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Haftarah-Zachor-David & Saul-A Study in Contrasts

From a lecture on the Midot Hayom 1995: Rabbi Avin Halevi said: Whoever tries to force the sha’ah, the sha’ah will force him away.  (Brachot   ) Meaning, if you try to control the future, the future will ultimately control you. But whoever allows himself to be pushed, [by what God wants to happen at this specific time], Then his sha’ah will override anything else going on.


A man who has tiferet she’be netzach understands that pushing isn’t really going to get him anywhere.  With such a man, the sha’ah will eventually bring about what he needs, and what is best for him, which is exactly what happened to Saul.

The perfect example, unfortunately for Saul, of someone who has tiferet she’be netzach, is King David.

Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats.  And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself.  And David and his men remained in the back of the cave.  And the men of David said to him, “Behold, the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘ Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand,’ that you may do to him as it seems good to you.’” Then David arose, and secretly cut off Saul’s robe.  It came to pass afterwards, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s robe.  And he said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.

“How can I do that?  He’s the anointed one of God.”  What’s David saying? “When God wants Saul to be killed,  he’ll take care of it.”  David does not need to do it.  And there is story after story in Samuel, like this.  There is the story of when Saul was sleeping, and while he was sleeping, David went over to him and was literally standing over him with a spear.  God had made all of Saul’s guards fall asleep.  David picks up Saul’s spear.  His men are telling him, “Kill him, kill him.”  David says, “Why should I kill him? God will take care of it.” He goes up to the top of a mountain, and yells down to Saul’s camp, and says, “Saul, you majesty, see what I have?”  Saul wakes up, and realizes that this man had another opportunity to kill him, yet he didn’t.

Q: How did David know that this wasn’t God’s way of ‘taking care of it?’

RSW: Because it was to kill the mashiach Hashem. It was to kill the anointed one of God. If it will consist of doing something which in of itself is wrong, then unless God gives him explicit command to do it, he is forbidden.  In other words, if the act that you need to do to make something happen is in of itself a destructive act, you cannot do it.  It simply was a test for David.  “When it is time for me to be king, I’ll be king.”

Q: When Saul was eventually killed, he was killed by a man, God didn’t do it.

RSW: And what did David do to the man who killed Saul?  He killed him.  The man came running to David saying, “I killed your enemy.”  But David loved Saul.  He mourned.  He sat shiva.  He loved him.

Look at this Midrash on Tehillim:  I hope you remember the story about Saul. When  he went into battle, Samuel said, “Don’t give the sacrifice until I come.”  That was the first thing that Saul did as king.  Samuel said to him, “Don’t go into battle without giving a sacrifice, and don’t give the sacrifice until I come.”  But, the Philistines were approaching.  They were there.  Bazookas and cannons.  Saul didn’t know what to do.  He knew he was supposed to wait, but “they’re here.  What am I supposed to do.”  So he slaughtered the animals.  And at that moment,  Samuel shows up.  Look at David:

At the time when Samuel came to anoint David as king, the angels were protesting.  “Master of the universe! Why are you taking away the kingship from Saul, and giving it to David?”  God said to them, “I would like to show you the difference between Saul and David”

Saul went to the priests, who were in the camp of the Philistines.  Saul said to the priests, ‘Withdraw your hands [=Go to battle.]’  But David, when he was fighting Philistines, he asked the Kohen Gadol, “Should I go into battle, or not?” God said to David, “Don’t go. Turn away. You have no permission to stretch out your hand against them.  Until you see the angels shaking the tops of the trees around you.”

“No matter how close they are, don’t do anything until the trees are shaking.”  The Philistines, were fast approaching.  His soldiers say, “Your majesty, we have to fight.”  He says, “Sorry, we can’t.”  The Philistines were literally on top of them.  They were putting their arrows into their bows, ready to shoot.  David said, “What can I do? God said that I have to wait.”  Then, all of a sudden the trees started to shake.

So when God wanted to explain to the angels why he was taking the kingship away from Saul to give to David, that’s the story God pointed to.  And that is tiferent she’be netzach. “If God would tell me to do it, I will do it. If God isn’t telling me to do so, why should I push?”

Only one time did David push. And with whom was that? – with Batsheva.  And look how the Gemara describes it.  He knew that this was the woman he was supposed to marry. Not only he knew it, but everyone in the area knew that David and Batsheva were the ‘hot couple.’ This is a Gemara in Sanhedrin.

David sent and inquired about the woman he had seen naked. And he was told, “This is Batsheva.” David sent messengers, and he took her. Rava attributes the root of David’s attraction to Batsheva.  Rava expounded: What is the meaning of what is suited for the rib, but my pain is always before me? Batsheva, the daughter of Eliyan was suited since the six days of creation to be the wife of David.  But she came to him in pain. [Meaning, through a scandal.] It was also taught in a Braita of the academy of Rabbi Yishmael that Batsheva was suited to be the wife of David, he merely took her before the time was right.

The one time that David pushed was with Batsheva.  And that is an absense of tiferet she’be netzach.  He knows what is supposed to happen.  And he knows that God will make it happen when it is supposed to happen.  Instead of waiting for God to take care of things, David decided to take care of it himself.  What happened?  It became a scandal.  Meaning, it looked ugly.  It lacked any tiferet. In fact, the navi says this to David.  The navi says to David, “You look bad.”

And the Lord sent Natan to David. And he came to him and said, “There were two men in one city.  The one rich and the one poor.  The rich man had many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing, except one little lamb, which he had bought and reared.  And it grew up together with him, and with his children.  It did eat of his own cup, an lay in his bosom, and like a daughter to him.  And there came a traveler to the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to prepare it for the wayfaring man that was come to him.  Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared it for the man that was come to him. And David’s anger burned greatly against the man; and he said to Natan, “As the Lord lives, the man that has done this is worthy to die: and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.

And Natan said to David, “You are that man.  Thus says the Lord God of Israel, “I anointed you king over Israel, and delivered you out of the hand of Saul,

Meaning, “I made it happen when it needed to happen.”

and I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom.  And I gave you the house of Israel and of Judah.  And if that had been too little, I would moreover have given thee as much again.   Why did you despised the commandment of the Lord to do evil in His sight?  You killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and took his wife to be your wife, you killed him with the sword of the children of Ammon.

“And if you wanted to kill him, kill him yourself.  But you had someone else kill him for you?  How could you do this?”

Now therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you have embarrassed me, and taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.  (Samuel II 12:1 – 10)

Now look at David’s reaction:

And David said to Natan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (Samuel II 12:13)

Two words that Saul could never say.  If Saul had simply said these two words…except every time Samuel came to Saul, he said, “Yes, but…”  So how does Natan tell David? – By showing him the ugliness of the deed.  Instead of confronting him directly, Natan demonstrates the grossness of what he did.  A lack of tiferet.  A lack of tiferet she’be netzach.

By the way, you know what it means to push?  To push something along, the expression in Tanach and in the Gemara is ba’agalah – pushing as pushing a wagon.  What else sounds like ba’agalah?  The egel – the Golden Calf.  What were the Jews doing with the Golden Calf? They were not waiting.  They didn’t believe that God would take care of it for them.  What do they think?  That God took them out of Egypt, and the He wasn’t taking care of them, and that they would have to take control of everything for themselves.  That was an absence of tiferet she’be netzach. Moses wasn’t there.  Wait a little bit.  God knows how to handle these things for you.  You don’t have to push these things along. That’s really what Saul was lacking. From the beginning of his life.

After the battle with Amalek, Saul did not kill everyone he was supposed to kill.  He was supposed to wipe out the animals.  Samuel is yelling at him.

And Samuel said, “Though you want to be small in your own eyes, were you not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed you king over Israel?” (Samuel I 15: 17)

“You don’t want to be assertive, you don’t want to be aggressive, even though you are the king?  You would like to be known as the nice, sweet, quiet man, wouldn’t you?  You’re the king of the Jewish people!”  And Saul says to Saul, “But I did, but I did!”  Now look at verse 23:

The sin of trying to predict the future is bitter.

That has to do with not killing Amalek.  Samuel was telling Saul, “Why did you not do what I told you to do? – Because you were trying to assert your control.  God wanted you to be assertive, and you said, ‘Sorry, that isn’t my personality. My personality is to give in and not fight.  And even though you want me to be assertive against the Jewish people, I can’t do it.  Even though you told me to do x, y, and z, I didn’t think it was right, so I’m not going to do it.’”  That is trying to control your future, and everything around you.

And this is the opposite of a halacha in the Torah, which we learn out of the verse:

And you shall be whole (tam) before the Lord.

Who is tam? – Jacob.  And what did we say is timimut? – tiferet.  Timimut means to accept the future.  Therefore, look at the context of the verse.  You’ll see that the context refers specifically to not trying to predict the future, and not trying to control your destiny.  Koseim kisamim.  Don’t try to do what Saul did.  The verse says it explicitly.  That’s Tiferet she’be netzach.

Practical applications of this include allowing things to be.  Not trying to control everything.  God does really know how to take care of things for us.  It also means that we have to look at the entire balance of things into consideration when we make a decision about something.

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