The Prophets, the Process and the Promised
Summary: The Haftorah
begins with King Sauls son Jonathan telling David not to appear
at the Kings festive Rosh Chodesh meal the following day, but rather
to hide for three days, during which time Jonathan will determine what
the Kings intentions are towards him. Jonathan tells David that
he will bring his servant boy with him to where David is hiding and he
will fire three arrows. Depending on what Jonathan would tell the servant
to do, David would know whether or not King Saul was planning to kill
him. The following day at the meal, David was absent, but King Saul did
not say anything, for he thought that perhaps David was unable to join
them. But when David was also absent on the second day, King Saul asked
Jonathan derisively why David was not there. Jonathan replied that he
had given David permission to attend a family sacrifice. The King grew
angry and insulted Jonathan, insisting that he bring David to him because
he deserved to die. Jonathan asked his father what David had done wrong.
King Saul then lifted his spear in the air to strike him, at which point
Jonathan knew that his father planned to kill David. Jonathan left the
table in anger, and the following morning he went to the field along with
his servant, where he fired the arrows and gave David the signal that
he should remain in hiding. After sending his servant away, Jonathan and
David greeted each other and wept. Jonathan then told David to go in peace,
reaffirming that their friendship would be forever.
Connection Between the Haftorah
and the Parsha: Since the Haftorah opens with the words, And
Jonathan said to him, Tomorrow is the New Moon (Chap.
20:18), and the day after this Shabbat is Rosh Chodesh, this Haftorah
was chosen to be read today.
>1. Selflessness vs. Selfishness
Jonathan was King Sauls son and the heir to the throne. But he loved his brother-in-law David and had a deep and lasting friendship with him. The story contained in this weeks Haftorah bears that out, because Jonathan was willing to confront his father and even risk his life to save David, whom he knew his father sought to kill. And Jonathan answered Saul his father and he said to him, Why should he be put to death? What did he do? (Chap. 20, verse 32).
The Question: Why would
Jonathan knowingly save Davids life if David was his rival to accede
to the throne?
The Answer: In his book
Sefer HaHaftarot, Rabbi Mendel Hirsch (son of Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch)
says that Jonathan, through his selflessness, demonstrated himself to
be one of the greatest figures in the Bible. He writes, There are
few figures in our history that attain the lofty spiritual heights of
Jonathan, whose nobility of character and courage never wavered, even
during his premonition of disaster. A royal heir, knowing that his friend
was his rival destined by G-d to sit on the throne that would otherwise
have been his Jonathan magnanimously saved David from persecution
by his father. Jonathan is a hero who deserves a crown for achieving the
highest qualities possible in a human being. Indeed, the Jerusalem
Talmud in Tractate Pesachim (6:1) says, Three abandoned their crowns
in This World and inherited it instead in the World to Come Jonathan
son of Saul was one of them.
The Lesson: It is perhaps
a measure of how far our political system has faltered that the very
idea of a politician mimicking Jonathans selflessness of character
and forgoing power to a rival strikes us as either entirely implausible
or bizarrely humorous. No one in their right mind, we would undoubtedly
say, would ever voluntarily give up a chance at power or prestige simply
because they were convinced that someone else was more suitable to the
task or was destined to fulfill the role at hand. People, it seems,
will cling to power at any cost, even when their professed ideology and
ostensible principles are being trampled before their very eyes. Thus,
even though the Israeli electorate resoundingly rejected the Labor Partys
candidate and his platform in last years elections for the premiership,
and even though Labors political legacy of Oslo lies in tatters,
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer
nevertheless refuse to acknowledge the error of their ways. They stay
in the government, working their hardest to limit Israels response
to Palestinian terror, to reject calls for expelling Yasser Arafat from
the region, and to insist that Israel get back to the negotiating table
with the Palestinian Authority. Rather than acting as Jonathan did, and
stepping aside gracefully and unselfishly, they remain glued to their
seats, preventing Israel from finishing the job. Dont forget - Jonathans
noble act resulted in David ascending to power the same David who
made Jerusalem our capital and brought glory to all of Israel. And it
is precisely that same kind of glory that the Jewish state so desperately
needs today. Let us hope that Peres and co. will learn from Jonathans
example. Rather than trying to hinder the inevitable, they should
step aside and finally enable it to happen.
2. Yom Yerushalayim Jerusalem Liberation Day
This year, Friday, May 10, coincides with the 28th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, the date on which Israelis forces miraculously liberated the Old City of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War (in order that the celebrations would not run into the Sabbath, Yom Yerushalayim this year was marked on Thursday). The Jewish peoples love affair with Jerusalem stretches back over 3000 years, when King David made it into Israels capital. Since Jews started returning en masse to the Land of Israel in recent centuries, Jerusalem has grown and expanded to include new neighborhoods.
One such neighborhood is Nachalat Shiva, which was the first Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem built in modern times outside the walls of the Old City. The two people behind the establishment of Nachalat Shiva were Rabbi Yosef Rivlin and Rabbi Yoel Moshe Salomon, and they were aided and assisted by Rabbi Meir Auerbach and Rabbi Binyamin Beinish Salant (son of Jerusalems Chief Rabbi at the time, Rabbi Shmuel Salant, an ancestor of mine). The cornerstone laying ceremony for the new neighborhood took place on Lag BOmer, the 18th of Iyar in the year 5629 (1869). By 1875, some 50 Jewish families were living in the area. The following story, (adapted from Where Heaven Touches Earth: Jewish Life in Jerusalem From Medieval Times to the Present, by Dovid Rossof, pp. 361-62) though it took place over a century ago in Jerusalem, still resonates with relevance:
The enemy was only a minute away from the locked entrance to the neighborhood. Dozens of Bedouin Arabs armed with clubs, daggers and guns were preparing to attack. The lives of the fifty families in Nachalat Shiva hung in the balance. Rabbi Rivlin reached for his gun and his shofar (rams horn). He stood by the window and concentrated deeply for several seconds. He brought the shofar to his lips and blew the notes that are sounded on Rosh HaShanah (the Jewish New Year). As he took a breath, he raised his gun and fired a shot out the window. Then he blew the shofar again. Suddenly, the Arabs were struck with terror. Run for your lives! one shouted hysterically. The Jews are killing us! yelled another. And the entire group fled in panic and disarray.
The Lesson: In confronting
our foes, we must never forget that weapons alone are not enough to protect
us. As Rabbi Rivlin heroically demonstrated in the story above, success
in battle, as in every endeavor, comes from G-d. Just as it was over
a century ago, Jerusalem is again under siege by our enemies. And just
as our adversaries sought to murder the men, women and children of Nachalat
Shiva, so too do they target the innocent throughout all of Israel today.
With the Jewish state facing an unrelenting enemy bent on its destruction,
now more than ever we must mobilize not only our military warriors,
but our spiritual forces too. And let us hope and pray that just as
G-d came to the defense of Nachalat Shiva and its residents, so will He
come to our protection and scatter our enemies in humiliation and defeat.