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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, A Cry to Break the Cycle

Every year during Succot we read Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, IMHO, King Solomon's greatest book.  Two years ago I even heard it in two parts of the world, two different synagogues, my year of "double Kohelet and no Simchat Torah."  I always read Kohelet while it's being said in shul.  I read it in English to myself, and each year it says something very different to me.

Last year I studied a few Tanach, Bible classes in Matan.  One was  "David: From the Wilderness to the Kingship" by Dr. Yael Ziegler.  Another is the Al HaPerek, in which we're learning the entire Tanach, two chapters a week.  In both of these courses, I've been learning a lot about King David, who was the father of Shlomo HaMelech, King Solomon the writer of Kohelet.

There's a point Yael brings up frequently when teaching about King David and his failed  predecessor King Saul.  King Saul was a family man, who not only had a close relationship to his father, but his sons stayed loyal and died with him, rather than trying to escape.  On the other hand, King David, who was probably the greatest king and warrior in Jewish history, was abused by his father and brothers and had rebellious, problematic sons.

When King David was old and dying,  1Kings 1:1-10, his family wasn't with him, neither his wives nor his sons.  It was very  much how he was raised, rejected by Yishai, his father, treated as a servant.  When Shmuel HaNavi, Samuel The Prophet went to Yishai to anoint the next king from among his sons, 1Samuel 16:1-13, David wasn't presented to him until Shmuel insisted that all sons be presented.

The royal family in which Shlomo HaMelech had been raised was not of the feel-good, living happily ever after fairy tales.  It was dysfunctional at best, rebellious and even a case of sexual abuse between siblings, Amnon and Tamar, 2Samuel 13:1-20

Prior to his being anointed, King Solomon and his mother Batsheva, most probably, lived in some "royal apartment" far from the other royals and far from his father King David.  His "official" training for office wasn't much more than those few words his father said to him before dying:
1 Kings Chapter 2 מְלָכִים א
א וַיִּקְרְבוּ יְמֵי-דָוִד, לָמוּת; וַיְצַו אֶת-שְׁלֹמֹה בְנוֹ, לֵאמֹר. 1 Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying:
ב אָנֹכִי הֹלֵךְ, בְּדֶרֶךְ כָּל-הָאָרֶץ; וְחָזַקְתָּ, וְהָיִיתָ לְאִישׁ. 2 'I go the way of all the earth; be thou strong therefore, and show thyself a man;
ג וְשָׁמַרְתָּ אֶת-מִשְׁמֶרֶת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, לָלֶכֶת בִּדְרָכָיו לִשְׁמֹר חֻקֹּתָיו מִצְו‍ֹתָיו וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו וְעֵדְו‍ֹתָיו, כַּכָּתוּב, בְּתוֹרַת מֹשֶׁה--לְמַעַן תַּשְׂכִּיל, אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה, וְאֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר תִּפְנֶה, שָׁם. 3 and keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, and His commandments, and His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to that which is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself;
ד לְמַעַן יָקִים יְהוָה אֶת-דְּבָרוֹ, אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר עָלַי לֵאמֹר, אִם-יִשְׁמְרוּ בָנֶיךָ אֶת-דַּרְכָּם לָלֶכֶת לְפָנַי בֶּאֱמֶת, בְּכָל-לְבָבָם וּבְכָל-נַפְשָׁם: לֵאמֹר--לֹא-יִכָּרֵת לְךָ אִישׁ, מֵעַל כִּסֵּא יִשְׂרָאֵל. 4 that the LORD may establish His word which He spoke concerning me, saying: If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee, said He, a man on the throne of Israel.
ה וְגַם אַתָּה יָדַעְתָּ אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לִי יוֹאָב בֶּן-צְרוּיָה, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לִשְׁנֵי-שָׂרֵי צִבְאוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל לְאַבְנֵר בֶּן-נֵר וְלַעֲמָשָׂא בֶן-יֶתֶר וַיַּהַרְגֵם, וַיָּשֶׂם דְּמֵי-מִלְחָמָה, בְּשָׁלֹם; וַיִּתֵּן דְּמֵי מִלְחָמָה, בַּחֲגֹרָתוֹ אֲשֶׁר בְּמָתְנָיו, וּבְנַעֲלוֹ, אֲשֶׁר בְּרַגְלָיו. 5 Moreover thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did unto me, even what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, unto Abner the son of Ner and unto Amasa the son of Jether, whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war upon his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that were on his feet.
ו וְעָשִׂיתָ, כְּחָכְמָתֶךָ; וְלֹא-תוֹרֵד שֵׂיבָתוֹ בְּשָׁלֹם, שְׁאֹל. 6 Do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace.
ז וְלִבְנֵי בַרְזִלַּי הַגִּלְעָדִי תַּעֲשֶׂה-חֶסֶד, וְהָיוּ בְּאֹכְלֵי שֻׁלְחָנֶךָ: כִּי-כֵן, קָרְבוּ אֵלַי, בְּבָרְחִי, מִפְּנֵי אַבְשָׁלוֹם אָחִיךָ. 7 But show kindness unto the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at thy table; for so they drew nigh unto me when I fled from Absalom thy brother.
ח וְהִנֵּה עִמְּךָ שִׁמְעִי בֶן-גֵּרָא בֶן-הַיְמִינִי, מִבַּחֻרִים, וְהוּא קִלְלַנִי קְלָלָה נִמְרֶצֶת, בְּיוֹם לֶכְתִּי מַחֲנָיִם; וְהוּא-יָרַד לִקְרָאתִי, הַיַּרְדֵּן, וָאֶשָּׁבַע לוֹ בַיהוָה לֵאמֹר, אִם-אֲמִיתְךָ בֶּחָרֶב. 8 And, behold, there is with thee Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjamite, of Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim; but he came down to meet me at the Jordan, and I swore to him by the LORD, saying: I will not put thee to death with the sword.
ט וְעַתָּה, אַל-תְּנַקֵּהוּ, כִּי אִישׁ חָכָם, אָתָּה; וְיָדַעְתָּ אֵת אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה-לּוֹ, וְהוֹרַדְתָּ אֶת-שֵׂיבָתוֹ בְּדָם שְׁאוֹל. 9 Now therefore hold him not guiltless, for thou art a wise man; and thou wilt know what thou oughtest to do unto him, and thou shalt bring his hoar head down to the grave with blood.'
י וַיִּשְׁכַּב דָּוִד, עִם-אֲבֹתָיו; וַיִּקָּבֵר, בְּעִיר דָּוִד. {פ} 10 And David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David. {P}
Thank G-d, young King Solomon was up to the task.  He became a great king and build the splendid Beit HaMikdash, Holy Temple for G-d.

But then, as it is written in Kohelet, King Solomon overdid certain things.  He married too many women, surrounded himself with too much material riches and other excesses.  At some point, he realized that he had been making an awful mistake.  It was all הבל hevel, vanities, norishkeit.

Had Shlomo HaMelech been trying to compensate for his lack of a father figure?

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