Weekly Pre-Shabbos D’var Torah from Rabbi Gutstein

D’Var Torah:

The Haftara that we read this week deals with the end of the life of King David and the final words that he commands his son Shlomo, who will be the next king of the Jewish people. Firstly, King David commands Shlomo to be loyal to the Torah in order to ensure his success as king and the succession of the monarchy. Secondly, he tells Shlomo that Yoav – the commander of his army – be put to death for having killed two other commanders in a pretense of peace. Thirdly, he tells Shlomo to support the family of Barzilai Hagiladi who assisted David when he was fleeing from his son Avshalom during Avshalom’s revolt. Finally, he tells Shlomo to make sure that Shimi Ben Geira goes to the grave in blood – execute him.

Who was Shimi Ben Geira? He was from the tribe of Benjamin – a member of the family of Shaul, the first king of Israel. When King David was fleeing from his son Avshalom during Avshalom’s revolt, Shimi came, threw stones at David and his men and publically cursed David – as David says a “a bitter curse.” The Hebrew word used for “bitter” is “nimretzes”. The Hebrew letters of “nimretzes” represents what he said about David. Shimi said that David was an adulterer . . . he was from Moav and not a legitimate Jew . . . he was a murderer . . . an opressor . . . he was an abomination. Now, Shimi was not just saying that David davened without a jacket, hat or enough concentration. At the time of the incident, David told his men not to harm Shimi. However, now he told Shlomo that Shimi must be done away with.

If we analyze what David told Shlomo, it is an unusual order. It is understandable that he told Shlomo important matters about running his kingdom and following the Mitzvos. However, shouldn’t his last words that the Tanach records have been about following the Torah – the main function of a Jew? Why are his last words to Shlomo about executing Shimi, as though to say that is more important?

Rabbi Leonard Matanky suggested the following: There are times when a leader is faced with difficult and uncomfortable decisions. But, in order to be successful, he must follow through with those decisions, as difficult as they might be. Shimi was a powerful person and a dangerous person to keep around the monarchy. Perhaps his goal was to restore the monarchy to the house of Shaul. However, he was also the rebbi of Shlomo. So, on the one hand, Shimi was the man who taught Torah to Shlomo and the man who was so much responsible for Shlomo’s spiritual growth. On the other hand, Shlomo’s government would be unstable and threatened as long as Shimi was alive. David told Shlomo that you have to lead according to the Torah. But, if you want to have a sound government and run – it as it should – according to the Torah, you can’t keep Shimi alive. As long as Shimi is alive, the Torah that you want to instill in your family and the people won’t be affective.

So, David’s last words were words of encouragement to Shlomo that he follows the Torah. Shlomo’s decisions were not going to be easy, but they would be for the good of the people.

In the words of Winston Churchill, “Never have so many owed so much to so few.” It is not always easy to follow the Torah, but despite the difficulty, it is the guarantee for success.