Not By Power Nor By Might, But By My Spirit: Haftarah Miketz Reflections

Hebrew Vision News Exclusive

by Miykael Qorbanyahu aka The End Time Scribe

Messianic: Luke 4:16-31

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And the messenger who was speaking to me came back and woke me up as a man is awakened from sleep. And he said to me, ‘What do you see?’ So I said, ‘I have looked, and see: a lampstand all of gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven spouts to the seven lamps. And two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.’ Then I responded and spoke to the messenger who was speaking to me, saying, ‘What are these, my master?’ And the messenger who was speaking to me answered and said to me, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ And I said, ‘No, my master.’ And he answered and said to me, This is the word of יהוה to Zerubbaḇel, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ said יהוה of hosts.

Zekaryah 4.5-6

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According to the renown sage Moshe ben Maimon, aka Maimonides or the Rambam, the Hebrew word for spirit, ruach/רוּח, is a homonym that signifies the principles of air, wind, breath. He goes on to say that it also implies the concept of the divine inspiration of the prophets whereby they prophesy. In relation to this week’s haftarah from the scroll of Zekaryah, however, Rambam identifies the word רוּחַ more aptly in terms of the idea of the Will, or Providence, of יְהֹוָה. In his classic work, the Guide for the Perplexed, the Rambam says of this view that

The meaning of “intention,” “will,” is likewise contained in the word ruaḥ. Comp. “A fool uttereth all his spirit” (ruaḥ) (Prov. xxix. 11), i.e., his intention and will; “And the spirit (ruaḥ) of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof, and I will destroy the counsel thereof” (Isa. xix. 3), i.e., her intentions will be frustrated, and her plans will be obscured; “Who has comprehended the spirit (ruaḥ) of [יְהֹוָה], or who is familiar with his counsel that he may tell us?” (Isa. xl. 13), i.e., Who knows the order fixed by His will, or perceives the system of His Providence in the existing world, that he may tell us? as we shall explain in the chapters in which we shall speak on Providence. Thus the Hebrew ruaḥ when used in reference to [Elohim], has generally the fifth signification: sometimes, however, as explained above, the last signification, viz., “will.” The meaning of the word in each individual case is therefore to be determined by the context[1].

As relates to the Hebrew word will (ratsown/רָצוֹן), the Dictionary of Torah Names and Words provides this insightful definition:

a wish, desire; voluntary; acceptance, favor, grace; lit., a mind transformed by bonding with the Son of Man. Values, 346: wisdom drawn from bonds; 340: wisdom mirrored.

I will address this precept in more depth towards the conclusion of this writing and connect it to the main thesis of this article, yet in the interim, I desired and found it acceptable at this juncture to provide, for the favor of the reader, a succinct and working definition of the Hebraic idea of the word will to make this abstraction more  concrete.

And so it is with this week’s parsha, Miketz (מקץ/from the end) that we see the Will of יְהֹוָה at work in the life of Yoseph who now assumes his predestined role as ruler and savior of the known world of his day. The dreams which were shown to him earlier in his life have now prophetically manifested as his ascent from slave and prisoner to vizier of the country brought about the fulfillment of his eleven brothers bowing before him when they arrived in Mitzrayim to procure food to carry them and their tribesmen and women through the famine back in Kena’an.  In this situation it was, indeed,  clearly the Providence of יְהֹוָה that Yoseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and sent to Mitzrayim ahead of the seven year severe famine that was to come upon the known world in order be the catalyst for the refinement of creation and humanity to bring forth a higher, more heavenly purpose. Though unseen at the outset of this dramatic unfolding of events, it becomes manifest that Providence of יְהֹוָה was mightily at work in the life of Yoseph, through whom we are able to see a marvelous reversal of fortune, as what seemed to be a most horrible circumstance materialized into a situation which turned out to be favorable for not only Yoseph, but for the entire known world. With these events it is apparent to see that יְהֹוָה truly works in the most mysterious of ways.

To further understand this idea of the Will, or Providence, of Heaven, the Rambam goes on to expound on the axiom by stating

The theory of man’s perfectly free will is one of the fundamental principles of the [Torah] of our Teacher Moses, and of those who follow the [Torah]. According to this principle man does what is in his power to do, by his nature, his choice, and his will; and his action is not due to any faculty created for the purpose. All species of irrational animals likewise move by their own free will. This is the Will of [Elohim]; that is to say, it is due to the eternal divine will that all living beings should move freely, and that man should have power to act according to his will or choice within the limits of his capacity[2].

Philosophically, scientifically and metaphysically speaking, the reality of human free will is a matter that few would dispute. For humanity, it is not just the fact that we are endowed with free will that elevates us as the highest and most perfect animal creation in existence, it is because we are also invested with the capability to utilize the higher cognitive faculties of intelligence, reason and logic. These cognitive capacities are given to us by our Creator for the purpose of making good decisions and ultimately arriving at the conclusion of qualitatively accepting the existence of the Creator of heaven, earth, sea and everything that is in them. Not only so, but they also provide us with the ability to make sound judgments which would further prevent us from incurring hurt, harm or injury to ourselves or another. It is when these capacities are impaired by emotional reactions and unreasonable responses, however, that we usually end up making impetuous decisions which ultimately causes a corresponding circumstance to occur. Hence the classic Newtonian law of physicsfor every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. In explaining this principle further, Maimonides goes on to say

We, however, believe that all these human affairs are managed with justice; far be it from [Elohim] to do wrong, to punish any one unless the punishment is necessary and merited. It is distinctly stated in the [Torah], that all is done in accordance with justice; and the words of our Sages generally express the same idea. They clearly say: “There is no death without sin, no sufferings without transgression.” (B. T. Shabbath, 55a.) Again, “The deserts of an [individual] are meted out to him in the same measure which he himself employs.” (Mish. Sotah, i. 7.) These are the words of the Mishnah. Our Sages declare it wherever opportunity is given, that the idea of [Elohim] necessarily implies justice; that He will reward the most pious for all their pure and upright actions, although no direct commandment was given them through a prophet; and that He will punish all the evil deeds of men, although they have not been prohibited by a prophet, if common sense warns against them, as e.g., injustice and violence. Thus our Sages say: “[Elohim] does not deprive any being of the full reward [of its good deed]” (B. T. Pes. 118a) again, “He who says that [Elohim] remits part of a punishment;, will be punished severely; He is long-suffering, but is sure to exact payment.” (B. T. Baba K. 50a.)[3].

Of this dynamic principle, we see this fully exemplified in the thirteen attributes of יְהֹוָה so as expressed in the thirty fourth chapter of Exodus. Here we discover that יְהֹוָה is an Ěl compassionate and showing favor, patient, and great in kindness and truth, watching over kindness for thousands, forgiving crookedness and transgression and sin, but by no means leaving unpunished, visiting the crookedness of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation. As One who rewards individuals of their deeds, it is the intent of the Creator to either affirm or reprimand an individual, or nations, for their behavior based on their righteous or wicked deeds, respectively. Maimonides goes on to say of this that,

In the lower or sublunary portion of the Universe Divine Providence does not extend to the individual members of species except in the case of mankind. It is only in this species that the incidents in the existence of the individual beings, their good and evil fortunes, are the result of justice, in accordance with the words, “For all His ways are judgment”[4].

As was mentioned earlier, our divine endowment of intellect, reason and logic sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, yet also places more accountability on our plate due to the moral imperatives that serve as a derivative from the benefits of having such cognitive capacities. For this is our purpose as humans, to utilize our cognition for the transformation of our consciousness from sublunary to superhuman. This transformation is that which the Master Mashiyach Yahoshua ben Yoseph spoke of when He informed the Pharisee Nakdimon that unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he is unable to enter into the reign of Elohim.

This transformative process is innately connected with the Divine Providence of יְהֹוָה. In fact, there is no way to discern the Will of יְהֹוָה other than having developed the consciousness through the study of the Torah. Herein is the meaning of the words of Rav Shaul of Tarsus when he says, be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you prove what is that good and well-pleasing and perfect desire of Elohim. To further elaborate on this matter, the Rambam goes on himself to say

Divine Providence is connected with Divine intellectual influence, and the same beings which are benefited by the latter so as to become intellectual, and to comprehend things comprehensible to rational beings, are also under the control of Divine Providence, which examines all their deeds in order to reward or punish them[5].

With this statement, the principle of by My Spirit as spoken to Zekaryah should, by reason, be made transparently clear. For it is the alignment of consciousness and intellect with the Providence of יְהֹוָה, according to the Torah, that allows for the collective, national victory and restoration of the Kingdom of Israel to be made possible. For there is no other way for Israel, as individuals and as a nation, to overcome the sheer hostilities and oppression of the nations to whom we have been subjected. In order for the victory of Israel to be achieved, there was a most necessary repentance that was to take place. For it is the process and act of repentance that yields the peaceable fruit of oneness with the Most High. Through the process of repentance, Zekaryah assured the Israelites that everything that was once sacred and possible for them would again become their reality.

Therefore, what the prophet Zekaryah is told, in essence, is that it is only by Israel’s becoming infused with the consciousness of the Divine Will through national study and collective application of Torah principles, and not through the prowess of physical power or the movement of mortal might, is what will accomplish the objective of national liberation which will materialize through their obedience and will be made manifest in both the natural and divine order of existence. For though things may be impossible with man, all things are possible with יְהֹוָה.

 

Ultimately, the reality of the people of Israel being chosen as a kingdom of priests and set apart nation to serve as a light to the Gentiles, is not whatsoever based on our ancestors strength or force, but rather on them being the least among all nations. This powerful principle is to demonstrate the omnipotent Providence of יְהֹוָה and how worldly wisdom and might are inconsequential to the Sovereignty of the Most High who has chosen the weak of the world to put to shame the strong.

Conversely, it is when Israel finds itself outside of the will of יְהֹוָה operating according to our own thoughts and rationale, or doing what is right in our own eyes, that we find ourselves subject, not only to the consequences of our decision, but also to the divine judgments and curses of the covenant. Of this most imperative insight, Rambam clearly articulates the postulate that

It cannot be objected to this theory, why should [Elohim] select mankind as the object of His special Providence, and not other living beings? For he who asks this question must also inquire, why has man alone, of all species of animals, been endowed with intellect? The answer to this second question must be, according to the three afore-mentioned theories: It was the Will of [Elohim], it is the decree of His Wisdom, or it is in accordance with the laws of Nature. The same answers apply to the first question. Understand thoroughly my theory, that I do not ascribe to [Elohim] ignorance of anything or any kind of weakness; I hold that Divine Providence is related and closely connected with the intellect, because Providence can only proceed from an intelligent being, from a being that is itself the most perfect Intellect. Those creatures, therefore, which receive part of that intellectual influence. will become subject to the action of Providence in the same proportion as they are acted upon by the Intellect[6].

For it is as such that when this objective truth is understood and internalized by Israel, that then the active presence of יְהֹוָה’s Shekinah will assert Its influence in the world through His faithful covenant people and create conditions on earth that will allow for the blessings and promises of the covenant to be made manifest for the every remaining nation through Israel. With Yoseph, we see this to be the case as despite the hardships and temptations that he endured and overcame, the Providence of יְהֹוָה brought into reality the prophecy that was given to him in his dreams while yet a boy. For it was his faithfulness to the vision that he was given and his discipline to remain steadfast to the principles of the covenant that he learned from his forefathers that shaped his character and intellect into that which was reflective of the image and likeness in which he was created.

 

So it was the case with Zekaryah and his contemporaries, Yahoshua the High Priest and Zerubbabel, whose return from captivity was no small feat in the face of great opposition from their adversaries as is mentioned in the third chapter of the scroll. The challenges that they faced in rebuilding the Kingdom were seemingly insurmountable as the sin-stained past of Israel, which caused their exile, heavily weighed them down with burdensome feelings of guilt and despondency. However, Zekaryah’s prophetic mission was to encourage the Israelites that despite their faithless past, which Satan was attempting bring up before them by accusing Yahoshua the High Priest of being unable to effectuate atonement for the nation. However, the eternal and omnipotent Spirit of יְהֹוָה, which Zekaryah was shown and then revealed to Yahoshua, by which Israel would function and exercise the Divine Intellect of the Spirit, would enable them to fully receive every promise and blessing that the covenant affords them through their faithfulness. As it is written,

Thus said יהוה of hosts, ‘If you walk in My ways, and if you guard My duty, then you shall also rule My house, and also guard My courts. And I shall give you access among these standing here. Now listen, Yehoshua the high priest, you and your companions who sit before you, for they are men of symbol. For look, I am bringing forth My Servant – the Branch. ‘See the stone which I have put before Yehoshua: on one stone are seven eyes. See, I am engraving its inscription,’ declares יהוה of hosts, ‘and I shall remove the guilt of that land in one day. In that day,’ declares יהוה of hosts, ‘you shall invite one another, under the vine and under the fig tree.’

Zekaryah 3.7-10

Selah…

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[1] Maimonides. The Guide for the Perplexed. Barnes and Noble Publications. Originally published in 1190. pg. 101

[2] ibid. pgs. 479

[3] ibid. pgs. 481

[4] ibid. pgs. 481

[5] ibid. pgs. 482

[6] ibid. pgs. 483

 

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