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Shekalim: King David’s Counting and What Followed: Getting the Message

“If it be God that has stirred you up against me, let Him accept an offering (I Samuel 26:19)” R. Eleazar said: Said the Holy One, Blessed is He, to David: “You call Me a ‘stirrer-up’. Behold, I will make you stumble over a thing which even school children know, namely, that which is written, “When you take the sum of the children of Israel according to their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul into the Lord. … [that there be no plague among them] etc (Exodus 30:12).”

Forthwith, “Satan stood up against Israel (I Divrei Hayamim 21:1),”  and it is further written, “He stirred up David against them saying, Go, number Israel (II Samuel 24:1).” “And when he did number them, he took no ransom from them,” and it is written, “So
God sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the appointed time.”

What is meant by ‘the appointed time’?

Samuel the elder, the son-in-law of R. Chanina, answered in the name of R. Chanina: From the time of slaughtering the continual offering until the time of sprinkling the blood.
Johanan said: Right up precisely to midday. (Berachot 62b)

David describes God as One Who would cause someone to sin. Therefore God punishes him by “making David stumble” over a simple law. We are not told why this specific law. David sins, despite Yoav’s, seemingly half-hearted, protest, and all of Israel is punished, until the “appointed time,” which is the subject of debate.

All of this leads to King David locating the future place of the Beit Hamikdash, not as the place where Abraham was willing to offer Isaac, nor as the place where Jacob had his famous dream, but as the place where he confronted the Angel of destruction.

The Talmud is teaching us that to understand David’s being “misdirected by God,” we must understand the second major confrontation between Saul and the future King David:

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