To judge by the diverse biblical material that speaks of the restoration of a Jewish presence in post-exilic Judah, the project required enormous tenacity. Rebuilding projects usually do. Because we hold the template of the past in our minds and because we knew that past as a fact on the ground rather than a work in progress, we underestimate what achieving it again will cost.
Restoration is not for the faint of heart.
The romance of the notion may inspire at the outset but it fails to sustain the long effort required.
When the Jewish returnees have finally erected their temple, it doesn’t hold a candle to its Solomonic predecessor. The newbies, perhaps, dance for joy at what appears to be its fabulous novelty, eyes moist with the emotion of it. Yet those who bear memories of what once was shed tears of nostalgia, perhaps even of disappointment.
The biblical book of Zechariah has an encouraging word for those whose memories stubbornly constrain their hope:
For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel.
Restoration requires getting started. It demands a capacity for glimpsing a better future in the modest successes that are all the harvest that re-initiators are likely to reap.
‘To despise the day of small things’ is understandable, for one has known better. Yet it is not enough.
One must scan the new-built walls for traces of eventual glory.
This, too, is a spiritual discipline.