Saturday, January 2, 2010

King David's Instructions, True Leadership Is Not For Wimps

Recently, I've been writing about the Torah Portion of the Week, since I spend time reading it each week.  This week, Vayechi, I found the Haftarah, from Kings I, Chapter 2 more inspiring.  Only at the neighborhood Women's Shabbat Shiur Class did I begin to see some special things in the actual Torah Reading.  G-d willing, bli neder, I'll blog about it later in the week.

Just recently, Arutz 7 had a poll asking its readers  Who was the greatest Jewish warrior of all time?  The winner was King David.  You could say that King David was the first of our "generals" to go into politics.

King David's most crucial challenge was training his successor.  He didn't spend decades, like UK Queen Elizabeth has with her son Charles, who himself is already on the wrong side of sixty.  A few chapters earlier we find King David fading fast, totally "out of it."  There was rebellion in the ranks, and his beloved wife Batsheva had to be called in to bring him out of his stupor to remind him that he had promised her that their son, Solomon, would succeed him.

This week we discover a revitalized King David rattling off instructions to his son Solomon.  These aren't about ceremonies and procedures.  Solomon is told that he must execute some important people, whose loyalty can't be trusted.  One is even his cousin, Yoav Ben Tzruya.
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.'

Then King David died and his son King Solomon did what his father instructed.  And that made him a strong and respected leader.  Every year when I read this I think of Menachem Begin's grand failure.  I thought he was supposed to be a Bible lover.  How could Begin have ignored King David's instructions about how to establish yourself as leader?  Begin announced that he'd be magnanimous and not fire various political appointees.  He didn't put his people in positions of power in the Foreign and Defense Ministries.  He didn't even give the Foreign Ministry to someone of his party or ideology.  He gave it to Moshe Dayan.  He tried to be nice, different from what people expected.

Menachem Begin was the first "non Labor" politician to become Prime Minister of Israel.  The media and the world were in shock.  Afterwards they had the last laugh, because his Sinai "deal" with Egypt was more than the Labor Party would ever had done.  That precedent has been copied, virtually every time Likud gets in.  Look at Arik Sharon's Disengagement and Bibi Netanyahu's present policies. 

King Solomon started his rule great, executing those his father told should and then building the Beit HaMikdash, Holy Temple.  It's after that when he began making mistakes, getting over-confident, giving away cities, marrying too many women, etc.  Then something happened and he realized his mistakes, did tshuva, repentance, wrote Kohelet, Ecclesiastes and more.

Personal repentance is one thing, but for a leader to lose focus is something much more serious.  King Solomon lost the reigns and never quite got them back.  The stories of the fighting between kings, princes and kingdoms echo to this day.

We need a real leader.  One who isn't afraid to make tough decisions and carry them out.  We don't need politicians who are constantly looking over their shoulders, trying to do what they think will make them "popular."  That's not leadership.

Moshiach (Messiah) Ben (son of) David, Where Are You?


JDL London Canada said...

Batya - so true! I'm glad you and I are of the same mind set here. This is the answer I have been giving all the Jewish and non-Jewish critics who speak out against how Israel deals with its enemies. David was a true warrior and king. Ordering a 'hit' on Shemei after the fact, is like a scene from the "Godfather".

Rav Kahane was of this mindset as well. The times may have changed but not the rules nor the instructions.

Kol Tuv and Shavuah Tov

Batya said...

We're not being ruled by leaders, just by politicians, and that's bad news.

Keli Ata said...

JDL--I'm with with you on this. I have nothing against targeted assassinations re like those after Black Sept. massacre of the Israeli athletes.

Anonymous said...

For a correct understanding of this week's Haftarah, I suggest you read (Hebrew) Rav David Landau's Dvar Torah on the subject, a little more than half-way down this past week's Be'Ahavah U'Be'emunah publication by Machon Meir.

Moshiach (Messiah) Ben (son of) David, Where Are You?

As Ya'akov Avinu said in the same Parsha: "Li'yeshuatcha Kiviti, Hashem"

See Rav Moti Elon's Techeilet Mordechai commentary on this verse, regarding the question in Olam Habah "Tzipita L'yeshua?", and Rav Kook ZL's comments therein.

Shavua tov!

Batya said...

Shy, since so many of the readers here can't read/understand such advanced Hebrew, can't you give a short summary?

Anonymous said...

No time. Interestingly, the verification word for this post is "inglit". :)

Anonymous said...

Hey, great Musings! I just wanted to add a plug for this great new novel about King David that just came out. It's called "Foundation Stone," and can be found at It's based on the Jewish tradition and it's really a good read. Check it out. (The author is a rabbi living in the Hebron Area).