This week?s Haftorah is from the First Book of Kings, Chapter 1, verses 1-31.


King David is 70 years old and he has grown physically weak. His aides try to keep him warm by covering him with layers of clothing, but to no avail. They bring a beautiful virgin named Avishag the Shunamite to warm the king (the text says explicitly that King David did not have relations with her).

Looking to take advantage of his father?s physical state, David?s son Adoniyahu proclaims himself King of Israel. Two of King David?s advisers ? Yoav ben Tzruyah and Evyatar HaKohen ? side with Adoniyahu, while the rest of his aides ? such as Tzadok HaKohen, Benayahu ben Yehoyada, Nathan the prophet, Shimi, Rayi and others ? remain loyal to King David. Adoniyahu then holds a big sacrificial ceremony, to which he invites various VIP?s while demonstratively ignoring his brother Solomon, Nathan the Prophet and others opposed to his maneuver. Nathan the Prophet then asks Bathsheba, Solomon?s mother, to go and speak to the ailing King David to inform him of Adoniyahu?s plot and to remind him of his promise that Solomon would rule as his heir. Bathsheba speaks to King David first and Nathan the Prophet then enters the room and confirms what she has said. King David then reaffirms his vow that his son Solomon will rule as king.

Connection between the Haftorah and this week?s Parsha (Torah portion):

In the Parsha, Abraham declares his son Isaac to be his rightful heir, just as King David declares his son Solomon to be his heir in the Haftorah.

At Death?s Door

At the beginning of the Haftorah, we are told that King David is old. The Radak says that he was 70 years old at the time, having ruled over Israel for a period of 40 years, and that the stress of fighting many wars had taken its toll on King David, leaving him weak. The verse states, ?And King David was old, he came into his old age, and they covered him with clothes, but he was not warmed (Chap. 1, verse 1).?

The Question:

Why was King David unable to be warmed?

The Answer:

The commentaries offer several answers, one of which is contained in an interesting Midrash Aggadah cited by both Rashi and Radak. In the Midrash, Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani says that when King David saw the Angel of Death standing in Jerusalem with his sword in his hand, his blood became cold from his fear of him. Thus, King David?s chill was a result of his fear of death and was not due to his physical environment. Hence, when King David?s aides covered him with clothes, it did not succeed in warming him.

The Lesson:

This past week, Israelis had especially good reason to be fearful: the Israeli security forces issued severe warnings of impending terrorist attacks. Intelligence information indicated that Palestinian suicide bombers may have succeeded in slipping into Israel in preparation for carrying out additional assaults. Roadblocks went up, police and soldiers were placed on high alert and the country braced itself for possibly another round of senseless bloodshed and loss of life. Or did it? After 13 months of Palestinian atrocities, after countless shootings, stabbings, bombings, stonings and mortar attacks, most Israelis have become accustomed to it all, almost to the point of accepting it as part of the daily routine. While America is gripped in the throes of panic, battered by an anthrax scare, fearful of more attacks, Israelis have somehow settled into a state of almost total apathy.

While it is tempting to suggest that such apathy is perhaps preferable, since it allows one to maintain one?s sanity in an otherwise impossible situation, the fact is that such indifference is neither normal nor productive. As we saw in the Haftorah, even King David - a man of tremendous faith and trust in G-d, author of the book of Psalms, warrior-king who defeated Israel?s enemies and established the Davidic monarchy ? even he, when he saw the Angel of Death nearby, was overcome by fear and emotion. Yet as old as he was, as immobilized as he might have been, King David agreed to allow his aides to do whatever they could to heal him, from wrapping him in blankets to taking the rather extreme step of finding him a virgin to lie next to him in bed. We see from this how a person must react when death is at the door ? he must do everything in his power to stave off its advance. He can not simply collapse into his bed and hope for the best, ignoring the approaching threat.

Similarly, Israel today must rise up out of its slumber, and do what it can to turn back the Angel of Death and his bomb-laden emissaries. As King David demonstrated - if standard measures do not do the job, then exceptional measures must be undertaken. If diplomacy does not work (and it hasn?t), then Israel has no choice but to resort to overwhelming military force to protect itself. If we as a nation see that the Angel of Death has his sword in hand, ready to strike, then it is up to us to turn him away empty-handed.

Seeing and Believing

Sensing that his father?s reign was drawing to a close, King David?s son Adoniyahu seeks to exploit his father?s physical state to seize control of the crown and declare himself king over Israel. In an attempt to publicly establish his rule, Adoniyahu convenes a sacrificial ceremony, inviting key personalities to attend, in the hopes of showing the people that his accession to the throne enjoyed widespread acceptance among the nation?s elite. The text says, ?And Adoniyahu slew sheep and oxen and fatlings? and he called all his brothers, the king?s sons, and all the men of Judah, the king?s servants. But Nathan the prophet and Benayahu and the mighty men and Solomon his brother he did not call (Chap. 1, verses 9-10).?

The Question:

Why didn?t Adoniyahu invite Solomon to attend the sacrificial ceremony?

The Answer:

The Ralbag explains that Adoniyahu did not invite Solomon because he knew that Solomon would oppose his effort to usurp the throne. Since Adoniyahu?s purpose in holding the feast was to underline the support he enjoyed, it would hardly have suited his purposes to invite Solomon to attend. Rashi, however, offers a different answer, saying that Adoniyahu did not invite Solomon because he knew that the prophet [i.e. Nathan] had prophesied that he [i.e. Solomon] would become king.

The Lesson:

When we consider Adoniyahu?s behavior in light of Rashi?s comment, it is difficult to understand his way of thinking. Adoniyahu knew that the prophet Nathan had prophesied that Solomon would rule after David. Nathan was not a pollster or a pundit ? he was a prophet of G-d and his prediction was more than just wishful thinking. It was a Divinely-inspired vision of what was to occur. Clearly, Adoniyahu took the prophecy seriously enough that he chose not to invite Solomon to his little coming-out party. Yet, this did not prevent Adoniyahu from acting in clear contradiction to the prophecy itself by trying to make himself king. How can we explain this inconsistency in Adoniyahu?s behavior?

I think the answer lies in looking at ourselves and how we relate to the events around us. The establishment of the State of Israel, the ingathering of the Exiles, the liberation of Jerusalem ? all are miracles which clearly and unequivocally represent the fulfillment of G-d?s promises to the Jewish people. They herald the onset of the final redemption, as the Prophets of Israel foretold long ago. We believe that to be the case, yet, like Adoniyahu, we somehow fail to translate that belief from the realm of our thoughts to the realm of our actions. We believe in something, yet, like Adoniyahu, we act differently from our beliefs. Yes, we believe that G-d told us that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people and yet there are those who are willing to compromise on it. Yes, we believe the prophecies that the Jewish people would settle in Samaria and plant vineyards there, yet there are those who would nevertheless be willing to uproot Jews from their homes and banish them from Samaria.

It is time we put an end to this incongruity, and bring our political beliefs in line with our theological faith. We can not believe in one thing, profess an entirely different point of view, and then think of ourselves as consistent. Adoniyahu may have believed in Nathan?s prophecy, but he failed to act accordingly, and the result was his downfall. If we as a nation are to avoid a similar fate, then we must stop being ashamed of our beliefs ? rather, we must embrace them and act in accordance with them. The Land of Israel is ours because G-d said so. That is our belief and now it must become the basis of our actions as well.