Posts Tagged ‘Samuel’

The following is my best attempt to preserve the poetic nature of Hannah’s Song in I Samuel 2, by rendering it into English in rhyme, incorporating classic commentaries to elucidate its meaning.

I’m no Shakespeare, but I enjoyed the challenge of this undertaking, and I feel it makes this rendering more interesting and enjoyable to read than a direct translation. The original text is in I Samuel, Ch. 2, v. 1-10:

(1) I feel happy in my heart,

HaShem offered me a new start,

Now I may lift my head high,

HaShem is the reason why.

Penina spoke meanly to me,

For I had no children, you see,

But now I am very happy,

From Penina Hashem saved me,

For I can now open my mouth,

My son I can now speak about,

I am happy that I have a son,

I give thanks to the Holy One.

(2) There is none holy as You, Hashem,

There is no other that is like Him,

Like our God there is no other,

Forming a child inside a mother.

(3) Do not speak so arrogantly,

Penina, my rival, who was mean to me,

Do not allow the wrong kind of words

From your mouth to come out and be heard,

For what’s in your heart HaShem does know,

He counts all your deeds and the places you go.

(4) The bow of the mighty HaShem will break,

Giving strength to the stumbling and weak ones who ache.

Those who are hungry, HaShem will sate,

While for the full-bellied, hunger is their fate.

(5) Those who were once full of bread,

Will have to work to eat instead,

While those who worked to feed their hunger,

Will have so much food they’ll work no longer.

The one who had no children will give birth to seven sons,

While she with many children will mourn every one.

(6) HaShem takes life and HaShem gives it,

Raising up or lowering into the pit.

(7) HaShem makes people poor or rich,

HaShem lowers and HaShem lifts.

(8) HaShem in whom we trust,

Raises the poor from the dust,

From heaps of trash He will raise them up,

To seat them with the rich to sup,

A seat of honor shall be theirs,

With them His Glory He will share,

For the pillars of the earth belong to HaShem,

And man’s dwelling place He lays upon them.

(9) The feet of the pious HaShem will guard,

By no entrapment shall they be marred.

But the wicked in darkness will meet their end,

For a man succeeds not by the strength of his hand.

(10) HaShem will break His foes,

Even if to the heavens they rose,

From heaven upon them He blows,

Casting them down below.

HaShem will bring about justice for all,

He will give His King the strength to stand tall,

Hashem will give strength to the king He has appointed,

Increasing the kingdom of the one He has anointed.

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Chapters 9 and 10 of the book of II Kings (Melachim II) detail the career of Yehu, a soldier turned renegade turned king, who, at the command of Elisha the Prophet, mounts a campaign to annihilate the house of the evil (former) King Achav (Ahab), whose son Yehoram then sat on the throne. Along the way, Yehu also kills Achazyah, the king of Judah, who, although Davidic by paternal lineage, was of the house of Achav through his mother’s side.

In Chapter 11, this mother of the house of Achav, whose name was Athalyah, upon the death of the king of Judah, commences exterminating the male offspring of the king so that she may succeed to the throne with no opponent. One child, Yoash, is rescued and hidden in the Temple for six years, guarded and attended to by the High Priest, Yehoyada. When the boy is seven years old, Yehoyada, together with a band of his loyal followers, brings the young heir out of hiding and announts him. Verse 12:

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They brought forth the son of the king, and they put upon him the crown and the testament, and they coronated him and anointed him, and they clapped hands and said, ‘May the king live!’

What is this “testament” that they “put upon him”?

Rashi offers two suggestions:

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The first is that “the testament” refers to the scroll of the Torah that a king is commanded in Deuteronomy (Devarim) 17:19 to keep with him and read daily.

The second suggestion is based on a fascinating opinion in the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 44A) that this crown would only fit upon the head of one who was fit to be the king. Here, a king’s crown miraculously fit itself to the head of this seven year old child, thus testifying that he was fit to be king of Judah.

Let us examine the origin of this crown more closely.

In II Samuel 12, we read of a military victory of Israel over Amon. Verse 30 tells of a remarkable crown among the spoils:

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[David] took the crown of Malkam (מלכם) from upon his head, and its weight was a kikar of gold, with a precious stone, and it was upon the head of David…

The translation of the Hebrew word “malkam” here is controversial. The word appears plainly to be a composite of the word “melech” (“king”) with the “-am” ending meaing “their.” The verse would then read, “He took the crown of their king from upon his head.” This makes perfect sense. Rashi, however, notes that “Malkam” is actually the name of the Amonite deity, synonymous with the false god Molech mentioned in the Torah that was commonly worshiped by local peoples in those days, including the people of Amon.

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If so, the crown would have been an adornment of an idol. This is the opinion of the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 44A).

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The crown is described as weighing a kikar. Well, how much is a kikar? According to this handy-dandy biblical measurement conversion table, a kikar weighs either 27kg or 34kg (depending on which scholarly opinion you follow). For us Americans, that’s the same as around 60lbs or 75lbs. To make it even more graphic, 60lbs is like 3 car tires or 5 bowling balls. 75lbs is about the weight of an 11 year old child, or 2 and 1/2 cinderblocks. If that was the weight of this crown, it is certainly not reasonable to think any human king actually wore this! Rather, it makes more sense to be an adornment for an idol, as the Talmud understands.

The next question, however, should be obvious. The verse in II Samuel says the crown was on David’s head! If it was so impossibly heavy, how could David have worn it!

The Talmud offers several possibilities:

1. The verse doesn’t literally mean that David wore it, but that David was so great as to be fitting to wear such a valuable crown.

2. The verse means that the crown was suspended over David’s head. Specifically, a magnet caused the crown to float above the throne so that when David sat it hovered above his head.

3. The crown did not actually weigh a kikar, but the value of the stone in the crown was the equivalent of a kikar of gold.

Finally, the Talmud tells of the miracle of the crown fitting itself to its bearer as a testament to the worthiness of said bearer. The crown served as a testament to David’s worthiness then, and once again as a testament to the worthiness of Yoash in our chapter. The implication is that all worthy royal descendants of David wore this crown.

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As a matter of fact, the Talmud goes on to relate that Adoniyah, the son of David who declares himself king at the end of David’s life in the beginning of I Kings, tried wearing this crown to prove his worthiness for the throne, but was unsuccessful; the crown would not for him.

But was this a “magical” property of the crown, or a unique miracle that G-d brought about for the sake of David and his righteous offspring?

The answer may lie in an episode from I Samuel.

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In I Samuel, Chapter 17, as David is about to confront Goliath, King Saul offers David his own implements of war, including his armor. Now, Saul was much larger than David, in fact, the text describes Saul as “head and shoulders” above the rest of the nation, i.e. he was very tall. How could the vestments of a much larger man fit on David? The hint is in v. 38. The word מדיו in Hebrew is translated as “his apparel,” as in, “Saul dressed David in his apparel.” But the word מדיו has the same root as the word מדה, meaning “measure.” The verse could then read, “Saul dressed David to his measure,” i.e. the vestments of Saul fit David, though they were not at all the same size.

Indeed, the Talmud in Yevamoth 76B, as well as the Midrash in VaYikra Rabah 26:8 and Tanchuma Emor 4 explain that this is exactly what happened. Rashi’s comments to I Samuel 17:38 reflect this view of our Sages.

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Rashi explains (in accordance with the view of the Sages in the above sources) that since David had been anointed by Samuel to be king, the king’s clothing miraculously fit themselves to David’s measure.

So returning to the crown, it appears that it was not the unique quality of this crown to “magically” choose its bearer based on whether or not that person was worthy to be king. Rather, it appears that it was the unique quality of the righteous Davidic kings that any clothing fit for a king miraculously fit them.

Let us end off on a beautifully positive note. Rabbi Yoseph Chayim of Baghdad, in his commentary to the agadic passages of the Talmud, Ben Yehoyada, connects the passage in Avodah Zarah to a section of Zachariah (4:7).

Zecharyah

Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubavel you will become a flatland. And he shall bring forth the even haroshah with shouts of, ‘Grace! Grace!’ for it.

The Hebrew words “even haroshah” here are usually translated as, “cornerstone,” “foundation stone,” “keystone,” or “top stone.” The prophecy is understood by many to refer to messianic times, meaning that not even the mightiest power will be able to stand in the way of the Messiah. Rather, he will bring forth the “even haroshah” as the Jewish people cheers on. If translated as above, the reference is to the construction of the Third Temple. However, Ben Yehoyada offers another understanding:
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“Even haroshah” literally means “head stone” (not the kind that goes over a grave), i.e. “stone of the head.” Well, what kind of stone did we just learn about that goes on the head? It is the precious stone that featured prominently in David’s crown!

If so, the prophecy here is that this very same crown will be worn by the King Messiah, scion of David, for whom it will be a testament that he is the true Messiah! May we see this speedily in our days!

In the area of study known as Quantum Physics, there is a remarkable phenomenon known as “quantum entanglement.”

Without going into too much detail, the relevant information about quantum entanglement for the purposes of this post is to understand that particles that are part of a system react to a change that occurs to another particle in the system simultaneous with that change, without even the delay necessary for the information to travel at the speed of light from one particle to the other. In other words, you and I cannot know about anything that has happened anywhere else until the information reaches us. Then we can react. But this information takes time to travel. In quantum entanglement, particles that are part of a system react to one another IMMEDIATELY, without the necessary time it would take for the information regarding the change of one particle to reach the other particle(s) even if that information were travelling at the speed of light. Since faster than light travel is not possible, there must be some other factor that causes these particles to be “entangled” with one another at all times and places, despite the space between them. This is sometimes called, “spooky action at a distance.”

Here is a question someone emailed me:

Since TIME is one of the dimensions of the universe, shouldn’t entanglement not only be “spooky action at a (linear) distance”, but, also, “spooky action across expanses of time”?!  Cannot an action taken or decision made “now” impact events in the future — even the distance future?  Since, according to physics, the past, present, and future are not fundamentally different, could not an action taken in the “present” affect even PAST events?!!  Is it possible that a righteous act done today can mitigate the suffering undergone by someone in our distant past?  What do you think of this idea?  Did any of our Gaonim (sages) have similar thoughts? Am I way off the mark? or is this possible?
      I would like to propose that this is indeed plausable, based on an incident in the Tanach (Hebrew Bible), according to our Oral Tradition. Let us examine a passage in I Samuel 14:
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      At the end of a (successful) war against the Philistines, the Israelite army is famished and desperate to eat. They begin slaughtering animals for food, but word reaches King Saul that the people, in their haste, are not allowing the blood of the animal to drain sufficiently before eating it, thereby violating the prohibition against eating blood. Saul calls for the people to gather and he oversees the slaughtering of the animals to ensure no one eats meat before the blood is properly drained.
      Verse 34 contains a puzzle. Saul commands the people, “ושחטתם בזה,” meaning, “slaughter in this,” or “slaughter with this,” but the verse does not tell us what the “this” was that Saul referred to. Rashi offers that the plain meaning is either “in this place,” or “with this knife,” though it is peculiar that the verse leaves these specifics out of the narrative.
      Indeed, the Midrash (VaYikra Rabah 25) tells us that Saul referred to a knife, and the wording was chosen to hint that the word בזה — “with this” — is a description of the knife itself. How so?
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      The numerical value of the word בזה is 14. According to the Midrash, the knife Saul showed the people to use for slaughter was a knife 14 “fingerlengths” long (about 14 inches). Until the time, it was typical to use a smaller knife, which complicated slaughter and often caused problems that rendered the animal unkosher. Saul’s knife, however allowed the slaughter to be performed more easily and with less risk of botching the procedure. This knife-length was thenceforth embraced as standard Jewish halachic (legal) practice. According to the Midrash, Saul was the innovator of this improvement in the practice of kosher slaughter.
      The Midrash goes on to ask: “When was Saul rewarded by G-d” for this? The Midrash answers: On the day the Israelites went to war against the Philistines, and cites a verse at the end of Chapter 13:
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“And it was on the day of the war, there was no sword nor spear found in the hand of the entire nation that was with Saul and Jonathan, and it was found for Saul and Jonathan.”
      Without getting into too much analysis, on the face of it, the verse appears to contradict itself. At first it says no weapons were found for anyone, and then it says they were found for Saul and Jonathan. According to Rashi (apparently based on the above Midrash), the verse indicates a sequence of events. At first there were no weapons, but then, miraculously, weapons become found by Saul and Jonathan such that now the Israelite army could fight and defeat the Philistines.
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      According to the Midrash, THIS was the reward for Saul having upheld and enhanced kosher meat slaughter in the above incident. As a reward for using knives to uphold the Torah, Saul was rewarded with knives (swords, etc.) when he needed them.

      But there’s something MAJORLY difficult here. You may have noticed that the CAUSE of the reward (Saul’s actions in Ch. 14) come AFTER effect (the reward in Ch. 13). How is this possible?

Most classic commentaries choose to understand that the Midrash means to identify the incident with Saul and the knife as an example of many similar incidents in which Saul introduced this reform. The Midrash cites this one because this is where it appears in the text. But undoubtedly, there were many similar incidents to this prior to the one in Ch. 14 for which Saul was rewarded in Ch. 13. This resolves the apparent paradox.

However, the Etz Yoseph commentary shares a different and radical view.

EtzYoseph

According to Etz Yoseph, since G-d knows the future, in this incident G-d payed Saul the reward for his future merit, even though he had not yet performed the act for which he would merit the reward.

If we were to reword the Etz Yoseph‘s comments in the terminology of modern quantum mechanics, we might say that this is no paradox at all, since all moments in time are linked along a dimensional plane. That being the case, just as we find “entanglement” between two particles within a system across the dimension of space, the same could be said about events across an expanse of time (even “backwards” in time). So that Saul’s CAUSAL action in the (so-called) future produced an EFFECT in the past.

More on quantum entanglement in time, from a purely scientific (not religious) perspective here: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/what-quantum-entanglement-means-for-time-travel/.

See this earlier post for a primer on Lilith.

More on Lilith:

After the murder of Adam’s son Hevel (Abel) by Adam’s older son Kayin (Cain), Adam and Chavah (Eve) do not have any more children until they are 130 years old, at which time they procreate once again “in their image,” having a son they name Sheth (Seth). See Genesis (B’Reshith) 5:3.

Why the gap between their first two children and the third? According to Jewish tradition, the murder of one of their sons by the other caused Adam and Chavah to reconsider having children, and therefore separated from one another for an extended period.

Jewish tradition further asserts that while Adam did not procreate “in his image” during that time, he did procreate in a diminished image, namely creating ‘shedim’ — demons.

How so? Some sources indicate that during this period of separation from Chavah, Adam cohabited with a spirit or spirits (against his will), and from this union came the race of demons.

In Samuel (Shemuel) II 7:14, G-d tells Nathan the prophet to announce to David that he will have a son who will sit on the throne after him, and that his dynasty will be everlasting:

“I (G-d) will be for him a Father, and he will be for Me a son, that when he sins, I shall rebuke him with the rod of men, and with the blows of the sons of man (ובנגעי בני אדם).”

According to Rashi, the sons or “children” of “man” here refer to the non-human (demon) offspring of Adam produced during the 130-year separation from Chavah during which time “spirits” engaged with Adam and reproduced from him. The prophet’s words here foreshadow when a powerful demon named Ashmedai will dethrone David’s son Shelomoh (Solomon) for a time, as recounted in the Talmud in Tractate Gitin.

According to those commentaries that understand Lilith to be the mother of the demons (see earlier post), she was the being with which Adam cohabited during this period.

A reference to this is seen by Rabbi Avraham Aharon Friedman in his commentary to the Passover Hagadah, Chochmath Aharon.

He cites the verse in Amos 2:6, “For their sale of the righteous for silver, and the destitute because of [a pair of] shoes,” a reference to the sale of Joseph (Yoseph; “the righteous”) by his brothers, and the accompaniment of the Divine Presence (“the destitute”) in Yoseph’s descent to Egypt.

R’ Friedman explains, according to the Arizal, that the central reason for the descent of Israel to Egypt was to “harvest” the “holy sparks” that “fell” from Adam during the aforementioned 130 years. The sale of Yoseph initiated the eventual descent of Israel to and subsequent exodus from Egypt, thereby redeeming the holy sparks that had been trapped there.

Rabbi Friedman explains the verse in Amos in this light. The sparks are the “silver” for which Yoseph was sold. The numerical value of “because of [a pair of] shoes” (בעבור נעלים) is 480, the same as “Lilith” (לילית), hinting that she was the cause of Adam’s “fallen sparks” that necessitated the sojourn in Egypt.