Nehemiah 13
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Listen to this chapter in Hebrew:

1  At that time they read to the people from the Book of Moshe, and it was found written that no Amonite or Moabite might ever enter the congregation of Hashem,

א  בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא נִקְרָא בְּסֵפֶר מֹשֶׁה בְּאָזְנֵי הָעָם וְנִמְצָא כָּתוּב בּוֹ אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יָבוֹא עַמֹּנִי וּמֹאָבִי בִּקְהַל הָאֱלֹהִים עַד־עוֹלָם׃

2  since they did not meet Yisrael with bread and water, and hired Balaam against them to curse them; but our God turned the curse into a blessing.

ב  כִּי לֹא קִדְּמוּ אֶת־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּלֶּחֶם וּבַמָּיִם וַיִּשְׂכֹּר עָלָיו אֶת־בִּלְעָם לְקַלְלוֹ וַיַּהֲפֹךְ אֱלֹהֵינוּ הַקְּלָלָה לִבְרָכָה׃

3  When they heard the Teaching, they separated all the alien admixture from Yisrael.

ג  וַיְהִי כְּשָׁמְעָם אֶת־הַתּוֹרָה וַיַּבְדִּילוּ כָל־עֵרֶב מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל׃

4  Earlier, the kohen Elyashiv, a relative of Tobiah, who had been appointed over the rooms in the House of our God,

ד  וְלִפְנֵי מִזֶּה אֶלְיָשִׁיב הַכֹּהֵן נָתוּן בְּלִשְׁכַּת בֵּית־אֱלֹהֵינוּ קָרוֹב לְטוֹבִיָּה׃

5  had assigned to him a large room where they used to store the meal offering, the frankincense, the equipment, the tithes of grain, wine, and oil, the dues of the Leviim, singers and gatekeepers, and the gifts for the kohanim.

ה  וַיַּעַשׂ לוֹ לִשְׁכָּה גְדוֹלָה וְשָׁם הָיוּ לְפָנִים נֹתְנִים אֶת־הַמִּנְחָה הַלְּבוֹנָה וְהַכֵּלִים וּמַעְשַׂר הַדָּגָן הַתִּירוֹשׁ וְהַיִּצְהָר מִצְוַת הַלְוִיִּם וְהַמְשֹׁרְרִים וְהַשֹּׁעֲרִים וּתְרוּמַת הַכֹּהֲנִים׃

6  During all this time, I was not in Yerushalayim, for in the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes of Babylon, I went to the king, and only after a while did I ask leave of the king [to return].

ו  וּבְכָל־זֶה לֹא הָיִיתִי בִּירוּשָׁלִָם כִּי בִּשְׁנַת שְׁלֹשִׁים וּשְׁתַּיִם לְאַרְתַּחְשַׁסְתְּא מֶלֶךְ־בָּבֶל בָּאתִי אֶל־הַמֶּלֶךְ וּלְקֵץ יָמִים נִשְׁאַלְתִּי מִן־הַמֶּלֶךְ׃

7  When I arrived in Yerushalayim, I learned of the outrage perpetrated by Elyashiv on behalf of Tobiah in assigning him a room in the courts of the House of Hashem.

ז  וָאָבוֹא לִירוּשָׁלִָם וָאָבִינָה בָרָעָה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה אֶלְיָשִׁיב לְטוֹבִיָּה לַעֲשׂוֹת לוֹ נִשְׁכָּה בְּחַצְרֵי בֵּית הָאֱלֹהִים׃

8  I was greatly displeased, and had all the household gear of Tobiah thrown out of the room;

ח  וַיֵּרַע לִי מְאֹד וָאַשְׁלִיכָה אֶת־כָּל־כְּלֵי בֵית־טוֹבִיָּה הַחוּץ מִן־הַלִּשְׁכָּה׃

9  I gave orders to purify the rooms, and had the equipment of the House of Hashem and the meal offering and the frankincense put back.

ט  וָאֹמְרָה וַיְטַהֲרוּ הַלְּשָׁכוֹת וָאָשִׁיבָה שָּׁם כְּלֵי בֵּית הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת־הַמִּנְחָה וְהַלְּבוֹנָה׃

10  I then discovered that the portions of the Leviim had not been contributed, and that the Leviim and the singers who performed the [temple] service had made off, each to his fields.

י  וָאֵדְעָה כִּי־מְנָיוֹת הַלְוִיִּם לֹא נִתָּנָה וַיִּבְרְחוּ אִישׁ־לְשָׂדֵהוּ הַלְוִיִּם וְהַמְשֹׁרְרִים עֹשֵׂי הַמְּלָאכָה׃

11  I censured the prefects, saying, “How is it that the House of Hashem has been neglected?” Then I recalled [the Leviim] and installed them again in their posts;

יא  וָאָרִיבָה אֶת־הַסְּגָנִים וָאֹמְרָה מַדּוּעַ נֶעֱזַב בֵּית־הָאֱלֹהִים וָאֶקְבְּצֵם וָאַעֲמִדֵם עַל־עָמְדָם׃

12  and all Yehuda brought the tithes of grain, wine, and oil into the treasuries.

יב  וְכָל־יְהוּדָה הֵבִיאוּ מַעְשַׂר הַדָּגָן וְהַתִּירוֹשׁ וְהַיִּצְהָר לָאוֹצָרוֹת׃

13  I put the treasuries in the charge of the kohen Shelemiah, the scribe Tzadok, and Pedaiah of the Leviim; and assisting them was Hanan son of Zaccur son of Mattaniah—for they were regarded as trustworthy persons, and it was their duty to distribute the portions to their brothers.

יג  וָאוֹצְרָה עַל־אוֹצָרוֹת שֶׁלֶמְיָה הַכֹּהֵן וְצָדוֹק הַסּוֹפֵר וּפְדָיָה מִן־הַלְוִיִּם וְעַל־יָדָם חָנָן בֶּן־זַכּוּר בֶּן־מַתַּנְיָה כִּי נֶאֱמָנִים נֶחְשָׁבוּ וַעֲלֵיהֶם לַחֲלֹק לַאֲחֵיהֶם׃

14  O my God, remember me favorably for this, and do not blot out the devotion I showed toward the House of my God and its attendants.

יד  זָכְרָה־לִּי אֱלֹהַי עַל־זֹאת וְאַל־תֶּמַח חֲסָדַי אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתִי בְּבֵית אֱלֹהַי וּבְמִשְׁמָרָיו׃

15  At that time I saw men in Yehuda treading winepresses on the Shabbat, and others bringing heaps of grain and loading them onto asses, also wine, grapes, figs, and all sorts of goods, and bringing them into Yerushalayim on the Shabbat. I admonished them there and then for selling provisions.

טו  בַּיָּמִים הָהֵמָּה רָאִיתִי בִיהוּדָה דֹּרְכִים־גִּתּוֹת בַּשַּׁבָּת וּמְבִיאִים הָעֲרֵמוֹת וְעֹמְסִים עַל־הַחֲמֹרִים וְאַף־יַיִן עֲנָבִים וּתְאֵנִים וְכָל־מַשָּׂא וּמְבִיאִים יְרוּשָׁלִַם בְּיוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת וָאָעִיד בְּיוֹם מִכְרָם צָיִד׃

16  Tyrians who lived there brought fish and all sorts of wares and sold them on the Shabbat to the Yehudahites in Yerushalayim.

טז  וְהַצֹּרִים יָשְׁבוּ בָהּ מְבִיאִים דָּאג וְכָל־מֶכֶר וּמֹכְרִים בַּשַּׁבָּת לִבְנֵי יְהוּדָה וּבִירוּשָׁלִָם׃

17  I censured the nobles of Yehuda, saying to them, “What evil thing is this that you are doing, profaning the Shabbat day!

יז  וָאָרִיבָה אֵת חֹרֵי יְהוּדָה וָאֹמְרָה לָהֶם מָה־הַדָּבָר הָרָע הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם עֹשִׂים וּמְחַלְּלִים אֶת־יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת׃

18  This is just what your ancestors did, and for it Hashem brought all this misfortune on this city; and now you give cause for further wrath against Yisrael by profaning the Shabbat!”

יח  הֲלוֹא כֹה עָשׂוּ אֲבֹתֵיכֶם וַיָּבֵא אֱלֹהֵינוּ עָלֵינוּ אֵת כָּל־הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת וְעַל הָעִיר הַזֹּאת וְאַתֶּם מוֹסִיפִים חָרוֹן עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵל לְחַלֵּל אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּת׃

19  When shadows filled the gateways of Yerushalayim at the approach of the Shabbat, I gave orders that the doors be closed, and ordered them not to be opened until after the Shabbat. I stationed some of my servants at the gates, so that no goods should enter on the Shabbat.

vai-HEE ka-a-SHER tza-l’-LU sha-a-RAY y’-ru-sha-LA-im lif-NAY ha-sha-BAT va-o-m’-RAH va-yi-sa-g’-RU ha-d’-la-TOT va-o-m’-RAH a-SHER LO yif-ta-KHUM AD a-KHAR ha-sha-BAT u-mi-n’-a-RAI he-e-MAD-tee al ha-sh’-a-REEM lo ya-VO ma-SA b’-YOM ha-sha-BAT

יט  וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר צָלֲלוּ שַׁעֲרֵי יְרוּשָׁלִַם לִפְנֵי הַשַּׁבָּת וָאֹמְרָה וַיִּסָּגְרוּ הַדְּלָתוֹת וָאֹמְרָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִפְתָּחוּם עַד אַחַר הַשַּׁבָּת וּמִנְּעָרַי הֶעֱמַדְתִּי עַל־הַשְּׁעָרִים לֹא־יָבוֹא מַשָּׂא בְּיוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת׃

13:19   I gave orders that the doors be closed

Jerusalem’s Old City constituted the entire city of Yerushalyim until the 1860’s. There had always been a protective wall surrounding it, with gates allowing passage in and out. In Nechemya’s time, the wall was reconstructed and the gates, with their strong doors, were closed to bar passage from evildoers. When the Crusaders ruled over Yerushalayim, the walls surrounding the city had only four gates, but when Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Turkish Empire renovated the walls of Yerushalayim from 1538-42, he ensured that there were six functional gates.  In 1887, the New Gate was added and the Tanners’ Gate was discovered and opened during excavations in the 1990a. Like Nechemya’s gates, until 1887 the current Old City gates were closed each day before sunset and opened again at sunrise. Today, however, seven of the gates remain open all the time and have no doors. Only the Gate of Mercy on the eastern side of the Temple Mount wall remains sealed and, according to tradition, will be reopened in the days of the Mashiach. According to Yechezkel, in the future there will be twelve gates leading to the city of Yerushalyim, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel (Ezekiel 48:31-34). No matter how many gates there are, “Hashem loves the gates of Tzion, more than all the dwellings of Yaakov” (Psalms 87:2), for they lead to his most precious city, Yerushalayim.1 comment

20  Once or twice the merchants and the vendors of all sorts of wares spent the night outside Yerushalayim,

כ  וַיָּלִינוּ הָרֹכְלִים וּמֹכְרֵי כָל־מִמְכָּר מִחוּץ לִירוּשָׁלִָם פַּעַם וּשְׁתָּיִם׃

21  but I warned them, saying, “What do you mean by spending the night alongside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands upon you!” From then on they did not come on the Shabbat.

כא  וָאָעִידָה בָהֶם וָאֹמְרָה אֲלֵיהֶם מַדּוּעַ אַתֶּם לֵנִים נֶגֶד הַחוֹמָה אִם־תִּשְׁנוּ יָד אֶשְׁלַח בָּכֶם מִן־הָעֵת הַהִיא לֹא־בָאוּ בַּשַּׁבָּת׃

22  I gave orders to the Leviim to purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to preserve the sanctity of the Shabbat. This too, O my God, remember to my credit, and spare me in accord with your abundant faithfulness.

כב  וָאֹמְרָה לַלְוִיִּם אֲשֶׁר יִהְיוּ מִטַּהֲרִים וּבָאִים שֹׁמְרִים הַשְּׁעָרִים לְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת־יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת גַּם־זֹאת זָכְרָה־לִּי אֱלֹהַי וְחוּסָה עָלַי כְּרֹב חַסְדֶּךָ׃

23  Also at that time, I saw that Yehudim had married Ashdodite, Amonite, and Moabite women;

כג  גַּם בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם רָאִיתִי אֶת־הַיְּהוּדִים הֹשִׁיבוּ נָשִׁים אשדודיות [אַשְׁדֳּדִיּוֹת] עמוניות [עַמֳּנִיּוֹת] מוֹאֲבִיּוֹת׃

24  a good number of their children spoke the language of Ashdod and the language of those various peoples, and did not know how to speak Judean.

uv-nay-HEM kha-TZEE m’-da-BAYR ash-do-DEET v’-ay-NAM ma-kee-REEM l’-da-BAYR y’-hu-DEET v’-khil-SHON am va-AM

כד  וּבְנֵיהֶם חֲצִי מְדַבֵּר אַשְׁדּוֹדִית וְאֵינָם מַכִּירִים לְדַבֵּר יְהוּדִית וְכִלְשׁוֹן עַם וָעָם׃

13:24 did not know how to speak Judean

Nechemya bemoans the fact that in seventy years of exile the Jews of his generation forgot how to speak Hebrew. The situation was even worse in the modern era after 2,500 years of exile, when Hebrew was nearly extinct, reserved exclusively as the Jewish holy language for prayer and study. This all changed with the advent of the Zionist revival, thanks in large part to the efforts of one man, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (1858-1922), who decided that “in order to have our own land and political life it is also necessary that we have a language to hold us together.” Many scoffed at Ben-Yehuda’s vision, but today Hebrew has been revived from the dustbin of history and is the official language of the State of Israel. Millions of Israeli Jews today converse in Hebrew, conduct their daily affairs in Hebrew, and can read the Tanakh in their original mother tongue as well. In the words of his biographer, “Before Ben-Yehuda people could speak Hebrew; after him, they did.”Comment

25  I censured them, cursed them, flogged them, tore out their hair, and adjured them by Hashem, saying, “You shall not give your daughters in marriage to their sons, or take any of their daughters for your sons or yourselves.

כה  וָאָרִיב עִמָּם וָאֲקַלְלֵם וָאַכֶּה מֵהֶם אֲנָשִׁים וָאֶמְרְטֵם וָאַשְׁבִּיעֵם בֵּאלֹהִים אִם־תִּתְּנוּ בְנֹתֵיכֶם לִבְנֵיהֶם וְאִם־תִּשְׂאוּ מִבְּנֹתֵיהֶם לִבְנֵיכֶם וְלָכֶם׃

26  It was just in such things that King Shlomo of Yisrael sinned! Among the many nations there was not a king like him, and so well loved was he by his God that Hashem made him king of all Yisrael, yet foreign wives caused even him to sin.

כו  הֲלוֹא עַל־אֵלֶּה חָטָא־שְׁלֹמֹה מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל וּבַגּוֹיִם הָרַבִּים לֹא־הָיָה מֶלֶךְ כָּמֹהוּ וְאָהוּב לֵאלֹהָיו הָיָה וַיִּתְּנֵהוּ אֱלֹהִים מֶלֶךְ עַל־כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵל גַּם־אוֹתוֹ הֶחֱטִיאוּ הַנָּשִׁים הַנָּכְרִיּוֹת׃

27  How, then, can we acquiesce in your doing this great wrong, breaking faith with our God by marrying foreign women?”

כז  וְלָכֶם הֲנִשְׁמַע לַעֲשֹׂת אֵת כָּל־הָרָעָה הַגְּדוֹלָה הַזֹּאת לִמְעֹל בֵּאלֹהֵינוּ לְהֹשִׁיב נָשִׁים נָכְרִיּוֹת׃

28  One of the sons of Joiada son of the kohen gadol Elyashiv was a son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite; I drove him away from me.

כח  וּמִבְּנֵי יוֹיָדָע בֶּן־אֶלְיָשִׁיב הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל חָתָן לְסַנְבַלַּט הַחֹרֹנִי וָאַבְרִיחֵהוּ מֵעָלָי׃

29  Remember to their discredit, O my God, how they polluted the priesthood, the covenant of the kohanim and Leviim.

כט  זָכְרָה לָהֶם אֱלֹהָי עַל גָּאֳלֵי הַכְּהֻנָּה וּבְרִית הַכְּהֻנָּה וְהַלְוִיִּם׃

30  I purged them of every foreign element, and arranged for the kohanim and the Leviim to work each at his task by shifts,

ל  וְטִהַרְתִּים מִכָּל־נֵכָר וָאַעֲמִידָה מִשְׁמָרוֹת לַכֹּהֲנִים וְלַלְוִיִּם אִישׁ בִּמְלַאכְתּוֹ׃

31  and for the wood offering [to be brought] at fixed times and for the first fruits. O my God, remember it to my credit!

לא  וּלְקֻרְבַּן הָעֵצִים בְּעִתִּים מְזֻמָּנוֹת וְלַבִּכּוּרִים זָכְרָה־לִּי אֱלֹהַי לְטוֹבָה׃

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Nehemiah 12

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Nehemiah 13

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