Just as the Torah portion, Vayehi, dwells extensively on a father giving deathbed guidance to his sons, so does the haftarah. But the tone of the fatherly instructions in the haftarah is jarring. Here, in the second chapter of the Book of Kings, David advises his chosen successor Shlomo to do more than just to follow in God’s ways.
Specifically, David instructs Shlomo regarding his military chief, Yoav: “Do what you know is wise, and do not allow his gray head to descend in peace to Sheol” (I Kings 2:6). And then there’s Shim’i ben Gera, who cursed David during the king’s most vulnerable moments but applauded him when David was ascendant again: “But you must not treat him as though he were innocent; you are wise and know what to do with him: send his bloody gray head down to Sheol” (2:9).
In his study of this Biblical book, I Kings: Torn in Two, Rabbi Alex Israel asks the question: “Framing the Chapter: Justice, Vendetta, or Politics?” Whatever the motivation, there can be no escaping the expectation that the stories of Yoav and Shim’i will come to bloody resolution.
The transfer of power in Biblical times was fraught with uncertainty. Never mind Biblical times; in the modern world, we’ve seen how fragile nations can be when a leader dies or is incapacitated. How might the political solution today differ from what transpires in the haftarah? We’ll explore this question together on Shabbat morning.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise