Nehemiah 8
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1  all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the broad place that was before the water gate; and they spoke unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the Law of Moshe, which Hashem had commanded to Yisrael.

א  וַיֵּאָסְפוּ כָל הָעָם כְּאִישׁ אֶחָד אֶל הָרְחוֹב אֲשֶׁר לִפְנֵי שַׁעַר הַמָּיִם וַיֹּאמְרוּ לְעֶזְרָא הַסֹּפֵר לְהָבִיא אֶת סֵפֶר תּוֹרַת מֹשֶׁה אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל.

2  And Ezra the Kohen brought the Law before the congregation, both men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.

ב  וַיָּבִיא עֶזְרָא הַכֹּהֵן אֶת הַתּוֹרָה לִפְנֵי הַקָּהָל מֵאִישׁ וְעַד אִשָּׁה וְכֹל מֵבִין לִשְׁמֹעַ בְּיוֹם אֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי.

3  And he read therein before the broad place that was before the water gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women, and of those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the Law.

ג  וַיִּקְרָא בוֹ לִפְנֵי הָרְחוֹב אֲשֶׁר לִפְנֵי שַׁעַר הַמַּיִם מִן הָאוֹר עַד מַחֲצִית הַיּוֹם נֶגֶד הָאֲנָשִׁים וְהַנָּשִׁים וְהַמְּבִינִים וְאָזְנֵי כָל הָעָם אֶל סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה.

4  And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Uriah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchijah, and Hashum, and Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam.

ד  וַיַּעֲמֹד עֶזְרָא הַסֹּפֵר עַל מִגְדַּל עֵץ אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ לַדָּבָר וַיַּעֲמֹד אֶצְלוֹ מַתִּתְיָה וְשֶׁמַע וַעֲנָיָה וְאוּרִיָּה וְחִלְקִיָּה וּמַעֲשֵׂיָה עַל יְמִינוֹ וּמִשְּׂמֹאלוֹ פְּדָיָה וּמִישָׁאֵל וּמַלְכִּיָּה וְחָשֻׁם וְחַשְׁבַּדָּנָה זְכַרְיָה מְשֻׁלָּם.

5  And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people–for he was above all the people–and when he opened it, all the people stood up.

ה  וַיִּפְתַּח עֶזְרָא הַסֵּפֶר לְעֵינֵי כָל הָעָם כִּי מֵעַל כָּל הָעָם הָיָה וּכְפִתְחוֹ עָמְדוּ כָל הָעָם.

6  And Ezra blessed Hashem, the great God. And all the people answered: ‘Amen, Amen’, with the lifting up of their hands; and they bowed their heads, and fell down before Hashem with their faces to the ground.

ו  וַיְבָרֶךְ עֶזְרָא אֶת יְהוָה הָאֱלֹהִים הַגָּדוֹל וַיַּעֲנוּ כָל הָעָם אָמֵן אָמֵן בְּמֹעַל יְדֵיהֶם וַיִּקְּדוּ וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ לַיהוָה אַפַּיִם אָרְצָה.

7  Also Yeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Yozavad, Hanan, Pelaiah, even the Leviim, caused the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place.

ז  וְיֵשׁוּעַ וּבָנִי וְשֵׁרֵבְיָה יָמִין עַקּוּב שַׁבְּתַי הוֹדִיָּה מַעֲשֵׂיָה קְלִיטָא עֲזַרְיָה יוֹזָבָד חָנָן פְּלָאיָה וְהַלְוִיִּם מְבִינִים אֶת הָעָם לַתּוֹרָה וְהָעָם עַל עָמְדָם.

8  And they read in the book, in the Law of God, distinctly; and they gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.

ח  וַיִּקְרְאוּ בַסֵּפֶר בְּתוֹרַת הָאֱלֹהִים מְפֹרָשׁ וְשׂוֹם שֶׂכֶל וַיָּבִינוּ בַּמִּקְרָא.

9  And Nechemiah, who was the Tirshatha, and Ezra the Kohen the scribe, and the Leviim that taught the people, said unto all the people: ‘This day is holy unto Hashem your God; mourn not, nor weep.’ For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.

ט  וַיֹּאמֶר נְחֶמְיָה הוּא הַתִּרְשָׁתָא וְעֶזְרָא הַכֹּהֵן הַסֹּפֵר וְהַלְוִיִּם הַמְּבִינִים אֶת הָעָם לְכָל הָעָם הַיּוֹם קָדֹשׁ הוּא לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אַל תִּתְאַבְּלוּ וְאַל תִּבְכּוּ כִּי בוֹכִים כָּל הָעָם כְּשָׁמְעָם אֶת דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה.

10  Then he said unto them: ‘Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy unto our Lord; neither be ye grieved; for the joy of Hashem is your strength.’

י  וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם לְכוּ אִכְלוּ מַשְׁמַנִּים וּשְׁתוּ מַמְתַקִּים וְשִׁלְחוּ מָנוֹת לְאֵין נָכוֹן לוֹ כִּי קָדוֹשׁ הַיּוֹם לַאֲדֹנֵינוּ וְאַל תֵּעָצֵבוּ כִּי חֶדְוַת יְהוָה הִיא מָעֻזְּכֶם.

11  So the Leviim stilled all the people, saying: ‘Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved.’

יא  וְהַלְוִיִּם מַחְשִׁים לְכָל הָעָם לֵאמֹר הַסּוּ כִּי הַיּוֹם קָדֹשׁ וְאַל תֵּעָצֵבוּ.

12  And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.

יב  וַיֵּלְכוּ כָל הָעָם לֶאֱכֹל וְלִשְׁתּוֹת וּלְשַׁלַּח מָנוֹת וְלַעֲשׂוֹת שִׂמְחָה גְדוֹלָה כִּי הֵבִינוּ בַּדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר הוֹדִיעוּ לָהֶם.

13  And on the second day were gathered together the heads of fathers’ houses of all the people, the Kohanim, and the Leviim, unto Ezra the scribe, even to give attention to the words of the Law.

יג  וּבַיּוֹם הַשֵּׁנִי נֶאֶסְפוּ רָאשֵׁי הָאָבוֹת לְכָל הָעָם הַכֹּהֲנִים וְהַלְוִיִּם אֶל עֶזְרָא הַסֹּפֵר וּלְהַשְׂכִּיל אֶל דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה.

14  And they found written in the Law, how that Hashem had commanded by Moshe, that B’nei Yisrael should dwell in Sukkot in the feast of the seventh month;

יד  וַיִּמְצְאוּ כָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה בְּיַד מֹשֶׁה אֲשֶׁר יֵשְׁבוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּסֻּכּוֹת בֶּחָג בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי.

15  and that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Yerushalayim, saying: ‘Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and branches of wild olive, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make Sukkot, as it is written.’

va-a-SHER yash-MEE-u v’-ya-a-VEE-ru kol b’-KHOL a-ray-HEM u-vee-ru-sha-LA-yim lay-MOR tz’-U ha-HAR v’-ha-VEE-u a-LAY ZA-yit va-a-LAY aytz SHE-men va-a-LAY ha-DAS va-a-LAY t’-ma-REEM va-a-LAY aytz a-VOT la-a-SOT su-KOT ka-ka-TUV

טו  וַאֲשֶׁר יַשְׁמִיעוּ וְיַעֲבִירוּ קוֹל בְּכָל עָרֵיהֶם וּבִירוּשָׁלִַם לֵאמֹר צְאוּ הָהָר וְהָבִיאוּ עֲלֵי זַיִת וַעֲלֵי עֵץ שֶׁמֶן וַעֲלֵי הֲדַס וַעֲלֵי תְמָרִים וַעֲלֵי עֵץ עָבֹת לַעֲשֹׂת סֻכֹּת כַּכָּתוּב.

8:15   Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches

Any species of tree may be used to construct the ‘sukkah’ or booth. Why, then, did the people specifically fetch olive branches? Besides being one of the seven agricultural species that are special products of the Land of Israel (Deuteronomy 8:8), the olive also plays a significant role in the story of Noah’s flood. After the rain stopped falling, Noah sent out a dove to see if the flood waters had receded. When the dove returned with a freshly plucked olive leaf, “Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth” (Genesis 8:11). Additionally, the daily kindling of the ‘menorah’ lamp in the Temple is done exclusively with olive oil, and it is also ceremoniously used to anoint a new king. The common theme of these events is one of renewal. After the flood, the world was given a new start. Each time the ‘menorah’ lamp is lit, it is kindled anew without any reliance on previous lightings, and the coronation of a new king begins a new era in the kingdom. This symbolism was certainly not lost on the Jews in Nehemiah’s time, who were renewing their traditions in the God-given land of their forefathers.


16  So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves Sukkot, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the broad place of the water gate, and in the broad place of the gate of Efraim.

טז  וַיֵּצְאוּ הָעָם וַיָּבִיאוּ וַיַּעֲשׂוּ לָהֶם סֻכּוֹת אִישׁ עַל גַּגּוֹ וּבְחַצְרֹתֵיהֶם וּבְחַצְרוֹת בֵּית הָאֱלֹהִים וּבִרְחוֹב שַׁעַר הַמַּיִם וּבִרְחוֹב שַׁעַר אֶפְרָיִם.

17  And all the congregation of them that were come back out of the captivity made Sukkot, and dwelt in the Sukkot; for since the days of Yehoshua the son of Nun unto that day had not B’nei Yisrael done so. And there was very great gladness.

יז  וַיַּעֲשׂוּ כָל הַקָּהָל הַשָּׁבִים מִן הַשְּׁבִי סֻכּוֹת וַיֵּשְׁבוּ בַסֻּכּוֹת כִּי לֹא עָשׂוּ מִימֵי יֵשׁוּעַ בִּן נוּן כֵּן בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עַד הַיּוֹם הַהוּא וַתְּהִי שִׂמְחָה גְּדוֹלָה מְאֹד.

18  Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the ordinance.

יח  וַיִּקְרָא בְּסֵפֶר תּוֹרַת הָאֱלֹהִים יוֹם בְּיוֹם מִן הַיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן עַד הַיּוֹם הָאַחֲרוֹן וַיַּעֲשׂוּ חָג שִׁבְעַת יָמִים וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי עֲצֶרֶת כַּמִּשְׁפָּט.

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Nehemiah 7
Nehemiah 9

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  • I remember reading this some time ago and thinking then, how amazing that the people stood for the reading of the Law of God and the honour they gave the word. I think every time we read there is something new or revelation and this time I notice the word, in v 8 ‘They heard the word distinctly’ which means that before they hadn’t? Neither had I realized that the lamp could not be lit from a previous candle.

    There is much to be learned!

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Nehemiah 8