Sunday, June 15, 2008

Zechariah and the Emblem of the State of Israel

Did the vision found in the Haftorah this week (Zechariah), have an impact on the founding fathers of the State of Israel?

In Chapter 4 we read:

And the angel that talked with me came again, and woke me, as a man that is woken from his sleep, And said to me, What do you see? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick made of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and his seven lamps on it, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which on the top. And two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl, and the other upon the left thereof.

The image that comes to mind is the emblem of the State of Israel, below:

If I'm right, and Israel's national emblem was inspired by this Biblical passage, then there's food for thought for both hardcore secular Zionists and Israeli-flag burning Jews. For the secular Zionist, the plain meaning of the vision of the Menorah and olive trees is explained immediately by the angel:

So I answered and spoke to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Do you not know what these things mean? And I said, No, my lord. Then he answered me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubavel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the LORD of hosts.

The message from Zechariah is that military power alone will not suffice to guarantee the returning Jews survival in the land. Only through 'the spirit of God' will the attempt to reclaim the land succeed. Fast-forward two millennia
, and the relevance for Jews in Israel today is astounding (to me anyway). The message again is that power without purpose leads nowhere.

But what's also interesting to me, is that the secular leaders who chose this emblem must have been aware of the meaning. So, at the very heart of the supposedly secular, hedonistic country, condemned by so many ultra-Orthodox Jews, we find a national vision very different to that which they assume, and in fact, much closer to theirs.

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