Home
In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review 29 Tammuz 3413 (348 BCE)

Ezra the Scribe returns from exile

By Rabbi Yonason Goldson


Printer Friendly Version

Email this article


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Two years after the first Purim festival in 3405 (356 BCE), the Persian king Ahasueraus died and was succeeded by his son, Darius. Although a Jew according to Jewish law, Darius considered himself Persian and identified with the country of his birth. Nevertheless, as the son of Esther, he acted toward the Jews with far more benevolence than his predecessors had.

In 3408, the second year of his reign, Darius granted the Jews permission to continue the work halted 18 years earlier by King Cyrus and to complete the reconstruction of their Temple in Jerusalem. Moreover, Darius helped finance the project, sent building materials, and warned the Persian governor in Samaria that he would not tolerate any interference with the Jews.

Under the direction of Zerubavel, the prince of Judah, together with the prophets Zecharyah, Chaggai, and Malachi, the second Temple was completed in 3412 (349 BCE). On the third day of the month of Adar the Jews in Israel inaugurated the new Temple amidst great rejoicing, offering 100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 sheep, and 12 goats as sin offerings for the tribes of Israel.

Following the destruction of the first Temple, the tiny remnant of impoverished Jews left in Israel had struggled to survive in a land stripped of material and spiritual resources. 52 years later, during the reign of Cyrus in 3390 (371 BCE), Zerubavel, together with the nearly 43,000 who followed him, returned to their homeland. There they found a people spiritually and materially impoverished, their commitment to Torah eroded by lack of leadership and relentless exposure to the culture and values of the Samaritans among whom they lived.

THE TWILIGHT OF TRAGEDY AND REDEMPTION
When Zerubavel and the other leaders had originally returned to the land of Israel, their colleague Ezra the Scribe had remained in Babylon to assist his mentor, Baruch ben Neriyah, the foremost disciple of the prophet Jeremiah. Recognizing the potentially corrosive influence of Babylonian culture upon the Jews who would stay behind, Ezra labored to strengthen the spiritual state of the Jews of Babylon. By the time of his departure, he had ensured that the Jewish community would remain secure in its commitment to Torah.

In the year after the completion of the Temple, Baruch died and Ezra traveled to join the other leaders in Israel, arriving on the 29th day of the month of Tammuz. What he found there so anguished him that he ripped his garments, tore out his hair, and sat fasting in silence and isolation.

Although Zerubavel and his colleagues succeeded in organizing the people to rebuild the Temple, they had far less success turning the most disaffected Jews back to Torah observance. Torah study had become neglected, as had such fundamental Jewish precepts as the Sabbath and circumcision. Many prominent Jews, including the sons of Yehoshua ben Yehotzedek, the High Priest, had taken foreign women for wives.

These were the conditions that confronted Ezra when he arrived in Israel. But where the other leaders had failed, Ezra succeeded. Instead of rebuking the people, Ezra raised his voice in prayer and publicly lamented the sorrowful condition of Jewish society. Hearing Ezra's lamentations, a crowd of Jews gathered around him and, moved by his passion, confessed their disloyalty to G-d and beseeched Ezra to lead them in repentance.

Responding to the groundswell of renewed commitment, Ezra proclaimed a public assembly and exhorted the people with such emotion that, with only minimal resistance, the people as one declared their loyalty to the Divine, confessed their transgressions, separated from their non-Jewish wives, and acknowledged their covenant with the Almighty anew.

So intense was the remorse of the Jews who had sinned that Ezra instituted a special guilt-offering for this occasion to allow them a means of expressing their repentance. Rather than castigate the people for their transgressions, which might well have driven them even farther away, Ezra aroused their sense of shame and their desire to return to the straight path. By expressing and displaying his own personal grief at how far the people had descended, by declaring the urgency with which they must distance themselves from their sins, Ezra brought about repentance on a national scale.

NEW CITY, NEW HOPE, NEW COVENANT
The restoration of the city walls of Jerusalem was completed on the 25th day of the month of Elul in 3427 (334 BCE), the anniversary of the First Day of Creation. Six days later, on Rosh HaShonah, the entire Jewish population gathered in the capital to hear Ezra read from the Torah Scroll and expound upon the Oral Law. At first the people wept with sorrow when they realized how severely they had neglected the teachings of Moses the Lawgiver, but Ezra urged them to look forward and consider the opportunity they now had to learn G-d's Torah and carry out His will.

Ezra's words comforted the Jews, and the days that followed saw a resurgence of Torah commitment. Two weeks later, the people's observance of the Sukkos festival was the most jubilant since the days of Joshua. And, the day after the festival concluded, the people convened for yet another assembly to make a collective expression of repentance and renew their commitment to uphold the Torah, its commandments, and its values. The Levites recited a song of praise recounting the Almighty's beneficence to the Jewish people from the time of the exodus from Egypt. The people responded by reaffirming their pledge to honor both the Written Torah and the Oral transmission as handed down by the prophets and the sages.

This assembly culminated in the formal Bris Amanah, or Covenant of Trust, which was not only read but written out in a series of documents and signed by the priests and the Levites, the members of the Sanhedrin, and the thirteen Temple officers. In it the Jews of Israel vowed to take wives for themselves and husbands for their daughters only from within the Jewish people, to cease the common practice of buying and selling of produce on the Sabbath, to suspend agriculture work and release loans in the Sabbatical years, and to support the Temple service and the priests through tithes and seasonal donations.

The acceptance of the Bris Amanah was, for its time, as profoundly significant as the acceptance of the Torah at Sinai nearly a thousand years earlier. The open miracles and unmistakable revelation of G-d's will at Sinai had made it virtually impossible for the people not to accept the Torah. In contrast, the early days of the second Temple were characterized by the concealment of G-d's presence. Nevertheless, the new appreciation for rabbinic authority that the Jews had acquired after the miracle of Purim now found formal expression in the Bris Amanah.

During the last days of the first Temple and the spiritual darkness of the Babylonian exile, G-d's concealment had allowed the people to drift away from the Torah and lose their sense of national purpose. Now, under the leadership of Ezra, the people again recognized that only through their connection to the Divine could they survive as a nation, that only through Torah could they preserve that connection, and that only through the sages could their eyes and their hearts remain open to the Torah.


Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspiring articles. Sign up for our daily update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Rabbi Yonason Goldson teaches at Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis. Comment by clicking here.


Previously:

King Jeroboam of Israel prevents pilgrimage to Jerusalem
First printed Torah commentary
Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch
The Septuagint
End of the Great Flood
First Day of Creation
Reprise at Sinai
Tu B'Av: Repentance and the foundations of love
Sin of the Golden Calf: Understanding the how and why and resulting Divine punishment
The day the sun stood still
Nemirov massacres and the Chmielnicki uprising
Independent Judea under Shimon HaMaccabee
The Great Revolt begins
Dedication of new walls of Jerusalem

© 2006, Rabbi Yonason Goldson