Jealousy, betrayal, civil war

A look back at King Saul's dispute with David over the Israelite kingdom. Unfortunately so far, history is not repeating itself. Op-ed.

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch   ,

בנט וסער
בנט וסער
שריה דיאמנט/TPS

In Selah Hamachl’kot act I, we find King Saul (Shaul Hamelech) has finally cornered David (already anointed by the late Prophet Samuel, and thus already King David, but only incipiently, as the nation has not accepted him yet as King). Based on a tip by the treacherous citizens of the city of Zif (not far from today’s Maon and Hevron), Shaul Hamelech has finally trapped David and his band of 400 men, and is about to use his elite Israelite striking force to wipe out the “insurrectionists” after chasing the rebels for most of Saul’s 2 year reign.

It looks bad for our rebel heroes, when Providence steps in: “and a Malach (some say it was a human messenger; some, an actual angel is human disguise) arrived and told the King (Saul) that the Philistines are attacking “, thus putting the country, and Jewish lives, in danger (Samuel 1, chapter 23, verses 26-28).

Now comes the delicious psychological dilemma for the King: to battle David now, and at last finish off him and his “rebellion”- the moment King Saul has been waiting for, for years - thereby cementing his own royal dynasty, for him and his descendants. Or: should Shaul call off his men, lift the siege from David, and, putting the good of the country first (as any King of Israel rightly should), go save the country from this urgent Philistine danger. This is how Rashi, Radak and Malbim paint the inner struggle now presented to Shaul Hamelech. Country versus personal ego, fueled by Saul’s jealousy of David.

In Hebrew, Hamachl’kot means argument, difference of opinion. The word describes the inner torment that King Saul faced that day- and he passed with flying colors. Shaul called his men off the hunt of the rebels, and led them instead into a successful battle against the Philistines. Saul put the country’s good before personal interest and ego, and the Midrash credits him with an act of great righteousness.

Ah, but now comes act II of Selah hamachl’kot- coming exactly 2,900 years later- i.e., today. Our “king”, or rather Prime Minister, is embattled by rebels. He has saved the country from a dire enemy, but are the rebels grateful for being the most highly vaccinated country in the world? No way. Just as Churchill was turned out by an ungrateful England, whom he’d saved in WWII, PM Netanyahu is facing a group made up of ungrateful citizenry although he won 30 Knesset seats and therefore represents the largest party.

Who are the “rebels” of the year 2021? Actually, people who should be PM Netanyahu’s natural allies- right-wingers with an Israeli conservative bent. Gideon Sa’ar grew up in the Likud, and still professes to have rightward principles. Also, most of Avigdor Liberman’s Russian-Olim voters left the USSR and hate left-wing, socialist principles. Finally, there is Naftali Bennett’s Yamina, backed by much of the knitted kippa "lite" crowd, centered in Givat Shmuel and Modiin.

Throw any two of these parties into a coalition with the Likud and the religious parties, and a right-wing coalition is formed, with 65-66 seats. With all three, the coalition would have 73 seats. So why does this country not have a government?

Ego. All three (with the possible exception of Bennett) of these little kings have their personal axes to grind against PM Netanyahu and absolutely refuse to sit with him in a coalition. Thus, when confronted with the Philistines (OK, Iranians) at the door, and Covid and no budget at home, our three little kings would rather let the country go to pot, as they (and Attorney General Mandelblit) pursue their “David” to the bitter end.

In short, all four of them fail the test of Sela Hamachl’kot. There is not a King Saul in the lot of these egotistical politicians, who ignore the will of the majority and the good of the country, to follow their own petty aims.

A pox on all these villains. The people of Israel deserve better.

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch is a physician residing in Beit El who works at Hadassah Hospital. He recently completed Rabbinical ordination of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel through an adult study program at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav