Was Zerubavel Moschiach?

Part 2 of 4

Zerubavel was from the tribe of Yehuda.  Yehuda and Yoseph, two of the 12 original sons of Yaakov both represent leadership, salvation, and redemption; they embody the concept of Moshiach.  Moshiach ben Dovid is Yehuda’s offspring .  There is also a Moshiach ben Yoseph.  At the incident of the twelve Jewish spies (מרגלים) sent by Moshe to scout out the Land of Eretz Yisrael, there were only two leaders who stood apart as righteous individuals dedicated to the Land of Israel: Calev from the tribe of Yehuda and Yehoshua from the tribe of Yoseph.

Interestingly, it is only after the birth of Yoseph did Yaakov decide that it was time to leave Lavan, in Charan, and return to Eretz Yisrael:

בראשית ל:כה

            ויהי כאשר ילדה רחל את יוסף, ויאמר יעקב אל לבן שלחני ואלכה אל מקומי ולארצי.

And it was, when Rachel had given birth to Yoseph, Yaakov said to Lavan, “Grant me leave that I may go to my place and to my land. (Bereishis 30:25)

Later on in the story, we can see a hint to Yoseph having a link to Moshiach.  This is in the words uttered by Yaakov, “Od Yosef Chai! Yosef lives on!”

            בראשית מה:כח

            ויאמר ישראל, רב! עוד יוסף בני חי! אלכה ואראנו בטרם אמות.

The Talmud teaches us that during the war of Gog and Magog, the Moshiach ben Yoseph will die.  During this era he will ingather the Exiles and rebuild the Beis Hamikdash.   However, death and sin will continue to exist.  This Moshiach will be killed during the war of Gog and Magog.  A second Moshiach, Moshiach ben Dovid will then arise and eradicate death and sin from the world (Shnei Luchos Habris).  There is a debate which Moshiach will come first and whether it is definite that Moshiach ben Yoseph must die.

סוכה נב.

פליגי בה רב דוסא ורבנן. חד אמר על משיח בן יוסף שנהרג.

Rav Dosa and the Rabbonon disagreed about it. One said that the eulogy will be for the Moshiach descended from the tribe of Yoseph who will be killed in battle (Talmud Bavli Succah 52a)

Yoseph, the young prophet, had two dreams.  One of the dreams was about the sun, moon, and the stars; he was to be the leader of the group.  Although his brothers eventually bowed down to him, they never accepted him as their leader, and the repercussions of this rejection of Yoseph resonate throughout Jewish history.  Jewish history is made up of exiles, battles won and lost.  These exiles became an inevitable, inescapable and an integral part of Jewish history.

The exiles of the Jewish people started with Lavan.  This is one reason that we recount this story at the Bikurim (first fruit) ceremony and nowadays in the Hagaddah on Pesach.  The Vilna Gaon, (Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 11) draws a direct parallel from the story of Yaakov’s unnatural accrual of wealth, his escape from Lavan, and the three day chase culminating in confrontation on the seventh day with Lavan, with the Jewish Nation’s  Exodus from Egypt. Yaakov had a good job, a relatively comfortable life in Lavan’s home, and then he chose to make Aliyah! (Modern Israelis would call him a friar). This is in contrast to the Egyptian exile with a threat to the physical as well as spiritual survival of the Jewish people.  Yaakov faced a challenge of spiritual survival in Lavan’s home;  similar to the threat of the Greek Hellenistic culture to Torah Judaism in the Chanukah story.

The attack of יון, Greece, differs from all the other exiles since this one took place at home in Eretz Yisrael.  In addition, the Greeks chose to attack our spiritual foundation as Torah observant Jews.  Their intention was not physical annihilation of the Jewish people.  Just as the brothers failed to recognize Yosef as their leader at the appropriate time, the Chashmonaim Kohanim (priests), usurped the role of Royalty, which is not assigned to the tribe of Levi.  A Jewish King can only come from the tribe of Yehuda.

Zerubavel, the Jewish Leader from the tribe of Yehuda is Moshiach

The Navi Chagai was the first to mention Zerubavel as the ruler of Yehuda.  G-d admonished the Jews who had comfortable lives and nice houses in the Diaspora and therefore refused to return to the Land of Israel. (This is similar to the contemporary reasons that many Jews choose not to live in Israel).

חגי א:א-ד

…חגי הנביא אל זרבבל…העם הזה אמרו לא עת  בא עת בית ה להבנות…העת לכם אתם לשבת בבתיכם ספונים, והבית הזה חרב.

Chagai the Navi to Zerubavel…This nation has said, “The the time has not yet come!” [But I say] It is time for the Temple of Hashem to be rebuilt!…Is this a time for you, yourselves to dwell in your well-timbered houses, while this House lies in ruins? (Chagai 1:1-4)

Of more significance is the proclamation that Zerubavel is the chosen one, a redeemer from the tribe of Yehuda,  Moshiach!

חגי ב: כא-כג

…אני מרעיש את השמים ואת הארץ…ביום ההוא נאם ה צבקות אקחך זרבבל בן שאלתיאל עבדי נאם ה ושמתיך כחותם, כי בך בחרתי נאם ה צבקות.

…I will shake heavens and earth…On that day – the word of Hashem, Master of Legions – I will take you, Zerubavel son of Shealtiel, my servant – says G-d – and I will make you like [My] signet ring; …for I have chosen you – the word of Hashem, Master of Legions. (Chagai 2:21-23)

The leaders of the Jewish people have always come from the tribe of Yehuda.  When it came time to enter the Yam Suf after leaving Egypt, Nachshon son of Aminadav, from the tribe of Yehuda was the first to jump in and cause the sea to split.  Dovid and Shlomo built the first Beitei Hamikdash.  Similarly, Zerubavel of the tribe of Yehuda laid the corner stone to build the second Beis Hamikdash.  Likewise, the third Beis Hamikdash will be built by Moshiach ben Dovid (or Moshaich ben Yoseph according to another opinion).

According to the prophesy of Chagai, Zerubavel was sent by G-d to build the Beis Hamikdash.  The commentary Metzudas Dovid, refers to Zerubavel as “זרובבל מלך המשיח” (Metzudas Dovid, Yechezkel 21:31).  Zerubavel is from the tribe of Yehuda; the same tribe as Dovid Hamelech and can thus be considered  “Moshiach ben Dovid”.  Yet, Zerubavel disappeared from the Torah literature. What happened?

Once Zerubavel started the process of building the Beis Hamikdash, most of the Jews still remained in Bavel (Persia). The story of Purim took place among the Jews of Shushan (Persia), who were the ones that decided not to return to Eretz Yisrael and participate in the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash.  These Jews should have been living in Yerushalayim, not Shushan.  They should have accepted the leadership of Zerubavel and thus precipitate the end of the Persian galus (diaspora).  Instead, they chose to remain in their comfortable homes and secure jobs.

The man and woman chosen to lead the Jews to Salvation at the time of the Purim story were from the tribes of Yehuda and Binyamin. Mordechai is called both, ish yehudi and ish Yemini.

אסתר ב:ה

            איש יהודי היה בשושן הבירה, ושמו מרדכי בן יאיר בן שמעי בן קיש איש ימיני.

There was a member of Yehuda in Shushan the Capital, whose name was Mordechai,  son of Yair, son of Shimi, son of Kish,  member of Binyamin.

Esther was a descendant of King Shaul of the tribe of Binyamin.  Leah is the mother of Yehuda and Rachel is the mother of Binyamin.  Thus, Mordechai and Esther are a convergence of the children of Rachel and Leah.  Similarly, the Beis Hamikdash was physically built in the territory of these two tribes.  The base of the mizbeyach (copper Altar) was physically constructed partly in Binyamin’s territory and the other half of the base was sitting in Yehuda’s portion.

The Jews of the Persian Empire chose to remain in exile and they disobeyed G-d’s call to return to Eretz Yisrael under the leadership of Zerubavel and to build the second Beis Hamikdash.  One could argue that had all the Jews returned to Eretz Yisrael with Zerubavel, the Purim story would have been prevented (Yoma 9b). Had the Jews accepted Zerubavel of Yehuda, the Messianic age would have begun with the building of the second Beis Hamikdash, an everlasting Temple.

The project to build the Second Temple began on the 24th of Kislev 3391 (-370).  The process was not completed until two hundred and thirty years later on the 25th of Kislev 3622 (-139) with the consecration of the Second Beis Hamikdash by the Maccabees (The Chashmonaim).

Ten of the twelve sons of Yaakov rejected the leadership of Yoseph, which directly caused the Jewish exile and suffering in Egypt.  So too here, there were consequences for the Jewish Nation’s rejection of Zerubavel .  Zerubavel should have been accepted as the leader and redeemer of the Jewish people . The Jews ignored Chagai’s prophesy and rejected Zerubavel, with enormous repercussions experienced until today.

זכריה ד:ח-ט

ויהי דבר ה אלי לאמר: ידי זרבבל יסדו הבית הזה וידיו תבצענה, וידעתי כי ה’ צבקות שלחני אלכם:

The word of Hashem then came to me saying, the hands of Zerubavel laid the foundations of this Temple and his hands will complete it; then you will know that Hashem, Master of Legions, has sent me to you. (Zecharia 4:8-9)

G-d personally appointed Zerubavel as Moshiach ben Dovid for the Jewish people.  He encouraged the Jews to make Aliyah to Israel and to start building the Beis Hamikdash; most of the Jews chose to stay behind in the Diaspora. In the end, Zerubavel failed to complete his mission.  The Jews who stayed behind in Shushan were  almost annihilated.  The Purim celebration is a festival that should not have been.  It would not have occurred if the Jews had accepted the call to return to Eretz Yisrael under the leadership of  Zerubavel.

This is summarized by Rav Ari Kahn in Echoes of Eden, Sefer Bereishis pg. 285:

Zerubavel is the Mashiach the Jews did not want. He began building the Beit haMikdash they did not want, and he tried to get people to return to a Land they didn’t want. Hanukah actually celebrates the completion of the mission Zerbavel undertook – the building of the Second Beit haMikdash, whose consecration on the twenty-fifth of Kislev completes what was begun on the twenty-fourth of Kislev years earlier.  But this Beit haMikdash, when it was finally consecrated by the Maccabees, had one fatal flaw: the leadership role was never returned to its rightful owner, a descendent of Yehuda.  Instead, the Maccabees sinned by retaining the kingship for themselves, once again rejecting the leadership of Yehudah.  Inevitably, this led to a whole new exile, a new darkness, with its own struggles and challenges.  This is our current reality; these are our own struggles and challenges.

At the end of time as we know it, the Messianic age will result from the acceptance and fusion of the leadership of Yoseph and Yehuda.

יחזקל לז:יט-כב

דבר אלהם כה אמר אדנ-י ה’ הנה  אני לוקח אץ עץ יוסף אשר ביד אפרים ושיבטי ישראל חביריו, ונתתי אותם עליו את עץ יהודה ועשיתם לעץ אחד והיו אחד בידי.  והיו העצים אשר תכתב עליהם בידך לעינהם: ודבר אלהם כה אמר אדנ-י ה’ הנה אני לקח את בני ישראל מבן הגוים אשר הלכו שם, וקבצתי אתם מסביב והביתי אותם אל אדמתם: ועשיתי אתם לגוי אחד בארץ בהרי ישראל ומלך אחד יהיה לכלם למלך, ולא יהיו עוד לשני גוים ולא יחצו עוד לשתי ממלכות עוד:

say to them: Thus said the Lord Hashem Elokim: Behold, I am taking the stick of Yosef, which is in the hand of Efraim…the stick of Yehuda, and make them one stick,..I will take the people of Israel from among the nations, where they have gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel, and one king …no more be two nations, nor shall they be divided into two kingdoms anymore at all. (Yechezkel 37:19-22)

In addition to the Jews of the Persian Empire, many other Jewish communities refused to make Aliyah during the time of the second Beis Hamikdash.  None other than Ezra himself, tried in person in a futile effort, to convince the masses of Jews to make Aliyah.  He failed, due to the fact that life, at that time, was too comfortable for the Jewish communities in the Diaspora.

Yosef cried for the two Batei Mikdash which were built and destroyed in land of Binyamin.  In turn, Binyamin cried because of the destruction of Mishkan Shilo which was located in the territory of Yoseph.

            בראשית מה: יד

            ויפול על צוארי בנימין אחיו ויבך, ובינימין בכה על צואריו:

Then he [Yosef] fell upon his brother Binyomin’s neck and wept; and Binyomin wept upon his neck. (Bereishis 45:14)

Why did the cry now, so many years prior to these future calamities? The Zohar explains that if Yoseph held back one moment longer, the sin of mechiras Yoseph would have been entirely atoned for, and the final redemption would have arrived. Yoseph however, could not contain himself and this sealed the exile and destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.  That is why Yoseph and Binyamin cried.  The sale of  Yoseph occurred because of the sin of sinas chinam (baseless hatred).  In response, Yoseph  and Binyamin increased  their ahavas chinam  (baseless love) (Rabbi Yechezkiel of Kozmir).

Just as Yoseph was rejected as the Jewish leader, so was Zerubavel.  The redemption of the Jewish Nation, the return from exile, the rebuilding of the Temple was all supposed to occur with Zerubavel.  Most of the Jewish people chose not to return to Eretz Yisrael, thus the redemption and building of the Temple did not occur and it had to be delayed.  However, the opportunity for Moshiach to be revealed at that time was lost.

About the Author
Arie E. Pelta, M.D., a Board Certified General and Colorectal Surgeon from the USA , made aliyah with his wife and 7 children in 2013. He is also a active Medical Corps Officer holding the rank of Captain in the IDF Reserves. Currently practicing in Laniado Hospital in Netanya and at Assuta Medical Center in Tel Aviv, part of the Assia Medical group; speciaizing in the surgical care of all problems of the colon, rectum and anus.
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