Rabbi Yisrael RReisman on Ezra, 1-4, Emphasis on 3&4
50 years after the destruction of the first Bayit they got permission from Cyrus to go up. 42,000 went up. Put a mizbeach on it's foundation. They gather on Sukkot and celebrate. There were 850 years of Mishkan and Bayit and Sukkos and korbanot and Alyah LeRegel. After a 50 year break they had it again and rejoiced. This is Perek Gimel.
In Perek Daled all seems to fall down. It was a 4-6 month trek. They did it, then something goes wrong. The enemies heard what was happening and they try to disrupt theis building. They ask to "help." The leaders, Zerubavel (oldest living decedent of Dovid HaMelech and Yehoshuah, Kohein Gadol say, "It's not for you to join us." They try another plan and send a letter to King Cyrus. They say once they build their country it will be a problem, no taxes paid, etc. The Cyrus dies. A new king comes up. Trivia question: Where other than in Esther is Achashveirosh mentioned in Tanach? Ezra. Just as Cyrus is replaced by Achashveirosh the building is stopped by one of these two kings (machloket Rishonim). Achashveirosh writes a letter and it all stops. There were about a million Jews in Bavel, and 42,000 risked it all, left the good life... It will take 18-19 years till the building will resume They must have been bitterly disappointed.Hester Panim.
Who were the enemies? "Tzarei Yehudah." Rashi - 200 years earlier Sancheirev - in the time of Chizkiya - brought Kutim/Samaritans into the land. There was a debate regarding their conversion, was it our of fear (of lions) or real. They are mentioned 6 times in Shas, 600 years after their conversion and each time they are said to have been "Geirei Emet." The Gemorah, however says, that Ezra saw what they were doing and told people not to mix with them. theey were considered dangerous Jews. Later it was discovered that they held on to their idols in their homes and an edict was passed to make them non-Jews. Shack, Kuf Nun Tet, in YD says thaey are totally treated as non-Jews. The Chasom Sofer in siman lamed tet (Tefilin) on Ohr HaChayim says that some who came in to Judaism can be rejected.
They were accepted and then they work against usand stop this building. This must have added to the pain these Jews who went up were feeling - a double disappointment. Here and in one place in Daniel an unusual thing happens.In the middle of Daled and the news about Achashveirsh's letter it switches to a difficult Aramaic! The letter was in Aramaic and is presented. And then the text switches for several chapters to Aramaic. (Rashi translates to Hebre.) Shabbos 12, Malachim don't pay attention to this languauge. Rosh saysy in Brachot Bet that it's a low language, meguneh. Beis Yosef says in Orach Chayim Nun Vav, citing Zohar, that Aramaic is utilized by the "Chitzonim." It is a lower language. Things are going down. No jews come up for 19 years, till the new Bayit is actually built.
Rambam end of Beit HaBechirah Perk Vav: He says that Kedushah rishonah kidshah le'sha'atah vel kidshah le'atid lavo." Yehoshua set it, but only as temporarirl holy. Keduashah shniyah kidshah le'sha'atah velo kidsah le'atid lavoh. Ezra's holiness stuck. Why? It seems couter intuitive. Yehoshua led a whole post desert nation. Yehoshuah had the ark and trumpets and all the trimmings. Ezra had 42,oo people, and only was doing it, ostensibly, through the permission of the king of Persia. Why is the holiness set by Ezra the one that stuck? Rambam - Yehoshua's holiness came by force, a communal conquering. That kind of conquering gets reversed when the other side conquers the land back. Ezra didn't use an army but with a technical, halachic, kinyan - he aquired it in a more gentle, yet more lasting way. Thus, the holiness lasts.
The deeper meaning of the Rambam's idea: Meshech Chachmah on the line from Beshalach (Az Yashir) "Ad ya'avor amchah Hashem, ad ya'avor am zu kanitah."He says that a kohein has one level of holiness, and a levi is lower. But if a kohein marries a divroce' or does something else like that then his son is not a kohein, he is called a chalal. Why doesn't the son go down one level and become a levi? A levi always stays a levi, whatever he does. The highest level gets totally lost when it is knocked down. A lower level is more sustainable, remains. Yehoshua's aliyah was the highest of the high, it reached for the stars. He was working with the highest level of people. When his kivush got cancelled it went away because it was a valiant and successful attempt, a reach, and once it was lost it was gone. In the time of Ezra they were taught by G-d, the hard way, that they were not going to recreate the Golden Age of Judaism in Israel. Instead, their mission was to establish a sustainable level of holiness in Israel. "Ad ya'avor amchah Hashem - zu bi'ah rishonah, ad ya'avor am zu kanitah - zu bi'ah shniah." This is reflected by G-d's name being used in the first half of this verse and not in the second. This mirrors the way G-d appeared openly in Yehoshua's time and not so in Ezra's time.
This last book in the history of Tanach prepares us for Galut. it teaches us the importance of having a sustainable level of religious life, of holiness. What G-d wanted was a second Beit HaMikdash that took place during a time of exile. A time filled with disappointments.
Disappointments: they can make a person lose hope and lose energy to move on. "Kavei el Hashem...vekavei el Hashem..." Trusting in Hashem is hard. Wherever you have hope gets shaken at some point. They gave up a material life and then found it to be hard. There's a lesson here.
Rabbi Reisman was told by a school that they only take fantastic students (metzuyanim). It's like a hospital that only takes healthy people, or a senior center for people who aren't over 55, or a doctor who only sees patients that are completely healthy. He was told to only allow people in his new Shul who don't talk during davening.His feeling was to take people who talked and help them through the process away from talking during davening.
G-d gave us our years of life, our energy and wisdom. He gave it to us to have life and families and friends that are not perfect. He gave us talents to be able to deal with a non fairy tale life in an imperfect community and world. Challenge and disappointment is key in life, it's what our energies are for. People want things to be easy and perfect. They want learning and davening to be easy and when it's hard they want to give up. But the way our soul is built is that it's not on automatic pilot, it needs maintenance. The real world is a world of challenge, disappointment, and imperfection. it is only within in this arena that we can truly accomplish and truly feel a sense of accomplishment. This is the lesson of Shivat Tzion and of chapters 1-4 of Sefer Ezra.