Archive for October 2013

Haftarah Toledot

Shmuel Alef [1 Samuel] 20:18 - 42
Machar Chodesh
Parashat Toledot

"Any loving relationship which depends upon something, [when] that thing is gone, the love is gone. But any which does not depend upon something will never come to an end. 

What is a loving relationship which does not depend upon something? 
That is the love of David and Yonatan." 
(Avot 5:18)

20:18 Vayomer lo Yehonatan machar chodesh venifkadetaki yipaked moshavecha
Yehonatan said to him, "Tomorrow is the New Moon, and you will be missed because your seat will be empty."
Yonatan returned to the plan which he and David were discussing.  He reviewed the details which had already been spelled out, and reassured David that he would reveal everything he discovered.  Yonatan also proposed how exactly this should be done, which is what David asked before they went out to the field to speak in private (v20:11).

19 Veshilashta teired me'od uvata el-hamakom asher-nistarta sham beyom hama'aseh veyashavta etzel ha'even ha'azel"On the third day you will be missed even more. Then go to  the place where you hid on the day of the deed, and stay near the marker stone."
The opening words of the verse, veshilashta teired me'od, has been translated according to rendition of Yonatan ben Uziel.  The word teired, which usually means "go down," is thus explained as "missed even more."  If Shaul had not been intending to harm David, then David's absence would not arouse in Shaul any more than a bit of annoyance.  But if Shaul had been ready to kill David, then after two days of David's not appearing before the king, he would be sorely missed.  He would "go down" even further in Shaul's estimation, and Shaul would certainly see in David's fleeing yet another pretext for putting him to death.

An alternative interpretation of the verse is that one the third day David was to teired me'od ("go down far") into the field where he had been hiding the first time he and Yonatan attempted to determine Shaul's intentions (v19:3).  He was to descend farther into the valley, to the hidden spot where Yonatan met him then.m

Yet another reading of these words suggests veshilashta does not mean "on the third day," but that Yonatan was telling David to "mark one, twice and thrice" the spot where he was to hide.  This way there would be no misunderstanding between them.  The word is similarly used in Devarim (19:3) where the Benei Yisrael are told to mark the borders of the land into three parts.

The words beyom hama'aseh, here translated as "on the day of the deed," can also be rendered, "on the day of doing."  As opposed to this occasion, which was Rosh Chodesh - a day on which they did not engage in their usual work - the first time David hid in this filed was a weekday, a "day of doing" and action.

Or alternatively, the yom hama'aseh to which Yonatan referred was as opposed to the day on which they spoke, which was Shabbat.  Hence, this chapter is read as the haftorah whenever the day before Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbat.

The "marker stone" is explained as having been either a gathering place, or a guidepost for travelers, or a target at which arrows were shot.

20 Va'ani shloshet hachitzim tzidah oreh leshalach-li lematarah
"I will shoot three arrows on the side of it, as if I shot at a target."
By suggesting the shooting of arrows as a sign between them, Yonatan was adding to the plan which David had originally outlined (20:5-7).  The three arrows were symbolic of the three days which David would hide.

Yonatan devised this scheme of seemingly shooting at the marker stone - or as some suggest, to the side of it - so that his servant, whom he would send to fetch the arrows, would suspect nothing.

21 Vehineh eshlach et-hana'ar lech metza et-hachitzim im-amor omar lana'ar hineh hachitzim mimecha vahenah kachenu vavo'ah ki-shalom lecha ve'ein davar chai-HASHEM"Behold, I will send the youth, saying, 'Go find the arrows.'  If I repeatedly say to the youth, 'Behold, the arrows are on this side of you,' take it and come, for peace is to you and the matter is naught; as HASHEM lives."
It was customary for nobility to engage in this sport of shooting arrows at some distant target, and then having their servants fetch them.  Sometimes, the servant would stop before reaching the spot where the arrow landed and his master had to instruct him to keep going.  Other times, the servant would pass by the spot and he would have be called back.

Here, Scripture relates the first part of the sign:  If Yonatan would tell his servant that he had gone too far, that the arrows lay in a place he had already passed over, David would understand that Yonatan had determined it was safe for him to return.

If that were the case, David was to "take it and come."  The commentators offer a number of possibilities for what "it" is.  Either David was to take the arrow or he was to take the sign, and return.  Another suggestion is that Yonatan wanted David to "take him," the servant, and come.

22 Ve'im-koh omar la'elem hineh hachitzim mimecha vahal'ah lech ki shilachacha HASHEMBut if I say this to the young man: 'Behold, the arrows are beyond you!' then go, for [this is a signal that] HASHEM has sent you away.
23 Vehadavar asher dibarnu ani va'atah hineh HASHEM beini uveinecha ad-olamBut this matter of which you and I spoke, behold, HASHEM remains [witness] between me and you forever."
There are those who explain that if Yonatan called to the servant, saying, "The arrows are on this side of you," it would mean that even though Shaul was angry, his anger was on this side - i.e., under his control.  In other words, there was no threat to David's life.  Not so if he said, "The arrows are farther on than you."  This would mean that his anger had gone further than it should have - i.e., out of Shaul's control.  In that case, David would understand that he was being sent away.

Yonatan understood that should he have to call the servant back to look in a place he had already passed, it would require some coaxing.  He therefore said, "If I repeatedly say to the youth."  But if he should have to send him farther on, the servant would readily comply.   Therefore, here, he said, "If I say this to the young man."

In the previous verse, Yonatan referred to the servant as the na'ar ("youth").  Here, he called him the elem ("young man"), a designation used in only one other instance in Scripture (v17:56).   The word is related to ne'elam, which means hidden and unknown.  Thus it might be that Yonatan employed this term here to indicate that should there be real danger, David was to remain "hidden" from Shaul, and this should be "unknown" even to the servant.

24 Vayisater David basadeh vayehi hachodesh vayeshev hamelech el-halechem le'echolDavid concealed himself in the field. It was the New Moon and the king sat at the meal to eat.
25 Vayeshev hamelech al-moshavo kefa'am befa'am el-moshav hakir vayakom Yehonatan vayeshev Avner mitzad Shaul vayipaked mekom DavidThe king sat at his seat as at other times, at the seat by the wall; Yehonatan stood up and Avner sat at Shaul's side, and David's seat was empty.
Shaul sat with his back to the wall, which was the seat at the head of the table.  Others explain that "on a seat next to the wall" indicates that they sat in a semicircle, as the judges in the Sanhedrin.  The king, because he sat at the center, the height of the arc, was closest to the wall.

The order of seating had David on Shaul's immediate right, and Yonatan at David's right. Avner, Shaul's general, sat to the kings left.  With David absent, there was no one sitting between Shaul and Yonatan.  As it was customary to recline while eating, and it was not considered proper for a son to recline at his father's right hand, Yonatan stood up and waited until Avner had come to take David's seat alongside the king.

According to this first interpretation, the words which follow in the verse, "David's seat was empty," mean that the place was empty of its usual occupant, David.  Alternatively, it is suggested that David's place did indeed remain empty.  After Yonatan stood up, Avner, who according to this interpretation was sitting not to Shaul's left but to Yonatan's right, exchanged places with Yonatan.  This enabled Yonatan to take a seat at the table for now Avner sat between him and his father.  It also made sense that Avner would not sit in David's seat, as he must have assumed that David might yet arrive to the meal.

Yet another possibility is that Yonatan took a seat opposite Shaul.  This coincides with the later verse which implies that when Shaul later raised the spear to strike his son, he had only to reach out towards him (20:33).

The reason Yonatan first sat in his own seat when he knew full well that he would have to move once Shaul took his place, was so that his father should not suspect he knew beforehand that David would not be coming.  This would also cause Shaul to take note of David's absence that much sooner.

26 Velo-diber Shaul me'umah bayom hahu ki amar mikreh hu bilti tahor hu ki-lo tahorShaul said nothing on that day, for he thought, "He had an accident, he is without purity; [he did not come] for he is not pure."
Shaul said nothing about David being absent because he presumed that David had experienced a nocturnal emission.  This presumption was characteristic of Shaul's enmity for David.

The repetitiveness of Shaul's words also suggests the following interpretation:  Shaul said to himself, "David had an accidental pollution, he is without purity.  Why? because he is not pure - he thinks evil thoughts during the day."  This is as our sages taught: Whoever guards against evil thoughts during the day will not experience an accidental pollution at night.

Our sages have pointed to the apparent circumlocution of this verse - "he is without purity; for he is not pure" - to show how important it is to avoid foul or unclean language.  Scripture goes out of its way to use the word tahor (pure) rather than simply saying, "he had an accident, and is tamei (impure)."

The commentators have suggested various subtle readings for this verse:

  1. That Shaul never assumed that David had entertained evil thoughts.  Rather, on the first day he attributed David's absence to a mikreh, alternatively translated as an unexpected occurrence.  "something unforeseen has come up," he told himself, "and that is why David has not come.  It cannot be that he is without purity, as he would be without purity only if he entertained evil thoughts."  However, when David again failed to appear on the morrow, Shaul began to wonder if perhaps David's disappearance was not unintentional.
  2. There are no accidental occurrences.  Everything that transpires is because G-d so willed and designed it.  Thus, Shaul was saying, "Who says that David had an accidental pollution?  When anyone says this, it is a sign that he is without purity.  He himself is not pure, for nothing happens without His guidance."  This can be likened to what Avraham said to the angels, "I will get a morsel of bread for you to refresh yourselves... because it is for this reason that you have passed by your servant" (Bereisit 18:5).  His intention was not that they had come by his tent in order to eat and drink, for even if it were so, one would never embarrass one's guests by speaking so tactlessly.  Rather, his intention was to tell them that their passing by was certainly not accidental; that it had been so designed by divine providence.  G-d had arranged the matter so that he, Avraham, could fulfill the mitzvah of hospitality.
  3. A third opinion sees this in connection with the teachings of the sages:  Judge all men favorably, for if a person sees guilt in his fellow, it is a sign that he himself bears guilt; whoever charges others charges them with his own defects.  Moreover, one who suspects the innocent is afflicted physically - a sign that he himself is lacking.  Thus the verse says that Shaul said nothing on that day, for he said to himself, "He had an accident."  In other words, he judged David favorably.  Why did Shaul do this?  Surely it was because only one "without purity" finds fault in others, and it is he who "is not pure."

27 Vayehi mimocharat hachodesh hasheni vayipaked mekom David vayomer Shaul el-Yehonatan beno madua lo-va ven-Yishai gam-temol gam-hayom el-halachem
It was the day following the New Moon, the second, and David's place was empty. So Shaul said to Yehonatan, his son, "Why did the son of Yishai not come to the meal either yesterday or today?"
Until the time of Hillel the son of Rabbi Yehudah the Prince (359 c.e.), who was the first to establish the lunar calendar according to astronomic calculations, Rosh Chodesh was determined by the court making a formal declaration after receiving testimony from witness who had seen the new moon.  This was based on the verse (Shemot 12:2), "This chodesh shall be for you" - G-d, as it were, pointed to the new moon and said to Moshe, "When it appears like this, sanctify the moon."  In other words, it was a mitzvah to establish Rosh Chodesh based on human sighting and declaration.  When this was no longer possible, for reasons brought in the Talmud, the Jews were forced to institute the fixed calendar in its stead.

The lunar month is twenty-nine days twelve and a fraction hours.  Because it is impossible to divide a day in half so that part would belong to the previous month and part to the new month, some months are reckoned as thirty days and others as twenty-nine.  Witnesses who saw the new moon on the night following the twenty ninth of the month testified before the court, and if their testimony was accepted, the court resolved that the following day belong to the new month and declared it Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the next month. If, however, the new moon was not seen on that night of the twenty ninth, the court resolved that the thirtieth day belonged to the previous month.  However, in this case, both the last day of the previous month and the first day of the new month were celebrated as Rosh Chodesh.

Now, in our case the witnesses who came to testify that they had seen the new moon only came to the court after the thirtieth day of the previous month.  Therefore, as mentioned (20:5), Rosh Chodesh was celebrated for two days.  This is the meaning of "on the day following the chodesh, the second."  The second modifies "the new moon," it was the second day of Rosh Chodesh.

Others maintain that they only celebrated one day Rosh Chodesh, on the first of the new month, so that "on the day following the new moon, the second [day]" refers to the second day of that month; here second modifies "the day following."  Yet another possibility is that second refers to the second new moon of the month - i.e., it was a Jewish leap year and this took place on Rosh Chodesh of the added month, the second Adar.

28 Vaya'an Yehonatan et-Shaul nish'ol nish'al David me'imadi ad-Beit-lechemYehonatan answered Shaul, "David asked me for permission to go to Beit-lechem.
29 Vayomer shalcheni na ki zevach mishpachah lanu ba'ir vehu tzivah-li achi ve'atah im-matzati chen be'eineicha imaltah na ve'er'eh et-echai al-ken lo-va el-shulchan hamelechHe said, 'Please grant me leave, for we have a family feast-offering in the city, and he - my brother - summoned me; so now, if I have found favor in your eyes, please let me be excused that I may see my brothers.' That is why he did not come to the king's table."
A careful reading of the verses, including those which follow, shows that Shaul intentionally avoided referring to David by name, calling him "the son of Yishai," instead.  Yonatan, on the other hand, did not have to mention David by name.  It was understood of whom they spoke.  But he did so intentionally, out of his great love for David.

Yonatan said, "nishal nishal (he repeatedly asked)," rather than the more common expression shaol sh'al, so as not to even imply that he had uttered his father's name, Shaul.  This, of course, would have been disrespectful.

30 Vayichar-af Shaul biYehonatan vayomer lo ben-na'avat hamardut halo yadati ki-vocher atah leven-Yishai levashtecha ulvoshet ervat imechaShaul anger flared up at Yehonatan, and he said to him, "you are the son of a wanton and rebellious woman! Do I not know that you choose the son of Yishai, to your own shame and the shame of your mother's nakedness?
An alternative reading of "ben na'avat hamardut" suggests that Shaul's accusation was not directed primarily at Yonatan, but at his mother - "you are the son of a wanton and rebellious woman!" Shaul charged that Yonataon had inherited these traits from his mother, who had been unfaithful to him.  Or else, that she had not allowed Shaul to discipline Yonatan when he was a child, and as a result he had grown into a rebellious son of rebellious mother.

Yonatan ben Uziel translates Shaul's words - "A son, wanton and rebellious!" - as referring to neither Yonatan nor his mother, but to David.  He was casting aspersions on David's family.  Once said, he expressed his shock that David would have found favor with Yonatan.  "How could you have possibly allowed him to escape from here?!"

31 Ki chol-hayamim asher-ben-Yishai chai al-ha'adamah lo tikon atah umalchutecha ve'atah shlach vekach oto elai ki ven-mavet huFor all the days that the son of Yishai is alive on the earth, you and your kingdom will not be established! And now send and bring him to me, for he is deserving of death!"
Shaul said to Yonatan, "Since you will not establish your rule because of David, it is only right that he be eliminated."

32 Vaya'an Yehonatan et-Shaul aviv vayomer elav lamah yumat meh asahBut Yehonatan spoke up to his father Shaul, and said to him, "Why should he die? What has he done?"
33 Vayatel Shaul et-hachanit alav lehakoto vayeda Yehonatan ki-chalah hi me'im aviv lehamit et-DavidShaul hurled his spear at him to strike him. Yehonatan then realized that his father had decided to kill David.
Yonatan sought to defend David.  "What has David done that you accuse him of rebellion?  G-d Himself has chosen him as king."

When a man is accused of having committed some sin for which he deserves to be punished, it is only right to defend him and attempt to save him from punishment if he is not generally known to transgress in this way.  Thus, when Shaul complained about Yonatan's defending David, Yonatan replied, "Why should he be put to death?  If it is because of the rumor that he seeks the king's life, what has he done that would lead one to believe David would transgress in this way?"

The Torah teaches that when a Jew sees his fellow Jew committing a sin, he has an obligation to admonish him in order to help him turn from evil.  Indeed, Scritpure stresses the importance of this mitzvah with the words "admonish, you shall surely admonish" (VaYikra 19:17) - the repetition serving to emphasize the need to even be prepared to suffer as a result.  The vers, however, does not specify just how much the one offering the rebuke is obligated to endure.  This, is learnt from here.

Some do find in Yonatan's reply an admonishment of Shaul's position, albeit a subdued and respectful one.  They adduce from this that with certain stipulations as son is permitted to admonish his father.  The Talmud adds that the same applies to a student rebuking his rabbi.

34 Vayakom Yehonatan me'im hashulchan bachari-af velo-achal beyom hachodesh hasheni lechem ki netzav el-David ki hichlimo avivYehonatan arose from the table enraged; he did not partake of food on that second day of the month, for he was saddened over David, and because his father had humiliated him.
The verse gives two reasons for why Yonatan did not eat.  One, he was worried about David.  Yonatan understood that if his father was ready to kill his own son for befriending David, he would certainly not hesitate to kill David himself.  He thus rose from the table in anger and could not eat.  The second reason, which reads the verse as though the word and appears between the two reason, was that Yonatan's father had shamed him with word and deed, and so he could not eat.

Although the reasons are two, the fact that Scripture does not obviously distinguish between them (the word and does not appear) would seem to allude to their connectedness.  Even though his father had shamed him publicly, Yonatan's concern was for David.  He loved David as hi own soul and worried for him more than for himself.

Another interpreation is that ooutwardly Yonatan was saddened because his father had shamed him, but in his heart he was saddened over David.

Alternatively, this is read as two reasons given for two separate actions.  Yonatan got up from the table because he was saddened over David, whom his father had decided to kill.  And Yonatan did not break bread because Shaul "had shamed him" - David - calling him "wanton and rebellious!"

35 Vayehi vaboker vayetze Yehonatan hasadeh lemo'ed David vena'ar katon imoIt happened in the morning that Yonatan went out to the field which David had designated, and a small youth accompanied him.
Yonatan went out in the morning.  He did not go at night, lest he arouse suspicion.  He went as though he were going for a walk, and he did not go alone but took his servant.  This small youth would suspect nothing of the plan Yonatan had devised with David and his presence would belie any suggestion that Yonatan had gone to secretly meet with David.

According to Ynatan ben Uziel's translation, "Yonatan went out to the field at the time David had designated."  This leads some commentators to conclude that it refers to the third day of David's hiding in the field.  And although David had suggested that he come that night, Yonatan went in the morning.  There was no longer any reason to wait, Shaul's intentions were already quite clear.

36 Vayomer lena'aro rutz metza-na et-hachitzim asher anochi moreh hana'ar ratz vehu-yarah hachetsi leha'aviroHe said to his youth, "Run, please find the arrows that I shoot." The youth ran, and he shot the arrow to go past him.
37 Vayavo hana'ar ad-mekom hachetzi asher yarah Yehonatan vayikra Yehonatan acharei hana'ar vayomer halo hachetzi mimecha vahal'ahThe youth arrived at the place of the arrow that Yonatan had shot, and Yonatan called after the youth and said, "Is not the arrow beyond you?"
Yonatan provided David with the agreed upon sign that Shau's heart was set against him.

The word leha'aviro ("past him") can also be understood as "to move him past."  Yonatan wanted to move the youth past the place he was standing to the marker stone.  The idiomatic expression leha'aviro mida'ato means to remove someone's reason, and this suggests a third possibility.  Yonatan shot the arrow to trick the youth and dissuade him from reasoning that this was anything but sport.

From the verses it seems that Yonatan shot no more than one arrow, though he had promised David that he would shoot three.  One suggestion is that he only intended to use a second and third arrow if for some reason David would not get a clear message from the first one. In devising the plan, Yonatan had taken into account that there might be other archers in the field or that his first shot might go astray.

Other commentators read the verse as though Yonatan did shoot more than one arrow: "And the youth came to the place of the arrow which Yonatan had shot"  - this refers to the first arrow; and Yonatan called after the youth, and said, "But the arrow is farther on than you" - this refers to another arrow, the one meant to warn David.

38 Vayikra Yehonatan acharei hana'ar meherah chushah al-ta'amod vayelaket na'ar Yehonatan et-hachitzim vayavo el-adonavYehonatan then called out after the attendant, "Quickly, hurry, do not stand still!" Yehonatan's attendant gathered the arrows and came to his master.
39 Vehana'ar lo-yada me'umah ach Yehonatan veDavid yad'u et-hadavarThe attendant knew nothing; only Yehonatan and David understood the matter.
The scripted form of the word chetz (arrow) in this verse is singular, however, according to tradition it is read in the plural, chitzim (arrows).  This further highlights the uncertainty surrounding the amount of arrows Yonatan actually shot.  One suggestion is that although all three were shot, the youth gathered them up as quickly as if there had been only one.

When an archer shoots an arrow, sometimes those sent to fetch it search in a place closer than where the arrow came to rest.  Other times, they search much farther than where the arrow actually landed.  This is what Yonatan proposed to David: "in this way G-d will guide us.  I will shoot the arrows at the marker stone.  If the youth runs after the arrow and I have to tell him to return because he's passed it, this will be a providential sign that all is well - G-d's will is that you return.  But if the youth stops before reaching the arrow and I have to tell him to keep going, this will be a providential sign that there is danger - it has been decreed by Heaven that you flee from here."

With this we can better understand the sequence of events.  It is impossible for a man to outrace an arrow.  Yonatan therefore told the youth, "Run, please find the arrows which I shoot" (v20:36).  In this way it was possible for the youth to go father than the arrow and then have to return to get them.  The verse then says that the youth ran and Yonatan shot the arrow past him.

40 Vayiten Yehonatan et-kelav el-hana'ar asher-lo vayomer lo lech havei ha'irYehonatan gave his equipment to his attendant and said to him, "Go, bring it to the city."
41 Hana'ar ba veDavid kam me'etzel hanegev vayipol le'apav artzah vayishtachu shalosh pe'amim vayishku ish et-re'ehu vayivku ish et-re'ehu ad-David higdilThe attendant went and David stood up from the southern side and he fell on his face to the ground and prostrated himself three times. Then they kissed one another and cried one with the other until David exceeded.
The "southern side" refers to the southern region, and arid and rocky area in which travelers found refuge from the even harsher conditions of the desert.

Alternateively, the "southern side" refers to the southern side of the marker stone, the side where David hid. Thus Yonatan purposely shot the arrows to the north of the stone.

The question which obviously comes to mind is: If David and Yonatan in any case met and spoke together, what was the point of shooting the arrows and signallying by calling out to the youth?  However, it seems that even now Yonatan was not intending to come together with David.  Yet he suspected that David might not able to resist their speaking to one another before parting and so he sent his servant away.  Moreover, Yonatan had to take into account that someone might happen along and discover them before they could talk together, and so he relied on the shooting of the arrows to ensure that David received the warning.  Only when he saw that all was clear did David emerge into the open to embrace Yonatan.

The commentators offer a number of explanations for why David's crying exceeded Yonatan's.  Simply, whereas Yonatan could return home, he had to flee for Shaul would certainly be seeking to take his life.  Yonatan understood that this was the reason for David's exceedinly bitter weeping and hurried to send him on his way.  Another suggestion is that this is a hint to the future, when David would weep on Yonatan's untimely death.

Alternatively, "until David exceeded" means that David began to weep loudly and Yonatan feared that they would be discovered.  He therefore blessed him and sent him away.

42 Vayomer Yehonatan le-David lech leshalom asher nishbanu shneinu anachnu beshem HASHEM lemor HASHEM yihyeh beini uveinecha uvein zar'i uvein zar'acha ad-olamYehonatan said to David, "Go to peace. What the two of us have sworn in the Name of HASHEM - saying, 'HASHEM will be [a witness] between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring' - shall be forever!"
Yonatan assured David that through they were parting, their bond of love would not be severed.

"Go to peace," Yonatan told David, "and remember our oath.  Indeed, the very fact that we were able to swear true allegiance to one another is proof that G-d is with us."

It is also possible to understand Yonatan's words the other way round, "The very fact that we have both sworn in the name of HaShem is a sign that you will go to peace." (cf. v1:17)

In saying, "For we have sworn both of us," Yonatan wanted to impress upon David that they had sworn as equals.  He had not sworn as the son of the king, lest following generations later say their ancestor David had agreed under duress, for how could he refuse the king's son.  No, they had sworn as equals and out of love - both of them willingly - binding them and all their seed forever.

And, just as their bond of love would be everlasting, so would be their pact.  "HASHEM will between me and you...forever," he told David.  "Although we are parting, HASHEM will be forever."

There is a very great lesson to be learnt from Yonatan's exemplary behavior.  Despite all that he had to endure at his father's table, he mentions none of it to David on whose behalf he spoke.  This was both so that he would not be guilty of tale-bearing and slander against his father, and so that David would not be anguished by the news.  He therefore chose his words carefully, telling David to "Go to peace," for there was no hope that Shaul would have a change of heart and cease his pursuit of him.

In the merit of his tears, David achieved greatness and his enemies were vanquished.  As he asked of G-d (Tehillim 56:9) "Put my tears in Your flask, are they not in Your ledger?"  The shedding of tears is never left unanswered; heaven's gate of tears is never shut.

Parashat Toledot

- MeAm Lo'ez, Sefer Shmuel Alef

Haftarah Chayei Sarah

Melachim Alef [1 Kings] 1:1-31
Parashat Chayei Sarah

[David HaMelech - King David]

1:1 Vehamelech David zaken ba bayamim vayechasuhu babegadim velo yicham lo
King David was old and advanced in years, and they covered him with clothes, but he wasn't warmed.
There were three who were crowned with old age, Avraham, Yehoshua and David.  All were men that had withstood great trials.  The Bible describes all three by the words, "old and advanced in years."  It says "Avraham was old and advanced in years," (Bereishit 21:1) and "Yehoshua was old and advanced in years" (Yehoshua 23:1).  (Bereishit Rabbah 59:6)

Thus King Shlomo said, "The crown of glory is old age, on the way of righteousness it is found."  Of Avraham G-d said, "For I have known him, so that he will command his children and his household after him, and they will keep the way of G-d, to do righteousness and justice." (Bereishit 18:19)

There are some who advance in years without showing their age.  Others suffer from old age before their time.  But Avraham, Yehoshua and David grew old according to their years.

Happy is the man who advances in years, and the years do not advance upon him!  Though he has lived many years and no longer has the strength of his youth, he remains in control of himself and his affairs.  Old age does not overcome him.  Till his last days, King David rule over the Jewish People.  He was able to prevent the strong and arrogant from taking advantage of the weak, and he kept the nation from falling into turmoil.

Another meaning of the expression, "advance in years"  (ba bayamim) is that all his years (literally, "days) came froward to testify to the righteousness that he had done.  There was not one day that he had not acted righteously and that was not full of good deeds.  Not so for the wicked!  Their days hide in shame!  They are afraid to come forward and reveal the evil deeds that were done on them.

Nonetheless, King David did not become old without suffering.  His body became cold, and it could not be warmed.  No matter how much clothing he put on, he remained cold.  For clothing does not give a person warmth.  It only helps the body retain its own heat.  If the body does not produce heat, no clothing can warm it.

Why was King David made to suffer this way?  Towards the end of David's life, when his kingdom had been firmly established and his armies were victorious over the enemies of Yisrael, he thought that no harm could come to them any more.  So he ordered that a census be taken of the whole Jewish People.  That is something that no ruler of Yisrael should ever do.  It can provoke the evil eye and bring catastrophe.  His advisers warned him against it, but he was not afraid, and refused to heed their advice.

G-d sent a plague, and seventy thousand men died.  As the Angel of Death approached Yerushalayim, G-d had pity and commanded him to stop.  David saw the angel in the heavens with his sword stretched out toward the city, and he begged G-d to spare the people.  He said, "I am the one that sinned, and I have done evil.  These sheep, what have they done?  Oh, G-d, let Your hand be upon me and my father's house, and let there be no plague on the people" (Divre HaYamim Alef 21:17)

The Angel of Death took his sword and wiped it off on David's cloak.  Then he put it back into its sheath and returned to heaven.  David's entire body was chilled with fright.  The terror of that experience never left him.  From that moment on he could never again find warmth.

Another reason that his clothes could not warm him is that, long before, he had acted disrespectfully toward clothing.  One time, when King Shaul was pursuing David, he stopped to relieve himself in a cave.  He did not realize that in that very cave David and his men were hiding.  David wanted to demonstrate his loyalty to Shaul and prove that he meant him no harm, so he crept up quietly behind him and cut off the corner of his robe.  Shaul did not realize, and he got up and left.  Then David came out of the cave and called out to him.  He held up the piece of the robe and said, "As I have cut off the corner of your robe and not killed you, so you know that I do not mean you any harm" (Shmuel Alef 24:12)  Shaul was very moved.  He blessed David and stopped pursuing him.

But David was sorry that he had cut the robe.  Though he had meant well by it, it was nonetheless an act of disrespect.  For so great a person as David, even a minor act like this is significant.  Now, through the suffering of his old age, he atoned for it.

2 Vayomeru lo avadav yevakshu l'adoni hamelech na'arah vetulah ve'amdah lifnei hamelech utehi-lo sochenet veshachvah vecheikecha vecham l'adoni hamelech
His servants said to him, "Let them search for a virgin girl for my master, the king, and she will stand before the king and be a helper for him.  She will lie in your bosom, and it will be warm for my master, the king."
3 Vayevakshu na'arah yafah bechol gevul Yisra'el vayimtze'u et-Avishag haShunamit vayavi'u otah lamelech
So they searched for a beautiful girl throughout all the borders of Yisrael.  They found Avishag the Shunamit and brought her to the king.
4 Vehana'arah yafah ad-me'od vatehi lamelech sochenet vatesharetehu vehamelech lo yeda'ah
The girl was very beautiful, and she became a helper for the king and served him, but the king did not know her.
King David's servants consulted the doctors and wise men.  They said, "Clothes will not keep the king warm as long as his body does not warm itself."  So the servants looked for another way to warm him up.  Some say they wanted him to have a companion just so that he would be warmed by the heat of her body when she was close to him.  Others say that they hoped he would be stimulated and enlivened by her beauty, and his own body would again produce its own heat.

David was not permitted to marry Avishag because he already had eighteen wives. The Torah limits the number of wives a king may marry, as it says, "He will not have many wives" (Devarim 17:17).  By tradition, we know that eighteen are permitted and no more.  To have married Avishag, he would have had to divorce one of them.  That he could not do.  The court decreed that, if it be necessary for his health, it would be better for him to undergo the temptation of being alone with an unmarried woman than to cause one of his wives to suffer by divorcing her.

See what a serious thing divorce is!  Even under these circumstances, they would not permit it!  Which among David's wives would not have willingly accepted divorce for the sake of her husband, the beloved king of Yisrael?  It would not have been a shame for her but a distinction.  Nonetheless, the court forbade it.

If a man divorces his first wife, even the altar in the Temple sheds tears, as it says, "This, too, have you done.  You have covered the altar of G-d with tears, crying and weeping.  He no longer turns toward the meal offering, to accept it with good will from your hand.  And when you say, 'For what reason?' Because G-d testified between you and the wife of your youth, whom you have betrayed, though she is your companion and the woman of yoru covenant." (Malachi 2:13)

By being together with Avishag and resisting temptation, David achieved complete repentance for the sin of taking Bat-Sheva.  Although he had already repented, been punished and forgiven, his repentance was not yet complete.  He had never had the opportunity to withstand a similar temptation.  That is the test of true repentance.  If a person again finds himself in the situation in which he once sinned, but this time he resits temptation, it is clear that he no longer has that weakness.  He has overcome it, and is therefore worthy of having his earlier sin completely wiped away.

Why does the Bible tell about David's last days here, in the Book of Melachim (Kings)? Why were they not included in the book of Shmuel, along with the rest of the story of David's life?  The Book of Melachim deals with the lives of King Shlomo and subsequent kings.  One would have expected it to have begun with the verse "Shlomo sat ont he throne of David, his father." (Melachim Alef 2:12)

This chapter and the first eleven verses of the next chapter serve as an introduction to the reign of King Shlomo.  Even though they are concerned primarily with King David, their purpose is to tell how Shlomo came to be the next king.  David's age and weakness misled Adoniyah to think that he might claim the throne for himself.  But David arose to face this challenge.  While he was still alive, he had Shlomo anointed, so that it would be clear to the whole nation that he had chosen him as his successor.

We are also told here about Avishag the Shunamit, because it was through her that Adoniyah later made another attempt to seize the throne.  In that way, this chapter serves as an introduction to the incidents that will be described in Chapter Two.

This chapter also supports the legitimacy of Shlomo's succession to the throne.  It was not because of his love for Bat-Sheva that David chose her son, Shlomo, to succeed him.  By resisting Avishag, David showed himself to be above the temptation of the flesh, and totally in control of himself.  No wife, however beloved and favored, could persuade him to give her or her children anything that was not rightfully theirs.  It was only because he understood that it was G-d's will that Shlomo be the next King of Yisrael that he chose him.  To his dying day, King David was the true servant of G-d.  His every desire was to do G-d's will and find favor in His eyes. (Arbrabanel)

5 Va'Adoniyah ven-Chaggit mitnase lemor ani emloch vaya'as lo rechev ufarashim vachamishim ish ratzim lefanavAdoniyah son of Chaggit elevated himself, saying, "I will be king."  He made himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men running before him.
6 Velo-atzavo aviv miyamav lemor madua kachah asita vegam-hu tov-to'ar me'od ve'oto yaldah acharei AvshalomIn all his life, his father had never caused him to suffer criticism by saying, "Why have you done this?"  He was also very handsome, and he was born after Avshalom.
Adoniyah thought that if he would be able to establish himself as David's successor while his father was yet alive, no one would challenge him after David died.  He began to conduct himself like a king.

His chariot was the sort that only kings rode in.  His fifty runners were all men whose spleens had been removed and whose feet had been carved out.  This made them able to run swiftly for long distances without become tired.  They could run over thorns without being hurt.  Such contingents of runners were only maintained by kings, as it involved two difficult operations.  Their spleens were removed while they were yet small.  The spleen is not an essential organ of the body, so removing it did not otherwise harm them.  As for their feet, the practice was to burn their heels with hot metal plates.  The skin would then die, and they would cut it off until they got down to the bones. (Sanhedrin 21b; Rashi)

But, far from securing the throne for himself, Adoniyah only succeeded in demonstrating how unfit he was to be King of Yisrael.  The Torah says that a king must be G-d-fearing and humble.  Adoniyah was haughty and arrogant.  He put on a show to impress people, rather than studying G-d's Torah and developing the qualities of a true and dedicated leader.

"he was born after Avshalom" - he was the oldest of David's surviving sons.  Amnon, David's first son, and Avshalom, his third, had been killed.  Perhaps Daniel, the second son, had also already died.  In any case, even if he was not the oldest, he was much older than Shlomo, who was still only a child.

Others understand the words oto yaldah acharei Avshalom (he was born after Avshalom)" to not to refer to when he was born but how he was brought up.  They would translate the words, "he was raised after the manner of Avshalom."  Adoniyah's mother, Chaggit, raised him the same way that Maakah had raised Avshalom.  Both had spoiled their children.  That is why both children rebelled and were eventually killed.

There were many similarities between Adoniyah and Avshalom.  Both were very handsome.  Both rebelled against David.  Each got himself a following and had a chariot with fifty runners going ahead of him. David loved them both, and it was, perhaps, his love that led them to think they could get away with rebelling.

From here we see that the wicked are blamed for the wickedness of others.  By mentioning Avshalom, the Bible implies that he was partially responsible for Adoniyah's corruption.  Perhaps it was because Chaggit followed the example of Maakah in raising her son and spoiled him.  Or perhaps Adoniyah was encouraged to defy his father by Avshalom's earlier rebellion.  Even though Avshalom had ultimately failed, the very fact that he could attempt such a thing made it possible for others consider it as well.

But there was also a big difference between them.  Avshalom tried to kill his father.  Adoniyah respected his father's decision, at least as long as he was alive.

7 Vayihyu devarav im Yo'av ben-Tzruyah ve'im Evyatar hakohen vayazru acharei Adoniyah 
He would speak with Yoav son of Tzruyah and with Evyatar, the kohen, and they helped and followed Adoniyah.
8 VeTzadok hakohen uVenayahu ven-Yehoyada veNatan hanavi veShim'i veRe'i vehagiborim asher le-David lo hayu im Adoniyahu
But Tzadok the kohen, and Benayahu son of Yehoyada, and Natan the prophet, and Shimei and Rei, the brave men of David were not with Adoniyah.
Adoniyah thought that if he had Yoav and Evyatar on his side he would surely succeed.  Had they not helped his father? They could bring him success too!  They were popular and respected leaders.  They would guarantee a sizable following for whomever they supported.  Yoav would gain him the support of the army.  Evyatar would give him spiritual direction and bring him divine blessing.  They were both wise and experienced.  He would follow their advice as David had, and, like David, he would always succeed.

Yoav and Evyatar, for their parts, each had his own reason for following Adoniyah.  Yoav was guilty of murder.  David had sworn not to kill him, but Yoav suspected that he would command Shlomo to do it if he became king.  Evyatar, too, did not want to see Shlomo become king.  David favored Tzadok, and Shlomo would certainly follow his father's direction and appoint him as Kohen Gadol (High Priest).

There were already indications at the time of the rebellion of Avshalom that Evyatar would lose his position.  He had asked for direction from the Urim and Tumim, but had not been answered..  He was also subject to the curse of the descendants of Eli.  He hoped that under Adoniyah he would be able to serve as Kohen Gadol, and that he would again be worthy of prophecy and escape the curse.  Both also hoped that by supporting Adoniyah now, he would listen to them afterwards, when he became king.

Those who were faithful to DAvid, on the other hand, realized that Adoniyah was not his choice, and refused to follow him.  Natan the prophet had been the one to predict that Shlomo would become king.  He had conveyed the word of G-d to David, as it says, "Behold, a son will be born to you, he will be a man of rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies all around, for Shlomo will be his name, forever" (Divre HaYamim Alef 22:9, 10).  He certainly would not follow Adoniyah, because he knew it was not the will of G-d.

It was significant that Tzadok the kohen and Benayahu son of Yehoyada did not go along with Adoniyah.  They were, respectively, Kohen Gadol and Chief Judge of the Sanhedrin.  These two officials must always be present when a king is anointed.  There must also be a revelation of G-d's approval  through a prophet before the anointment. The absence of even one of these things would have been sufficient reason to invalidate Adoniyah.

9 Vayizbach Adoniyahu tzon uvakar umeri im even haZochelet asher-etzel Ein Rogel vayikra et-kol-echav benei hamelech ulechol-anshei Yehudah avdei hamelech
Adoniyah slaughtered sheep and cattle and fattened animals at the Ston of Zochelet that is near the Spring of Rogel.  He called all his brothers, the sons of the king, and all the men of Yehudah, the servants of the king.
10 Ve'et Natan hanavi uVenayahu ve'et-hagiborim ve'et-Shlomoh achiv lo kara
But Natan the prophet and Benayahu and the brave men and Shlomo, his brother, he did not call.
Adoniyah was not satisfied to conduct himself as if he were king.  He decided to have himself crowned already, while his father was still alive.  The location that he chose was a popular gathering place for all the people.  The Spring of Rogel was where the women came to wash the clothes.  It was called Rogel because they would trample the clothes in the water with their feet, to clean them.  Otheres say it was where the young men gathered to play games and have competitions, one of which was to try to push the stone and move it.  That was a feat of great strength  that few could do.  Another explanation is that it was a high stone that travelers would climb, and from on top of it they would be able to see which way they to go.  Adoniyah hoped to attract all these people to follow him.

He also came to this spot because it was customary to anoint kings near running water.  Natan, the prophet, chose such a location to anoint Shlomo.  The water was a sign of blessing.  It indicated that his reign should, like the water, continue on and on.

Adoniyah knew that not all those he invited supported him, but he hoped that once they had eaten and drunk and enjoyed themselves he would be able to convince them.

11 Vayomer Natan el-Bat-Sheva em-Shlomo lemor halo shamat ki malach Adoniyahu ven-Chaggit va'adoneynu David lo yada
Natan said to Bat-Sheva, the mother of Shlomo, "Did you not hear that Adoniyah ben Chaggit has become king, and our master, David, does not know?
12 Ve'atah lechi iyatzech na etzah umalti et-nafshech ve'et-nefesh benech Shlomo
Now, go, and let me advise you.  You will save your life and the life of your son, Shlomo.
13 Lechi uvo'i el-hamelech David ve'amart elav halo-atah adoni hamelech nishbata la'amatcha lemor ki-Shlomo venech yimloch acharai vehu yeshev al-kis'i umadua malach Adoniyahu
Go and come to King David, and say to him, 'Didn't you, my master the king, swear to your maidservant, saying, "Shlomo, your son, will rule after me, and he will sit on my throne"? So why has Adoniyah become king?'
14 Hineh odach medaberet sham im-hamelech va'ani avo acharaych umileti et-devarayich
While you are still speaking there with the king, I will come after you and complete your words."
Natan did not want to be the first to complain about Adoniyah.  He had been the one to convey G-d's word to David that he appoint Shlomo to succeed him.  He did not want to appear to be trying to defend his own prophecy, so he asked Bat-Sheva to break the news to David..

But why did Natan feel it necessary to take any action on behalf of Shlomo?  Had not G-d told him that Shlomo would be the next king?  What could Adoniyah do against the word of G-d?  King Shlomo himself later wrote in the Sefer Mishlei (19:21), "Many are the thoughts in the heart of man, but it is the will of G-d that prevails."  G-d did not need Natan's help to bring His word to fruition.

Could Natan have doubted the truth of his own prophecy?  Certainly not!  But perhaps he was afraid that G-d no longer favored Shlomo.  Prophecy is, after all, not necessarily unconditional.  If a person sins, the blessings that were in store for him may be taken away even if they had been foretold by a prophet.  The Jewish People were supposed to enter the Holy Land during the second year after the exodus from Egypt, but because they sinned and did not trust G-d they were condemned to wander in the desert for forty years instead.  Shaul, too, had been made king of Yisrael, and his descendants were to follow him, but the throne was taken away from them for his failure to eradicated Amalek as G-d had commanded.

15 Vatavo Vat-Sheva el-hamelech hachadrah vehamelech zaken me'od va'Avishag haShunamit mesharat et-hamelech
Bat-Sheva went to the king, into the inner room.  The king was very old, and Avishag, the Shunamit, was serving the king.
16 Vatikod Bat-Sheva vatishtachu lamelech vayomer hamelech mah-lach
Bat-Sheva bent her head and bowed to the king.  The king said, "What is your problem?"
17 Vatomer lo adoni atah nishbata b'HaShem Elokeicha la'amatecha ki-Shlomo venech yimeloch acharai vehu yeshev al-kis'i
She said to him, "My master, your swore by HaShem your G-d, to your maidservant, Shlomo your son, will be king after me, and he will sit on my throne.'
18 Ve'atah hineh Adoniyah malach ve'atah adoni hamelech lo yadata
But now, behold, Adoniyah has become king, and you, my master the king, did not know.
19 Vayizbach shor umeri-vetzon larov vayikra lechol-benei hamelech ule-Evyatar hakohen ule-Yo'av sar hatzava veli-Shlomoh avdecha lo kara
He has slaughtered many oxen and fattened animals and sheep, and invited all the children of the kin, and Evyatar the priest and Yoav, the general of the army, but Shlomo, your servant, he did not invite.
20 Ve'atah adoni hamelech einei chol-Isra'el aleicha lehagid lahem mi yeshev al-kise adoni-hamelech acharav
You, my master, the king, the eyes of all Yisrael are upon you, to tell them who will sit on the throne of my master, the king, after him.
21 Vehayah kishchav adoni-hamelech im-avotav vehayiti ani uveni Shlomo chata'im
When my master, the king, will lie with his fathers, then will I and my son Shlomo be considered sinners."
The Tanach again mentions David's age to emphasize the great effort required to arise and oppose Adoniyah.  He no longer had the strength to rule the people or mediate in their disputes.  The many years of fighting and suffering had taken their toll of him.  He could not even teach Torah or serve as a spiritual guide. Even the company of his wives and closest friends was too great a strain upon him.  Avishag alone took care of him and was his constant companion.  Nonetheless, when he heard of the danger to his son, Shlomo, he arose like a lion in his defense.

As soon as he saw Bat-Sheva, David realized that something was the matter.  She would never have troubled him were it not something serious.  So, without any delay or formalities, he asked her what it was.

Bat-Sheva prepared her words with great thought and deliberation.  She began addressing David as "my master," an expression of respect rather than familiarity.  Then she proceeded to remind him of the oath he had taken to appoint Shlomo as his successor.  She alluded to several aspects of this oath which it absolutely binding.  First, it was made using G-d's Name, as she said, "you swore by HaShem, your G-d." Furthermore, the oath had been made as a personal promise to her, as she said, "to your maidservant."  Such an oath cannot be revoked without the permission of the person to whom it was made.

Nor was there anything intrinsically wrong with the oath, that it might be invalidated. Although Adoniyah was older, Shlomo was also King David's son, and therefore fit to succeed him. Bat-Sheva also quoted David's own words, "Shlomo, your son, will be king after me, and he will sit on my throne."  He could not deny that he had said it himself.

Why had David made this promise?  When the first son of David and Bat-Sheva died, she became very depressed.  She said, "Even if I have another son and even if he survives, the rest of David's children will never treat him as an equal."  She would hot have relations with him again until he came to her and said, "G-d has revealed to me that you will, indeed, have another son, and that he will be king after me and sit on my throne."  David specifically used two expressions, "be king after me" and "sit on my throne" to indicate two aspects of Shlomo's reign.  But the expression "be king after me" he foretold that Shlomo would rule over all twelve tribes, just as he himself had done.  By the words "sit on my throne" he indicated that Shlomo's reign would be one of peace and prosperity.  Shlomo would be able to spend his days sitting on his throne, judging and guiding his people, and he would not have to go out to war.

After this introduction, Bat-Sheva proceeded to describe the rebellion of Adoniyah.

Bat-Sheva concluded by reminding David of the gravity of the situation and the potential danger.  Some say the words vehayiti ani uveni Shlomo mean "I and my son Shlomo will be sinners." We will actually have sinned by not telling you now, when we should have.  We will therefore deserve whatever befalls us, as well as being responsible for whatever tragedy befalls the Jewish People as a result of our negligence.

Other say it means "we will be treated like sinners."  Adoniyah will have us killed or exiled so that his claim to the throne will not be disputed.

Thus, not only did Bat-Sheva follow Natan's advice to alert David of Adoniyah's rebellion. She greatly improved upon it.  In her wisdom she presented her case in such a way that David would almost certainly arise on her behalf.

22 Vehineh odenah medaberet im-hamelech veNatan hanavi ba
She was still speaking with the king, and Natan the prophet came.
23 Vayagidu lamelech lemor hineh Natan hanavi vayavo lifnei hamelech vayishtachu lamelech al-apav artzah
They told the king, "Here is Natan, the prophet!"  He came to the king,a nd he bowed on his face to the ground to the king.
Natan did not ask for permission to enter King David's presence.  A prophet has the right to see the king whenever he needs to and even to speak before the king grants him permission.  Nonetheless, he must show the same respect for the king as anyone else.  He must stand up and bow before him, and not sit unless the king gives him leave.  If the king summons him, he must come and appear before him.

The only one who does not have to show this sort of respect for the king is the Kohen Gadol (High Priest).  He is not required to come at the king's request, and if he does choose to come, he does not have to stand.  On the contrary, there are situations in which the king must stand for him, as it says, "before Eleazar, the priest, he will stand" (BaMidbar 27:21). That is when the king asking the advice of the Urim and Tumim.  Nonetheless, it is proper for the High Priest to show the king respect of his own volition.  Like all other Jews, he is commanded to honor the king, as it says, "You will surely put a king upon yourselves" (Devarim 17:15).  It is the duty of the people to elevate the king above everyone else.

24 Vayomer Natan adoni hamelech atah amarta Adoniyahu yimeloch acharai vehu yeshev al-kis'i
Natan said, "Did you say, 'Adoniyah will rule after me, and he will sit on my throne'?
25 Ki yarad hayom vayizbach shor umeri-vetzon larov vayikra lechol-benei hamelech ulesarei hatzava ule-Evyatar hakohen vehinam ochlim veshotim lefanav vayomeru yechi hamelech Adoniyahu
For he has gone down today, and slaughtered many oxen and fatted animals and sheep.  He invited all the children of the king, and all the officers of the army, and Evyatar, the priest. Behold, they are eating and drinking before him, and they said, 'Long live King Adoniyah!"
26 Veli ani-avdecha ule-Tzadok hakohen veli-Vnayahu ven-Yehoyada veli-Shlomoh avdecha lo kara
But as for me, your servant, and Tzadok, the priest, and Bnayahu ben Yehoyada, and Shlomo, your servant he did not invite us.
27 Im me'et adoni hamelech niheyah hadavar hazeh velo hodata et-avdecha mi yeshev al-kise adoni-hamelech acharav
Is this thing from my master, the king, and you did not let your sevants know who would sit on the throne of my master, the king, after him?"
Natan took the approach opposite that of Bat-Sheva.  He began by pretending that he did not know whether Adoniyah was acting with David's permission or not.  He said, "Have you perhaps changed your mind about whom you have chosen to be your successor?  Why did you not inform me?  Is it that you know I support Shlomo?" (Abrabanel)

He went on to describe the extent of Adoniyah's support. Whereas Bat-Sheva had tried to minimize it so that David would not be afraid he had lost the people's loyalty, Natan wanted to make clear to David that Adoniyah had indeed rebelled against him. He even told David that Adoniyah's followers had already declared him king and were toasting him as such.

It was not mentioned above that they had actually called Adoniyah "king," but Natan knew it and told David.  Thus the Tanach reveals here something that was omitted before.  We find many instances like that in the Tanach.  The same story is told in two places, but with different details.  Between them we can put together a more complete picture of what actually happened.

The differences between Natan's presentation and Bat-Sheva's reflect their very different positions and the different ways in which they were affected by the situation.  As a prophet, it was Natan's duty to rebuke the king and correct him when he erred.  A prophet dare not fear those to whom he has been sent, or be afraid of incurring their wrath, lest he hesitate to criticize them as he should.  He must confront them with the full force of their sins.  He is G-d's messenger.  He does not speak for himself.

Natan therefore presented David with the worst possible interpretation of Adoniyah's actions.  He laid the entire responsibility on David himself, assuming that everything he had done was with David's approval.  Some even understand these words as a statement rather than a question:  "You said, 'Adoniyah will rule after me, and he will sit on my throne.'"

Bat-Sheva, on the other hand, did not want to appear to be falsely accusing the king.  Being a concerned party, her criticism could not be objective.  She therefore came not to criticize David, but to plead for herself and for her son.

28 Vaya'an hamelech David vayomer kir'u-li le-Vat-Shava vatavo lifnei hamelech vata'amod lifnei hamelech
King David answered and said, "Call Bat-Sheva to me!"  She came before the king and stood before the king.
29 Vayishava hamelech vayomar chai-HaShem asher-padah et-nafshi mikol-tzara
Then the king swore, saying, "By the life of G-d Who saved my soul from all trouble,
30 Ki ka'asher nishbati lach b'HaShem Elokei Yisra'el lemor ki-Shlomoh venech yimloch acharai vehu yeshev al-kis'i tachtai ki ken e'eseh hayom hazeh
as I swore to you by HaShem, the G-d of Yisrael, saying that Shlomo your son would be king after me, and that he would sit on my throne in my place, so will I do this very day!"
Some say that Bat-Sheva left the room when Natan came in.  She did not want David to realize that they had arranged to come one after the other.  Nor did it seem strange to David that she left, as Natan might have had something private to discuss that he did not want even the king's wife to hear.  Others say that she moved away from David's bed, but did not leave.

David wanted to address his answer to her rather than to Natan because she was the one who was most affected by it. It was to her that he had sworn before, and now he would reaffirm that oath.

By the words, "from all trouble" David referred to three dangers that had threatened him during his lifetime.  They were, his wars with the Pelishtim, the persecution of Shaul, and the rebellion of Avshalom.  These were not just personal dangers. All three threatened to take his kingdom away from him.  It was therefore fitting to mention them now, as he promised the kingdom of Shlomo.  He said, "Just as G-d made me King of Yisrael, even though there were many that opposed me and would have destroyed me, so will Shlomo become king in spite of all his enemies.

31 Vatikod Bat-Sheva apayim eretz vatishtachu lamelech vatomer yechi adoni hamelech David le'olam
Bat-Sheva bowed on her face to the ground and prostrated herself to the king, and said, "May my master, King David, live forever."
When Bat-Sheva gave David this blessing, she was not referring to life in this world.  David was already close to death.  It would be nothing but a mockery to wish long life to one who is lying on his deathbed.  Furthermore, even a healthy person knows that he will not live forever.  It only a very exceptional person like the prophet Eliyahu who escapes physical death.  Even the greatest of prophets and the most pious men eventually die.  Such a blessing is not realistic.  To pray for such a thing is to pray in vain.

In this particular case, there is another reason that Bat-Sheva could not have meant physical life.  If David really were to live forever, she and Shlomo would be in no danger from Adoniyah.  Adoniyah would not try to take the throne from David as long as he was alive.  There would therefore have been no need for Shlomo to become king.

Bat-Sheva might also have been alluding to the enteral life that David would merit by having a son following in his footsteps.  As long as a person leaves children who continue his good deeds in this world, it is as if he never died.  His soul shares in the merit of their good deeds, so it is continually rising higher in Paradise.  They carry on his work for him when he is no longer able to do it himself.  That is why the Tanach later says, "David lay with his fathers," rather than "David died."  Even after he died, it was as if he was still alive, because his sons, Shlomo, carried on his good work.

Parashat Chayei Sarah

MeAm Lo'ez 

Haftarah VaYera

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 · Posted in , , , , , ,

Melachim Bet [2 Kings] 4:1-37 
[Parashat VaYera]


4:1 Ve'ishah achat minshei venei-hanevi'im tza'akah el-Elisha lemor avdecha ishi met ve'atah yadata ki avdecha hayah yare et-HASHEM vehanosheh ba lakachat et-shenei yeladai lo la'avadim 
One woman from among the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha saying, "Your servant, my husband, died, and you know that your servant did fear HASHEM.  Now the creditor has come to take my two children for himself as slaves.

Elisha's fifth miracle involved helping a poor woman and saving her children from slavery.  This woman's emunah (faith) was the saving virtue of her generation.  Had it not been for her, the entire Jewish People would have been destroyed.

The woman was the widow of Ovadya the prophet.  Ovadya had been Ahav's servant and chief adviser, and used his position to help other G-dfearing people.  He protected them during the period of persecution initiated by Izavel (Jezebel) (Melachim Alef 18:4), hiding one hundred prophets and providing them with food and water There he is described as "fearing G-d very much," as his wife describes him here.

But Ovadya didn't always have enough money to buy food for them, so he was forced to borrow.  It was to Ahav's sons, Yehoram, now King of Yisrael, that he turned.  Yehoram was not above taking interest for these loans, in direct violation of the Torah.  And when Ovadya's heirs could not pay his debts, Yehoram was ready to violate the Torah further by taking them as slaves. For, through a person's property may be designated as collateral for his debts, his body may not, and certainly not his children.  He cannot be forced to sell them or become a slave himself.

See how easily a person who violates one commandment is drawn into violating others!  Yehoram began by taking interest, which is a violation of property rights, and ended up attempting ot kidnap, a violation of personal rights.  Eventually he was punished for these, along with his other sins.

2 Vayomer eleiha Elisha mah e'eseh-lach hagidi-li mah-yesh-lach babayit vatomer ein leshifchatcha chol babayit ki im-asuch shamen
Elisha said to her, "What should I do for you?  Tell me, what do you have in the house?"  She said, "Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jug of oil."
Elisha said, "If you have nothing at all I cannot give you a blessing.  I will have to try to help you in another way.  For to receive a blessing you must have something to be blessed."

This woman was really destitute.  The oil, which was all she had was not even enough to use for eating, but only for rubbing on the skin.  She wondered whether that was enough for a blessing.  But as soon as she told Elisha about it, he reassured her, "Don't worry," he said, "oil is a holy substance.  It is used to anoint priests and kings.  Even a small amount of oil is sufficient to receive a blessing!"

The miracle that Elisha was about to perform was similar to the one that Eliyahu had done for the woman with whom he stayed in Tzarfat.  It involved blessing something that she already had, making it increase without limit.

3 Vayomer lechi sha'ali-lach kelim min-hachutz me'et kol-shechenayich kelim rekim al-tam'iti
He said, "Go, borrow containers for yourself from outside, from all your neighbors, empty containers, not just a few.
4 Uvat vesagart hadelet ba'adech uve'ad-banayich veyatzakt al-kol-hakelim ha'eleh vehamale tasi'i
Then go and close the door upon yourself and upon your sons.  Pour upon all these containers, and the full ones take away."
Elisha said, "The woman of Tzarfat was worthy of a great miracle.  She had earned that merit by her self-sacrifice and extraordinary hospitality.  Though the food she had was not even enough for herself, she was ready to share it with Eliyahu, who was a total stranger.  You, however, do not have such merit, so the miracle that will be performed for you will be more restricted.

"You will be able to pour as much as you want from the bottle, but only one time.  Once you stop pouring, the miracle will stop and it will become a regular bottle of oil again.  So prepare as many containers as you can to hold the oil.  They need not below to you, so borrow from your neighbors.  As long as you keep pouring, the oil will continue to flow, regardless of what it goes into.

"But you must not move while you are pouring.  The bottle will become like a well from which oil will flow like water from its source.  Just as a well does not move, so this bottle must not be moved for the duration of the miracle.

"Most important, no one but you and your children may see it happen.  This is one of the greatest kinds of miracles, because it violates a fundamental law of nature.  Within nature, things move around and change from one form to another, but the total amount of material always remains the same.  For the amount of oil to increase will require an act comparable to the creation of the world from nothingness.  That is a much greater miracle than bringing down fire from the sky or purifying bad water by throwing in salt.

"G-d ordained the laws of nature for man to live by.  Without natural regularity, man would not be able to accomplish good deeds and avoid evil ones.  G-d does not want man to witness those laws being violated for then the world would appear chaotic to him.  Therefore this miracle must be performed quietly, hidden from view.

"Even you and your children will not actually see the amount of the increase.  You will only be able to deduce that it has, since it will continue to flow no matter how much has already been poured out.  As for others, they may not witness even that.

"One you have collected as many containers as you can, close the door so that no one else can enter or look in.  Only then can you begin to pour, and the miracle will start."

Some say the instruction to borrow containers meant that she could use only borrowed ones, not her own.  Elisha said, "You husband committed a sin by agreeing to pay interest on his loan, because prohibition of interest applies to the borrower as well as the lender.  Even though he did it for a worthy cause, it left a curse on all his property.  Neither this house nor anything else that belonged to him can ever be blessed.  Your own containers will therefore not be able to receive the extra oil.  Even into the borrowed containers it will not flow while they are resting on the floor or the table of your house.  So you must hold the flask in your hands while you pour, and your children must hold the containers in which the oil is being collected.  As soon as one is full, the child holding it must take it away and the other child can put another in its place.  But once a container is full it may be placed back on the ground, for then it is no longer subject to the miracle.

5 Vatelech me'ito vatisgor hadelet ba'adah uve'ad baneiha hem magishim eleiha vehi motzaket
She went from him and closed the door upon herself and upon her sons.  They were bringing to her, and she was pouring.
6 Vayehi kimelot hakelim vatomer el-benah hagishah elai od keli vayomer eleiha ein od keli vaya'amod hashamen
When the containers were full she said to her son, "Bring me another container!"  He said to her, "There isn't another container!"  Then the oil stopped.
7 Vatavo vataged le'ish ha'Elokim vayomer lechi michri et-hashemen veshalmi et-nishyech ve'at uvanayich tichi banotar
She went and told the man of G-d, he said, "Go sell the oil and pay your creditors.  You and your sons will live on the reminder.
 When all the containers were full she said, "There are still some pieces of broken containers.  Bring those now, because just as G-d can fill what is empty, so can He mend what is broken."  They brought the broken pieces, and the pieces joined together to become whole as the oil flowed into them.

As soon as there were no empty containers left, the oil stopped flowing. But the miracle was not finished.  She still had to sell the oil so that she could pay her debt.  With so much oil suddenly on the market, the price of oil would normally have gone down, and she would have gotten only a fraction of its real value.  But she could not afford to keep the oil and sell it little by little.  She needed the money right away.  Nor would Yehoram, being a shrewd businessman, have accepted the oil itself as payment.  So, though she had plenty of oil, her problems were far from over.

She went back to Elisha and asked him what to do next.  Should she sell it all and risk having to accept a deflated price?  He said, "Sell it and don't worry!"

Miraculously, the price remained stable.  No matter how much she sold, no one offered less.  She made so much money that not only were her debts paid in full, but she and her sons lived for the rest of their lives on what was left.

8 Vayehi hayom vaya'avor Elisha el-Shunem vesham ishah gedolah vatachazek-bo le'echol-lachem vayehi midei avero yasur shamah le'echol-lachem
One day, Elisha passed through Shunem.  There was a great woman.  She took hold of him, that he eat bread.  Thereafter, whenever he passed through he went aside there to eat bread.
Shunem was a city in the Emek Yizre'el (Jezreel Valley), in the portion of Yissachar.  It was there that King Shaul fought his last battle against the Pelishtim.

This woman was famous for her piety and good deeds.  It was in that way that she was "a great woman."  She was respected by all the people of her community.  Some say she was the sister of Avishag the Shunami, who was King David's companion in his last years, and the mother of the prophet Ido.  Others say she was Ido's wife.  She recognized Elisha's greatness, and implored him to be their guest.  Some say she didn't take hold of him physically, but by her words.

9 Vatomer el-ishah hineh-na yadati ki ish Elokim kadosh hu over aleinu tamid
She said to her husband, "Behold, please, that I know that it is a holy man of G-d who passes by us all the time.
10 Na'aseh-na aliyat-kir ktanah venasim lo sham mitah veshulchan vechise umenorah vehayah bevo'o eleinu yasur shamah
Let us make a little extra room, and put a bed, a table, a chair and a lamp there for him.  Then, whenever he comes to us he will go aside there."
How did she know that Elisha was a holy man?  Some say she knew his reputation.  She had heard about the miracles he had performed and knew that only a truly holy man could have done such things.

Others say she could tell by his conduct.  Some say she saw that the flies never came to the table when he ate.  Others say that it was because his bed was always clean in the morning.  It had the fragrance of Gan Eden.  Her husband didn't notice these things, because a woman notices more about guests than a man does.

She could also tell that Elisha's student, Geichazi, was not holy like him.  She therefore spoke in the singular and said, "A holy man of G-d."  By this she implied that he was holy, but his disciple who accompanied him was not.

She said, "This holy man passes through our community frequently, and we are honored that it pleases him to stay at our house.  Such a holy man ought to have a private room when he comes.  He should not have to use the same utensils as everyone else and sit where everyone can see him, for great men and scholars should not eat or attend to their affairs in public.  Moreover, this man is a prophet and may want to be alone to receive divine inspiration.

The word aliyat-kir (extra room), literally means an elevation of the wall.  Some say it was a partition within the house, a wall raised to form a separate room.  Others say it was an extension of the outer wall of the house upwards, to create a room on the roof.  Some say there were already walls above the roof, and they had only to add another roof above them.

11 Vayehi hayom vayavo shamah vayasar el-ha'aliyah vayishkav-shamah
One day he came there, and went aside to the extra room and lay down there.
12 Vayomer el-Geichazi na'aro kera la-Shunamit hazot vayikra-lah vata'amod lefanav
He said to Geichazi, his servant, "Call this Shunami!" He called her, and she stood before him.
13 Vayomer lo emar-na eleiha hineh charadet eleinu et-kol-hacharadah hazot meh la'asot lach hayesh ledaber-lach el-hamelech o el-sar hatzava vatomer betoch ami anochi yoshavet
He said to him, "Please say to her, 'Behold, you have shown all this great respect for us.  What is there to do for you?  To speak on your behalf to the king or to the general of the army?'"  She said, "Within my people do I live."
The righteous are generally unwilling to accept gifts, as it says, "He who hates gifts will live" (Mishlei 15:27).  In this case, however, Elisha accepted the woman's help.  He saw that she gave it with a pure heart and sincere generosity, not because she hoped to receive a reward.  That is why she was worthy of the merit of helping him, thereby taking part in his great work.  He accepted her help as the kohanim accept the gifts that G-d decreed to be given to them.  Even so, he would only accept a small gift, equal to his needs and no more.  Later, when Naaman the general of Aram gratefully offered him riches for curing him, he refused to accept anything.

Although the woman had not expected any reward, Elisha wanted to show his appreciation.  He remembered that before Eliyahu went up to heaven, he had given him the choice of whatever parting gift he would like.  Now he offered the woman a similar choice.

He said, "By the great effort that this woman has come to on our behalf, she has shown herself to be one who sincerely respects the Torah and those who study it.  Her reward is that we, in turn, show our respect for her by listening to her and accepting her words.  For he who loves Torah scholars will be granted a son who is a Torah scholar, and he who honors Torah scholars will have a son-in-law who is a Torah scholar, but he who respects Torah scholars is even greater, and he will become a Torah scholar himself.

The kind of help that Elisha had in mind was natural, physical help, the sort of help that even one who was not a prophet could have given.  He preferred that to performing a miracle for her.  Since the victory over Moav, he had gained the respect of the king and his officers.  Perhaps his influence could be of use to her.

But the woman replied that she had no need of such help.  She said, "Here, among my own family and community, I am known and respected.  No one would hurt me, and if I were in need there would be enough people ready to come to my aid. I have no business elsewhere, and if I did, they would help there too."

This seems a strange offer in light of the last miracle Elisha had performed.  If he had such influence in the court, why hadn't he simply asked Yehoram to release the wife of Ovadya from her debts?  Perhaps it was only as a result of that miracle that he gained this respect.  Yehoram saw that he would be better off cooperating with the prophet, since if he did not he was liable to be defeated by a miracle anyway.

Some say it was Rosh HaShanah, the day on which the deeds of each person are weighed and his future decided.  On that day G-d judges the childless and decides whether they will be granted children.

By the word "king," Elisha was referring not to Yehoram, but to G-d, the King of the World.  Since Rosh HaShanah is the day on which G-d's kingdom is proclaimed, Elisha chose to refer to Him this way.  But the woman answered, "I offer my prayers together with my community, so I need no intermediary.  The prayers of a community go directly to G-d, and those who make themselves part of the community will not be judged harshly. (Zohar Noach)

14 Vayomer umeh la'asot lah vayomer Geichazi aval ben ein-lah ve'ishah zaken
He said, "Then what is there to do for her?"  Geichazi said, "But she has no son, and her husband is old."
15 Vayomer kera-lah vayikra-lah vata'amod bapatach
He said, "Call her!"  He called her, and she stood in the doorway.
16 Vayomer lamo'ed hazeh ka'et chayah ati choveket ben vatomer al-adoni ish ha'Elokim al-techazev beshifchatecha
He said, "At this season, in the time of life, you will be holding a son in your arms."  She said, "Don't, my master, man of G-d!  Don't deceive your maidservant!"
Geichazi said, "Even though she has all her needs, she is childless.  Couldn't you bless her with a son?  There is no natural way for her to have a child, because she is too old.  When she was young she had no children, so she certainly won't now."

Some say she was not too old, but her husband was.  Geichazi said, "She cannot afford to wait for a child, because her husband is old and may die soon.  But you can perform a miracle for her!"

Geichazi did not seem to understand that Elisha could not control nature.  He could not do whatever he wanted.  In certain situations he was able to declare a miracle and it would be fulfilled, but he could not make anything happen at any time.  At that moment, however, Elisha experienced divine revelation.  G-d told him that that was indeed the blessing he was to give her, so he had Geichazi call her back.

Some say that he had not been commanded to bless her, but gave this blessing from his own heart.  He trusted G-d to fulfill it, as it says, "The desire of those who fear Him He will do." (Radak)

The expression ka'et chayah (in the time of life), is the same one that the angels used when they told Avraham that Sarah would bear him a son.  Some say it means, "at the time of birth."  Elisha said, "The child will be born at its own proper time, after fully developing in the womb.  Rest assured, therefore, that it will be healthy and thrive."  According to this, the world "life" refers to the child.  Or it may refer to the season itself.  It would be a time that is conducive to birth, a time when those who are born will live.

17 Vatahar ha'ishah vateled ben lamo'ed hazeh ka'et chayah asher-diber eleiha Elisha
The woman conceived and bore a son, at that season, in the time of life, as Elisha had told her.
18 Vayigdal hayaled vayehi hayom vayetze el-aviv el-hakotzrim
The child grew up.  One day he went out to his father, to the reapers.
19 Vayomer el-aviv roshi roshi vayomer el-hana'ar sa'ehu el-imo
He said to his father, "My head!"  He said to the servant, "Carry him to his mother."
The harvest season is a dangerous time, because the sun is strong and beats down upon a person's head.  People spend long hours working hard in the field reaping the grain, and if they are not careful, they are liable to suffer sunstroke.  So it happened to the boy that day.  But his father did not realize there was anything seriously wrong.  He thought the boy was just tired and wanted to go home.

20 Vayisa'ehu vayevi'ehu el-imo vayeshev al-birkeiha ad-hatzohorayim vayamot
He carried him and brough thim to his mother.  He sat on her knees until noon, and then he died.
21 Vata'al vatashkivehu al-mitat ish ha'Elokim vatisgor ba'ado vatetze
She went up and laid him down on the bed of the man of G-d.  She closed up upon him and went out.
Now, the woman thought, her worst fears had been realized.  But had not Elisha promised her it would not happen? So she went to seek his aid.  She knew that he alone could save the child.  First, she put him in the special room that symbolized her dedication to Elisha and the rest of the holy prophets.  She said, "May the merit of this room and all the hospitality we have shown protect this child and bring him back to life.  For how can a deed performed with such sincerity be repaid with sorrow?"

22 Vatikra el ishah vatomer shilchah na li echad min-hane'arim ve'achat ha'atonot ve'arutzah ad-ish ha'Elokim ve'ashuvahShe called to her husband and said, "Please send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, and I will run to the man of G-d and come back."
23 Vayomer madua at holechet elav hayom lo-chodesh velo shabat vatomer shalomHe said, "Why are you going to him today?  It is not the New Moon and it is not Shabbat!" She said, "All is well."
She did not tell her husband what had happened.  So confident was she that Elisha would revive the boy that she felt she could sincerely reassure him that everything would be alright.  She also wanted to conceal the forthcoming miracle as much as possible.  She didn't even want her husband to know about it.

From his question, we see that the woman followed the practice of visiting her teacher every Shabbat and Holiday.  This is very praiseworthy, and anyone who lives within a short distance of his teacher should observe it, at least on the major festivals.  However, if it is too far to walk there and back on the same day, there is no obligation.

24 Vatachavosh ha'aton vatomer el-na'arah nehag valech al-ta'atzor-li lirkov ki im-amarti lach
She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, "Drive and go!  Don't stop me from riding unless I tell  you to."
25 Vatelech vatavo el-ish ha'Elokim el-har haKarmel vayehi kir'ot ish-ha'Elokim otah mineged vayomer el-Geichazi na'aro hineh haShunamit halaz
She went and came to the man of G-d, to Mount Karmel.  When the man of G-d saw her from afar he said to Geichazi his servant, "Here is that Shunamit!
26 Atah rutz-na likratah ve'emar-lah hashalom lach hashalom le-ishech hashalom layaled vatomer shalom
Now, please run to meet her, and say to her, 'Is all well with you? Is all well with your husband? Is all well with the boy?'" she said, "All is well!"
Some say she rode on the donkey.  Others say she brought it along in case she got tired, but she preferred to walk to Elisha herself, because she was bitter and upset.

As she had not told her husband the reason for her visit, neither did she tell Geichazi.  The only one who could help her was Elisha, so there was no point in telling anyone else.

27 Vatavo el-ish ha'Elokim el-hahar vatachazek beraglav vayigash Geichazi lehodefah vayomer ish ha'Elokim harpeh-lah ki-nafshah marah-lah va'HASHEM helim mimeni velo higid li
She came to the man of G-d, to the mountain, and took hold of his feet.  Geichazi approached to push her away, but the man of G-d said, "Let her go, for her soul is bitter, and HASHEM concealed from me and did not tell me."
28 Vatomer hasha'alti ven me'et adoni halo amarti lo tashleh oti
She said, "Did I ask for a son from my master?  Did I not say, 'Do not mislead me?'"
The woman grabbed Elisha's feet and held fast as a sign that she would not let him go until he came with her.

Some say that before she began to speak, G-d revealed to Elisha what the trouble was. Therefore Elisha said, "G-d has concealed from me and did not tell me" in the past tense.  He said, "He concealed it from me until this moment, but now He has revealed it." (Radak)

Others say that it was not until she said "Didn't I say, 'Don't mislead me?'" that he knew what had happened.  He remembered what her fear had been when he gave her his blessing.  Now he prepared to fulfill his promise and revive her son.

29 Vayomer le-Geichazi chagor matneicha vekach mish'anti veyadecha valech ki-timtza ish lo tevarchenu vechi-yevarechecha ish lo ta'anenu vesamta mish'anti al-penei hana'ar
He said to Geichazi, "Gird your loins and take my staff in your hand and go.  If you meet anyone, don't greet him, and if anyone greets you, don't answer him, and put my staff on the boy's face."
30 Vatomer em-hana'ar chai-HASHEM vechei-nafshecha im e'ezveka vayakom vayelech achareiha
The mother of the boy said, "As HASHEM lives and as your soul lives, I will not abandon you!"  He got up and went after her.
31 VeGeichazi avar lifneihem vayasem et-hamish'enet al-penei hana'ar ve'ein kol ve'ein kashev vayashov likrato vayaged-lo lemor lo hekitz hana'ar
Geichazi went on ahead of them and put the staff on the boy's face, but he neither spoke nor heard.  He went back to meet him and told him saying, "The boy didn't wake up."
Elisha hoped that Geichazi would become a worthy disciple, so he gave him the privilege of taking part in this miracle.  That merit might one day help him become a prophet in his own right.  Elisha himself had once served Eliyahu by pouring water over his hands, and later had been worthy of miraculously supplying water for the armies of Yehudah and Yisrael.  Now he sent Geichazi ahead with his staff, by which he would be able to restore the boy's life.

However, Geichazi would not be able to participate in this miracle without some merit of his own.  Elisha decided that to earn that merit, Geichazi would have to develop the quality of humility.  He would have to perform the miracle without anyone else knowing, so that it would be motivated only by the desire to do G-d's will, not to impress others and win their admiration.  Elisha therefore commanded him not to greet anyone on his way, or even return a greeting.  In that way he would not become involved in conversation by which he might reveal his special mission.

But Geichazi's heart was not pure, and he craved exactly the fame and honor that Elisha demanded that he relinquish.  So he figured out a way to circumvent Elisha's instructions.  As he walked, he waved the staff in the air for everyone to see.  Instead of greeting him, people said, "Hey, Geichazi, where are you going with that staff?"

Elisha had not forbidden him to answer questions, only greetings, so he eagerly replied, "This is Elisha's staff!  He gave it to me to do a miracle!  I'm going to revive a dead child!"

Geichazi observed the letter of Elisha's instructions, but not the spirit.  He failed to demonstrate humility and earn the merit of performing a miracle.  When he got there and put the staff on the boy, nothing happened.

Some say that the staff was never intended to revive the child.  It was only meant to preserve his body so that it would not deteriorate further before Elisha got there.  To revive him would require more than a staff. Elisha would have to be alone with the child, to pray and implore G-d, and even to place his own body on the child's.  None of this could Geichazi do.  But Elisha gave him a small part of the miracle so that he might thereby earn some merit too.  With the staff he could keep the boy closer to life, so that it would be easier to revive him and require less of a miracle.

Geichazi did not understand that.  When the boy showed no signs of life, he thought it had failed and Elisha had been mistaken in sending him.

32 Vayavo Elisha habaitah vehineh hana'ar met mushkav al-mitato
Elisha came into the house, and behold, the boy was dead, laid down on his bed.
33 Vayavo vayisgor hadelet be'ad sheneihem vayitpalel el-HASHEM
He came in, closed the door on the two of them, and prayed to HASHEM.
34 Vaya'al vayishkav al-hayeled vayasem piv al-piv ve'einav al-einav vechapav al-kapav vayighar alav vayacham besar hayaled
He got up and lay down on the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, his hands upon his hands, and spread himself out on him.  The child's flesh became warm.
Elisha prayed, "As you did miracles and revived the dead for my master Eliyahu, so now revive this boy for me!"  He had to pray to perform this miracle even though he had not for the others, because the revival of the dead is in G-d's hands alone.  There are three keys that G-d keeps Himself, the key to rain, the key to birth, and the key to the revival of the dead. They are not given over to any angel or representative.  Eliyahu had briefly received the key to the revival of the dead.  Now Elisha prayed to be given it too.

By placing his own body on the body of the boy, he imparted some of his life to him.  One interpretation is that it was his warmth that warmed the child's flesh and enabled him to live again.  Another is that the contact of the two bodies symbolized the qualities that Elisha wanted the boy to receive.  Such a symbol is a kind of nonverbal prayer.  Sometimes it is more effective than a prayer that is uttered only by the lips.  Thus we learn, "A symbol is a meaningful thing."  On Rosh HaShanah we therefore eat foods whose names sound like the things for which we pray.  The act of eating thereby becomes a nonverbal prayer.

35 Vayashav vayelech babayit achat henah ve'achat henah vaya'al vayighar alav vayezorer hana'ar ad-sheva pe'amim vayifkach hana'ar et-einav
He went back and walked around in the house, once this way and once that way, and got up and spread himself out on him.  The boy sneezed seven times, and the boy opened his eyes.
36 Vayikra el-Geichazi vayomer kera el-haShunamit hazot vayikra'eha vatavo elav vayomer se'i venech
He called Geichazi and said, "Call this Shunamit!" He called her and she came to him.  He said, "Lift up your child!"
Again, Elisha gave Geichazi an opportunity to take part in the miracle.  But he didn't tell him how he had performed it, because he was not worthy of hearing that.

37 Vatavo vatipol al-raglav vatishtachu artzah vatisa et-benah vatetze
She came and fell on his feet and bowed to the ground.  Then she lifted up her child and went out.
This was Elisha's seventh miracle. It corresponded to Eliyahu's revival of the son of the woman of Tzarfat.  Both had excelled in the giving of charity, and both were rewarded with the revival of a child.  So too, the promised revival of the dead in the future will come about by virtue of charity.

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*The Shunammit (Shunammite woman) is mentioned by the Midrash as one of the twenty three truly upright and righteous women who came forth from Yisrael (Midrash Tadshe, Ozar ha-Midrashim [Eisenstein], p. 474).

*“Woman of Valor” (Mishlei 31): “She gives generously to the poor; her hands are stretched out to the needy” is applied to her, for having fed the prophet Elisha; as is v28: “Her children declare her happy,” because Elisha’s prophecy that she would have a son was fulfilled for her (Midrash Eshet Hayil, Batei Midrashot, vol. 2)

- MeAm Lo'ez 

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