Long Live King Solomon
Saturday, June 1, 2013
Long Live King Solomon
We met in Santa Monica, 4 blocks from the edge of the continent, cool sea breeze blowing through the open patio door. Personal check-ins connected us in our various states of enthusiasm, stress, emotional exhaustion, and joy. We all shared a certain nervous anticipation about what path we were about to embark upon with the beginning of our study this year. We discussed our options: Kings, return from Babylon, circle back to Judges, and decided to read from each and see how they feel. We never got past the first, as we were quickly immersed in the story of the succession of David’s throne, the palace intrigue, the family dysfunction, and the joy of learning together.
Kings I:1:1 “King David was old . . . they covered him with garments but he did not become warm”
David, after a life of struggle leading to political and spiritual accomplishments is in his final decline. His servants bring him Abishag, a young, beautiful woman to warm him, and she becomes his caretaker. The text is unclear whether the intention was to provide David with Abishag to provide sexual relations, but it is clear that David did not “know” Abihshag, and that her role was one of tending to his needs and providing human warmth and comfort. One wonders, where were all his queens?
Kings I:1:6. “Adonijah, son of Haggith, exulted himself saying “I shall reign!”
Adonijah, David’s eldest remaining son following the death of Abshalom, attempts to usurp the throne and is joined in this coup de etat plot by several key, powerful people including Joav, David’s most powerful general. We are told that Adonijah was “never scolded” by his father, perhaps explaining the arrogance which leads him to try to grab power despite the past prophecies and promises that Solomon would inherit the throne. We see again, as so often in Judaism, that the “right” of the first born at times of transition of power is often (perhaps always?) supplanted by the meritocracy of who is the one that is spiritually appropriate to lead the people forward. Thus, Isaac not Ishmael, Jacob not Esau, Joseph not Ruben, Moses not Aaron, all the way to David rather than his older brothers. Up until this moment, there has been no established hereditary kingship either, as David from the tribe of Judah had supplanted Saul, the first king of Israel, who was a Benjaminite.
Relevance to Passover Village is apparent, as we consider the theme of family. How do we build our own community “family”, increasing levels of connection, intimacy, consideration? Who are the kings and queens, sons and daughters of PV? The process of “Circle Work” comes to mind, placing youth in the East, young adults in the South, etc, and consider possible ritual expressions this could take in our future gatherings.
Kings I:1:11. “Nathan spoke to Bath-sheva saying, Adonijah has beome king, and David does not know”
Why does the prophet go through Batsheva, rather than directly to the king himself? He knows that Solomon is prophetically named to be king, as does Batsheva his mother. But she would be the most directly aggrieved party if Adonijah’s coup were to succeed and Solomon be supplanted. Indeed both of their lives would likely be at stake. So the lesson seems to be that if we want to accomplish what is needed, don’t rely on a prophet to speak for us, but on ourselves to communicate our intention and act through the people in our community to bring what we need into reality.
This section also raised the question: what was the contemporary role of the prophet? Were they recognized as prophets at the time, or is this designation one that is arrived at later, in hindsight? Do we “see” the prophets among us, even within ourselves, or do we dismiss them?
Kings I:1:29: “The king swore ‘As YHVH lives . . . Solomon your son will reign after me . . . so shall I fulfill it this very day.”
The double-team effort of Bathsheva and Natan rouses the king to the challenge, and you can sense the blood flowing as he steps forward to quash the coup and install Solomon. We note that he invokes, and presumably speaks, the name of God as YHVH, whereas we know that generally this name is spoken only once yearly by the Cohen Gadol in the Holy of Holies during the Yom Kippur service. Does David really say the Name? Does he pronounce it in the sacred, hidden way? Or does he use, as we do today, a euphemism (such as Adonai, meaning “my Lord”)? But the text indicates YHVH as the nature of God that he is invoking. For as opposed to Elohim, which is the creative Wellspring aspect of God, YHVH is that ever-flowing essence of Presence and Consciousness, moving always through nature, space, and time, the unification of the Masculine and Feminine principles of the Universe, the Unity. It is this that David invokes, whether pronounced in its most sacred form or not.
This story is playing out like a political scandal, and one wonders who knew what when? Does Solomon know he’s been prophetically indicated to be the next king? Did Batsheva know that? Clearly David and Natan did, for Natan had received the prophecy and communicated it to David. But how was it to happen that Solomon will succeed David, what will be the story of that succession in what is being played out now. This is an example of what the first chapter of Sefer Yetzirah teaches regarding Sefer (the fixed laws of the Universe, what is destined), the S’far (the number or process, how things work to be manifested), and the Sipur (the story, how free will acts on the process to change it, alter it, determine the path by which the destiny will ultimately be manifested). This was apparent earlier in the story of the union of David and Batsheva. While the commentators state that David and Batsheva were destined to be together, the way in which David went about acquiring her by sending her husband to his death, was his choice and was one of his greatest errors and led to grave consequences.
Kings I:1:32. “King David said . . . mount my son Solomon on my mule and take him down to Gihon . . . and anoint him as king over Israel”
King David orders the ritual of anointment immediately and firmly. It will be accomplished publicly by the high priest, Tzadok, and the prophet Nathan. David is moving with a firm, clear step to quickly put the coup de etat to rest and establish Solomon as the rightful heir, in plain site of the people.
Why the mule (Hebrew:Pirdah)? The horse is often a symbol of war, while a donkey that of a peaceful servant. Perhaps the mule, the infertile combination of the mating of those 2 species, symbolizes the transfer of power from the warrior David, to the peacemaker, Shlomo (meaning: “his peace”). The commentators state this was an incontestable demonstration of Solomon’s choice to be successor, and a sign that David did not consider Adonijah, who had gathered horses and chariots and warriors, a serious challenger.
Kings I:1:39. “Tzadok . . . anointed Solomon, they sounded the shofar, and all the people proclaimed “Long live King Solomon! . . . and the ground burst from their noise!”
Solomon is publicly anointed at the spring of Jerusalem, and there is no doubt who is king. The shofar blast shifts the spiritual energy to its new state of being, as it has done at almost every momentous event and transition of power in our peoples’ history. He is brought up from the spring, and the people rejoiced and played flutes, and there was such a joyous commotion and celebration that “the ground burst from their noise”. What a site and sound this must have been!
This clear political power play has its intended effects. The coup dissolves around Adonijah, who then seeks refuge by grasping onto the horns of the altar, and is pardoned by Solomon in his first act as king.
Solomon was 12 years old at the time he took the throne, and the story of his rise and his reign will fit in well with our stated intention to include youth in our next Passover Village.
Next Meeting: Saturday, July 6, 10 AM, location to be announced