1 In the fourth year of King Darius, on the fourth day of the ninth month, Kislev, the word of Hashem came to Zecharya—
א וַיְהִי בִּשְׁנַת אַרְבַּע לְדָרְיָוֶשׁ הַמֶּלֶךְ הָיָה דְבַר־יְהֹוָה אֶל־זְכַרְיָה בְּאַרְבָּעָה לַחֹדֶשׁ הַתְּשִׁעִי בְּכִסְלֵו׃
2 when Beit El-sharezer and Regem-melech and his men sent to entreat the favor of Hashem,
ב וַיִּשְׁלַח בֵּית־אֵל שַׂר־אֶצֶר וְרֶגֶם מֶלֶךְ וַאֲנָשָׁיו לְחַלּוֹת אֶת־פְּנֵי יְהֹוָה׃
3 [and] to address this inquiry to the Kohanim of the House of Hashem and to the Neviim: “Shall I weep and practice abstinence in the fifth month, as I have been doing all these years?”
ג לֵאמֹר אֶל־הַכֹּהֲנִים אֲשֶׁר לְבֵית־יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת וְאֶל־הַנְּבִיאִים לֵאמֹר הַאֶבְכֶּה בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַחֲמִשִׁי הִנָּזֵר כַּאֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתִי זֶה כַּמֶּה שָׁנִים׃
4 Thereupon the word of the lord of Hosts came to me:
ד וַיְהִי דְּבַר־יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת אֵלַי לֵאמֹר׃
5 Say to all the people of the land and to the Kohanim: When you fasted and lamented in the fifth and seventh months all these seventy years, did you fast for my benefit?
e-MOR el kol AM ha-A-retz v’-el ha-ko-ha-NEEM lay-MOR kee tzam-TEM v’-sa-FOD ba-kha-mee-SHEE u-va-sh’-vee-EE v’-ZEH shiv-EEM sha-NAH ha-TZOM tzam-TU-nee A-nee
ה אֱמֹר אֶל־כָּל־עַם הָאָרֶץ וְאֶל־הַכֹּהֲנִים לֵאמֹר כִּי־צַמְתֶּם וְסָפוֹד בַּחֲמִישִׁי וּבַשְּׁבִיעִי וְזֶה שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה הֲצוֹם צַמְתֻּנִי אָנִי׃
7:5 Did you fast for my benefit?
In the fourth year of King Darius, a delegation is sent to the prophet in Yerushalayim by the Jews who remained behind in Babylonia. They come with the following question: since the Jewish people are back in the Land of Israel and the Beit Hamikdash is being rebuilt, is it appropriate to continue to fast and mourn over the destruction of the first Temple, as they have been doing annually for decades? The prophet’s response is clear. In Hashem’s eyes, fasting and other external signs of mourning have no value if not accompanied by sincere repentance and ethical behavior (verses 9-10). The medieval commentator, Rabbi Yitzchak Abrabanel, notes that while the question originates from the Jews in Babylon, the answer is directed towards the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael. They sacrificed to return to the land; it is their actions that carry the most spiritual significance for the world.
6 And when you eat and drink, who but you does the eating, and who but you does the drinking?
ו וְכִי תֹאכְלוּ וְכִי תִשְׁתּוּ הֲלוֹא אַתֶּם הָאֹכְלִים וְאַתֶּם הַשֹּׁתִים׃
8 And the word of Hashem to Zecharya continued:
ח וַיְהִי דְּבַר־יְהֹוָה אֶל־זְכַרְיָה לֵאמֹר׃
9 Thus said the lord of Hosts: Execute true justice; deal loyally and compassionately with one another.
ט כֹּה אָמַר יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת לֵאמֹר מִשְׁפַּט אֱמֶת שְׁפֹטוּ וְחֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים עֲשׂוּ אִישׁ אֶת־אָחִיו׃
10 Do not defraud the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; and do not plot evil against one another.—
י וְאַלְמָנָה וְיָתוֹם גֵּר וְעָנִי אַל־תַּעֲשֹׁקוּ וְרָעַת אִישׁ אָחִיו אַל־תַּחְשְׁבוּ בִּלְבַבְכֶם׃
11 But they refused to pay heed. They presented a balky back and turned a deaf ear.
יא וַיְמָאֲנוּ לְהַקְשִׁיב וַיִּתְּנוּ כָתֵף סֹרָרֶת וְאָזְנֵיהֶם הִכְבִּידוּ מִשְּׁמוֹעַ׃
12 They hardened their hearts like adamant against heeding the instruction and admonition that the lord of Hosts sent to them by His spirit through the earlier Neviim; and a terrible wrath issued from the lord of Hosts.
13 Even as He called and they would not listen, “So,” said the lord of Hosts, “let them call and I will not listen.”
יג וַיְהִי כַאֲשֶׁר־קָרָא וְלֹא שָׁמֵעוּ כֵּן יִקְרְאוּ וְלֹא אֶשְׁמָע אָמַר יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת׃
14 I dispersed them among all those nations which they had not known, and the land was left behind them desolate, without any who came and went. They caused a delightful land to be turned into a desolation.
יד וְאֵסָעֲרֵם עַל כָּל־הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יְדָעוּם וְהָאָרֶץ נָשַׁמָּה אַחֲרֵיהֶם מֵעֹבֵר וּמִשָּׁב וַיָּשִׂימוּ אֶרֶץ־חֶמְדָּה לְשַׁמָּה׃