Ha’azinu: The Original Last Lecture
Samuel 2, Chapter 22: Imagine being able to sit with King David at the end of his life and listen to him reflect on 70 years of action, transformation, trials, tests, rebellions and victories. What would he say? What did he learn about life? …God? …Himself? Whom did he consider his most dangerous enemy? What were his hopes for the future of his lineage and for the Jewish people? What did he consider the most important lesson of his life? We have an opportunity to eavesdrop on the final thoughts of one of the most beloved characters of the Bible. This selection, found in a slightly different form in Psalms 18, is King David’s “Last Lecture”.
David’s life was filled with highs and lows. He was constantly challenged to push his own limits to achieve increasing heights of attachment to God. In the story immediately preceding this “Last Lecture,” David is pushed to his limits. (See 2Samuel, Chapter 21) In fact, his life continues to soar after this chapter; he sins, repairs and finds the ultimate home for the Temple and the Ark of the Covenant. This “Goodbye Song,” prepares him for the final acts of his life. (See Chapter 24)
“With the devout You deal devoutly, with the one who is strong in his wholeheartedness You act wholeheartedly. With the pure You act Purely, with the corrupt You act perversely.” (Verses 26-27) In the closing chapter of his life, David states that what he has learned is that God responds measure for measure. God relates to us exactly as we relate to God. We are listening in to the final thoughts of a man who suffered the loss of children, the public rebellion of some of his children, the unending public ridicule for his relationship with Bathsheba, exile, deprivation, and humiliation, and he publicly explains that whatever happened to him was measure for measure a response to realities he created. David does not voice any complaints at this moment of his life. He accepts full responsibility for everything that happened. He actually celebrates the idea of measure for measure. He understands that his descendants will determine the future of his line of kings, measure for measure. He is celebrating the power of choice to shape the future of an individual, a family or a nation.
The sages, (TBMegillah 13b) take David’s words and understand them as an Halachic ruling: One must deal with other people as they deal with him. The patriarch Jacob was obligated to deal with Laban with full awareness that his future father-in-law was a crook; “with the corrupt You act perversely.” David’s life was a life lived with a deep appreciation of the realities we create, the good and the bad.
After this Final Lecture, when David accepted responsibility for everything in his life, David was given the opportunity to find the home for God’s Temple and Ark. A person who has a deep awareness of the realities we create is the person who can develop a meaningful relationship with God. Only such a person can find God’s home.