבָּא אֶל־אַהֲוָא וַנַּחֲנֶה שָׁם יָמִים שְׁלֹשָׁה וָאָבִינָה בָעָם וּבַכֹּהֲנִים וּמִבְּנֵי לֵוִי לֹא־מָצָאתִי שָׁם׃

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