June 18, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
June 18, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Parshat Chayei Sarah

The haftarah reading this week is taken from the very first perek of Sefer Melachim and details the final days of David HaMelech. The reading parallels the theme of the parsha, which tells of the final days in the life of our first patriarch, Avraham. We have, in the past, reviewed many of the common themes that are shared both by the parsha and the haftarah: the aging of both of these righteous men, their concern for the future and the care they both showed in their choice for a successor.

It is somewhat curious, however, why Sefer Melachim, the Book of Kings, opens with the end of the reign of David. Would it not have made sense to begin the book with the story of the first king, Shaul? Or, perhaps, to start the book by describing the remarkable life and challenges of the second king, David, as he was the progenitor of the Israelite dynasty, with generations of Judean kings that followed him. Why then do we begin with the end of David’s life?

The answer, I believe, lies in the seventh perek of Sefer Shmuel B. There we read of David’s desire to build a “bayit” for Hashem, i.e., a Beit Mikdash, in which Hashem’s Shechina, Holy Spirit, would dwell. So powerful was this desire that David HaMelech composed a “song,” a “Shir Hama’alot,” to give expression to that yearning. In perek 132 of Tehillim, David cries out, “I take an oath not to enter my house nor grant sleep to my eyes until I find a place for G-d…”

The prophet Natan encourages David to build that “bayit’ but Hashem corrects him that very night and denies David permission to fulfill that desire. However, God is so pleased by David’s wish, He blesses him and tells the navi that since the king wanted to build Hashem a “bayit,” Hashem will reward him. He promises David that he would build him a “bayit,” not a physical structure but a “bayit,” a family of kings, descendants, who would succeed him. In other words, in return for David’s desire to establish “Beit Elokim,” Hashem establishes “Beit David,” the Davidic dynasty.

As we do not live in a world of kings and of dynasties, we often fail to appreciate the significance of a dynasty, especially in the ancient world. In that society, the death of a regent brought uncertainty to the populace and instability to the government. More often than not, a king’s death was a signal for civil war, with rival parties vying for the throne while foreign powers prepared to attack a country (and an army) struggling with internal strife and lacking a clear leader. We read of this throughout Tanach, especially with the government of Shomron, and we see that throughout world history as well. A dynasty, therefore, would guarantee safety, stability and a peaceful ascension to the throne.

It is for this reason that the Book of Melachim begins where it does. Because in this very chapter, after the story we read as the haftarah, we learn of the ascension of Shlomo to the throne, i.e., the beginning of a dynasty! And that is what was so important, for only now could we speak in terms of a book of “Melachim,” kings who were part of a dynasty. Perhaps even more significantly, David understood well the importance of the dynasty and, given the attempts of his son Adoniya to take over the throne, to the point of gathering followers and army officers to prepare for a possible civil war (as we read in the haftarah), he commands that Shlomo be anointed publicly and should even begin his reign during David’s lifetime in order to remove any doubt as to whom he chose as his successor.

Both Avraham Avinu (in our parsha) and David HaMelech (in our haftarah) worked diligently to ensure the proper future for their family/nation. They had different challenges to face, but, for each of them, preparing for the time beyond their own lives was an essential task to guarantee the future of Israel.


Rabbi Neil Winkler is the rabbi emeritus of the Young Israel Fort Lee and now lives in Israel.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles