ישיבת כרם ביבנה

Haftorah: "They Covered Him with Garments, but He did not become Warm"

הרב אברהם ריבלין, המשגיח הרוחני לשעבר

This week's Haftorah opens with a description of King David's old age, "King David was old, advanced in years." (Melachim I 1:1) This same expression appears in the Parsha regarding Avraham, "Avraham was old, advanced in years." (Bereishit 24:1) The continuation of David's story is well known: "They covered him with garments, but he did not become warm." Chazal's comment on this is also well-known: "R. Yosi b. Chanina said: Anyone who degrades clothes, in the end will not benefit from them." (Brachot 62b) According to Chazal, the fact that the clothes did not warm David, was a punishment "mida keneged mida" (quid pro quo) for degrading King Shaul's clothes when he cut the corner of his cloak in the cave, as related in Shmuel I (24:4).

Degrading King Shaul's clothes was considered a rebellion against his rule, since clothes are a symbol of monarchy. Thus, we find that ripping Shmuel's coat served as a sign of ripping away the rule of Shaul (Shmuel I 15:27-28), and Achiya the prophet handed the torn pieces of the dress to Yeravam as a symbol of handing him the rule of Israel. (Melachim I 11:30-32) As punishment for this rebellion against King Shaul's reign, David was punished that others rebelled against his rule. Since David's rebellion was through clothes, the rebellion against his rule also came about through clothes. Thus, it happened that the clothes did not warm David, and they had to bring Avishag. The Malbim explains that because Avishag was beautiful, Adoniya desired her, but in order to achieve her, he had to be king, since only a king is allowed to use the items of the previous king, and therefore he rebelled against his father's rule. This explanation of the Malbim regarding Adoniya is a novel one, since it is normally understood that Adoniya wanted Avishag in order to achieve the rule, and the Malbim postulates that the opposite is true -- Adoniya wanted the rule in order to achieve Avishag. (See Malbim in his lengthy explanation at the beginning of the Haftorah.)

The idea that Adoniya's rebellion came upon David as a punishment for his "rebellion" against Shaul by cutting the corner of his cloak in the cave raises a piercing question. Whoever learns Chapter 24 in Shmuel I in depth, will have difficulty finding rebellion in David's actions. Just the opposite is true! David is worthy of praise for his behavior, and especially for his attitude towards Shaul, which went way beyond what was logically required. The simple reading of the text clearly shows that David could have easily killed Shaul, "for since I have cut of the corner of your coat and have not killed you, you should know and see that there is no evil or rebellion in my hand." (Shmuel I 24:12) Apparently, he had not only the technical ability, but also an ethical-halachic right to kill Shaul, since Shaul was chasing him and he had both the status of "rodef" (pursuer) and also the rule of "One who comes to kill you -- precede and kill him."

What is not so well known is that David even risked his life, literally, in order to save Shaul. Most of us misunderstand the story of David in the cave. Most people who learn the chapter imagine that David was in the cave by himself, and that Shaul didn't notice him because of the spider that wove its web. However, it says explicitly, "David and his men were sitting at the far end of the cave." (24:4) Elsewhere, their number is given, "David and his men -- about six hundred men." (23:13) Presumably, this same number of men was with David in the cave; "and his men" -- not some of them. Apparently, despite the large number of people, Shaul and his men did not notice them, because they hid in an inner cave, and the spider web covered the narrow passage between the two caves.

David's men were not the most righteous and gentle, as it says, "They gathered to him -- every man in distress, every man with a creditor, and every man embittered of spirit" (22:2) We must imagine in the cave six hundred (or even if we assume that in this episode there were a few less) bitter men, resentful and angry, whom David has to control. They try to sway David to kill Shaul, "Behold, this is the day of which Hashem said to you, 'Behold, I am delivering your enemy into your hand, and you may do to him as you please.'" (24:5) David approaches Shaul, and when he returns with the corner of the garment -- and not with Shaul's head, as his men expected -- they rise up and want to kill Shaul themselves. This is explicit in the narrative, "David sundered his men with rhetoric, and did not permit them to rise up against Shaul." (24:8)

Let us imagine to ourselves what is occurring in the cave. Six hundred bitter men are standing up and shouting at David. They want to kill Shaul themselves, and he restrains them. This is all supposed to be carried out in absolute silence, lest Shaul or one of his men hear a sound, and then David's head is in danger. After all, "three thousand chosen men" are waiting outside to besiege David and his men. David could have simply stood by, and allow his men to do as they wished. Then he would have gained doubly: Shaul would have died, and he would not have sent his hand in "G-d's anointed." Yet, David risks his life -- "David sundered his men with rhetoric, and did not permit them to rise up against Shaul," which certainly caused a commotion and shouts which endangered David in a real and immediate manner.

It is true that David cut the corner of the coat, and this entails a slight to the king's honor, but in light of the broader picture, is it possible to say that David rebelled against the rule of Shaul? Apparently, Chazal are trying to tell us that the principle, "G-d is meticulous with the righteous like a hair," does not only apply to people in a general sense, but also regarding specific mitzvot. In a mitzvah that a person is particularly careful, and which is his pinnacle of spiritual worship -- every small decline has a great impact. Precisely because David was meticulous with Shaul's honor, and believed that "No rule impinges upon another even by a hair's breadth;" precisely because he risked his life --- even a small act of cutting the coat is considered as rebellion against the king. David is punished for this: "They covered him with garments, but he did not become warm."

 

 

קוד השיעור: 3588

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