Torah Study Notes 11-10-12

November 10, 2012
p. 169
First Kings – The connections between this Haftarah and Torah are multiple but see particularly page 156 where the section begins “Abraham was old and advanced in years…”
1:1 Note that King David already likely had several wives so bringing a young virgin to “keep him warm” was not startling to the reader/listener of the time. Note the Shunammite origin of the young woman – in the Torah portion Elisha also encounters a Shunammite woman. See footnote 4 re virility. CL: This was a common practice in ancient cultures and had a mystical aspect. The young woman was intended to impart her energy and purity to the king.
11:5 Adonijah, the handsome fourth son, would become king. The first paragraph has established that David is alive but frail. Who will be his successor and when will the successor begin to reign? Adonijah is the oldest surviving son and older than Solomon. LL: Both paragraphs endorse the notions that those who are “beautiful” or “handsome” are automatically entitled to special treatment. These words are also a-cultural so that the reader imposes the standard of the reader’s time. See the comment about Rebekah on page 165 and what constitutes “beauty.” “Her behavior shows modesty and hospitality; she is kind to animals and respectful of her own family.” Adonijah reaches out to priests from different areas of the Kingdom for support. He has a party but does not invite Nathan or Solomon or the elite warriors.
11:11 Nathan involves Solomon’s mother Bathsheba. “Advice that will save your life and that of your son.” This suggests that competitors to Adonijah will not fare well and could be executed as traitors.
11:15 Bathsheba complains to the King. Nathan the prophet arrives and tactfully broaches the same question: who will succeed the King David? David takes an oath that Solomon will in fact succeed him. What can we learn from this? One thing is the ascendance of merit over “handsome.” This is the first instance of leadership transition. The individual who looks the part may not be the best choice. PG: Babe Ruth was once asked why he earned more than Herbert Hoover. “Because I had a better year.” he replied. Ruth was also vastly more popular than Hoover – but this doesn’t mean he would have made a good president. How does this translate to nobility that retains leadership for 1,400 years via dynastic succession? There is something about the expectation of one who is born into a family that has power.
Later: The foregoing was the Torah portion for the young man who was being bar mitzvohed today. He suggested a different lesson: That there is a certain established order to things and one needs good judgment to determine when to follow the established order or to defy it. He gave examples of teenage smoking or failing to do one’s homework or just being lazy. These are actions in defiance of the order of things and of good sense. Adonijah should have known better.

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