April 21, 2024
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The rather well-known Haftarah that we read this Shabbat is taken from the very first perek of Sefer Melachim and describes the final days of King David’s reign over Israel. It is, in truth, an introduction to the era of the kings, as the final half of this first chapter—the part that is not included in the Haftarah itself—describes the coronation of Shlomo HaMelech, an act that, for the first time, creates a “dynasty” for Israel, with the son of the king succeeding to the throne (which is why the Book of “Kings” begins at this point).

The story included in the Haftarah, however, focuses on the attempt of David’s oldest surviving son, Adoniya, to gather public support for his “nomination” to the throne—an attempt that was thwarted by the actions of Bat Sheva (the mother of Shlomo) and the navi, Natan. Essential to the story as well, is the text’s description of the elderly, weak monarch who was not aware of his son’s machinations and who was so frail that he could not even keep himself warm—a fitting explanation as to why Adoniya felt that he could undermine the sitting regent.

All of this is related in the Haftarah and is, therefore, quite familiar to most.

But what many of us do not know is how the story of David’s final days is told in Divrei HaYamim A (perakim 28-29). There we read of a leader who is vigorous, forceful and energetic. David HaMelech gathers all of the nation’s leaders and proclaims that Hashem had chosen Shlomo to succeed him upon the throne of Israel and to build the Beit Hamikdash—something that he, David, was not allowed to do. He then gives Shlomo the blueprints for the construction of the First Temple, he divides the Kohen and Levi families and gives them each their respective responsibilities in the Temple service, and he charges Shlomo to carry out the massive construction.

If this were not enough, the text continues to explain how David had gathered precious metals for the Beit Hamikdash and, during his final days, David starts a “building fund” to which many of the wealthy contributed! The sefer concludes with the king’s blessings given to all who gathered and with a description of the massive celebration of Shlomo’s coronation—in which David participated as well.

So where is this frail, weak king who could not warm himself nor even know what was transpiring outside of his palace? Where is the Melech David of Sefer Melachim?

We might suggest that all of these details found in Divrei HaYamim had occurred earlier, when David was still strong and hearty. Yet, the story in Sefer Melachim clearly indicates that the people did NOT know of Hashem’s choice of Shlomo as a successor (which is why Bat Sheva and Natan pleaded with David to make his choice of Shlomo public knowledge) while the story, as told in Divrei HaYamim, reflected the awareness of the entire nation that Shlomo would succeed David!

One might also suggest that the different foci of the two books reflected the different goals of each: Sefer Melachim, written by Yirmiyahu HaNavi, was meant to teach the newly exiled Judeans that their defeat was not the result of a more powerful Babylonian army or, chas v’shalom, a more powerful “divinity” (something that many believed at the time), but their downfall was caused by their own sins and had been predicted and warned by Hashem. For this reason, the sefer focuses on the succession of King Shlomo to David’s throne in order to begin recording the people’s corruption that would grow progressively from one king to the next; from one generation to the next.

On the other hand, Divrei HaYamim, was written some two generations later—after the return to Tziyon—and had the goal of encouraging the returnees to reestablish the leadership of the Davidic dynasty and to rebuild the Beit Hamikdash. For this reason, it emphasized the glory of the earlier kings and the magnificence of the Holy Temple, and it focused on David’s efforts in establishing Shlomo’s throne and preparing the Beit Hamikdash.

I would suggest that, difficult as it might have been, David, realized that the future of his dynasty was in jeopardy, so he got off his bed, left his palace, gathered as much strength as he could and accomplished what we read in Chronicles.

What human beings are capable of doing in times of emergency is what creates legends. At crucial times, people can accomplish the seemingly impossible. Especially, when you’re David HaMelech! And, even more especially, when Hashem stands behind you!!!


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

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