The Bible introduces us to many fascinating and inspiring personalities, righteous men and women whose example of piety continue to guide and uplift us to this very day. There are some, however, to whom we can relate in an especially powerful way and whom we can truly strive to emulate.
One such righteous figure is David HaMelech, someone who has left a direct, profound impact on all of us.
One reason King David is a figure with whom we closely identify is his famous work – the Book of Tehillim. We all shed tears reciting the beautiful words of Tehillim, praying for ourselves and others and connecting to Hashem through the prayers of King David, in his merit.
The Book of Tehillim is so holy that, as our sages teach, when one reads the entire book he is considered as having read the entire Torah.
Throughout the generations, people have always turned to Tehillim to find the words with which to come before Hashem. And Hashem loves to hear these prayers. Our rabbis teach us that Hashem regarded one day of David HaMelech’s prayers as greater than all the sacrifices brought in the Bet HaMikdash.
King David excelled in many areas, surpassing even other righteous people. He suffered for much of his life, being forced to flee for several years from King Shaul, and even enduring a revolt against him by his own son Avshalom. But throughout all these ordeals, rather than question God’s justice, King David remained firm in his faith and devotion to God – and, as we see in Tehillim, constantly expressed his gratitude to Hashem for his blessings in life.
Through his constant praise of Hashem, David HaMelech reached lofty spiritual levels that no other righteous person achieved (Baba Batra 17a). When we read the beautiful praises of Tehillim, we can gain inspiration from David’s ability to feel grateful even during times of hardship. This should help us put our own problems in perspective and be appreciative of what we have even during the more difficult periods of our lives.
This message is reinforced by the Gemara’s famous account (Pesachim 119b) of the great “Feast of the Leviathan” that will take place in the messianic era. Our righteous forefathers will sit to enjoy the special meat of the Leviathan, and when the time comes to recite the blessing on the cup of wine they will initially hand it to Avraham to grant him the honor of reciting the berachah. Avraham will refuse, noting that he had fathered a sinful son (Yishmael) and thus does not deserve the honor. The cup will then be passed to Yitzchak, but he, too, will refuse, because he had a wicked son (Eisav). Next will be Yaakov, who will also decline, due to his marriage to two sisters, which the Torah forbade.
Moshe Rabbeinu will then be approached, and he will say, “I do not have the merit, since I was not worthy to enter into the Holy Land.” Finally, David HaMelech will take the cup and make the blessing.
The rabbis ask, what special merit does David possess that the others do not? After all, like Avraham and Yitzchak, he also had sinful children. So why will he be given the privilege of reciting the berachah?
The Midrash answers that, as mentioned, David HaMelech was always praising Hashem, even when confronting difficult situations. As expressed through the praises of Tehillim, David believed with complete faith and conviction that everything Hashem does is for the best, and he therefore responded to all events – good and “bad” – with songs of praise to Hashem. This special quality rendered him singularly worthy from among all the great tzaddikim to recite the blessing.
David HaMelech spent his days immersed in Torah study and prayer. The Gemara states that David would never sleep more than sixty “horse breaths,” preferring to devote all his time to the service of Hashem. And this passionate engagement in Torah continued even until his final day.
The Gemara relates that King David knew he would die on Shabbat, though he did not know on which Shabbat. He therefore made sure to spend every moment of Shabbat engrossed in learning, since the angel of death cannot seize a person’s soul as he studies Torah.
The angel of death was indeed frustrated by his inability to take the king’s soul due to his constant engagement in learning throughout the entirety of every Shabbat. Finally, the angel found a way to force David to ascend a ladder, at which point he pulled one of the rungs, causing David to slip and stop speaking Torah for a moment. At that split second, the angel of death snatched David’s soul and returned it to its Maker.
David’s devotion to Torah was so complete that the angel of death had to devise a clever scheme to take his soul.
A number of sources indicate the King David achieved a level equal to that of our three Avot. The Gemara (Berachot 26b) teaches that the three daily prayers were instituted by our Avot. Avraham established the morning Shacharit prayer; Yitzchak founded the afternoon Minchah prayer; and Yaakov introduced the evening Ma’ariv prayer. David HaMelech, too, established a prayer service, creating the tikkun chatzot, the prayer service that many recite at midnight to mourn the Bet HaMikdash.
Similarly, King David forms one of the legs of Hashem’s Holy Throne, along with Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov – a stature that even Moshe, the greatest of all the prophets, never attained. David HaMelech earned this status because he was the strongest advocate of personal prayer with the Almighty, and he was thus deemed worthy of establishing a daily prayer service and earning a place on the Heavenly Throne.
And just as Hashem chose to establish a covenant and special relationship with the descendants of the Avot, similarly, the progeny of King David was selected for special distinction.
God loved King David so much that He determined that Mashiach will descend from his lineage. King David’s son Shlomo HaMelech was the wisest man who ever lived, and he also had another son, Kilav, who is one of the four people who never committed a sin. Not coincidentally, David’s father, Yishai, is one of the other three.
David HaMelech sets for us an inspiring example of diligence in Torah study, fervent prayer and ironclad faith and optimism in the face of adversity. In a day and age when people look to athletes, actors and politicians as their heroes, it behooves us to study about our own heroes – the spiritual giants who form the foundation of our Torah tradition. And we have no greater hero than David HaMelech, the progenitor of Mashiach, the exemplar of faith, prayer and Torah, and the eternal symbol of humility and piety in leadership.
Morris Mizrahi is a retired businessman and a passionate student of Torah.
About the Author: Morris Mizrahi is a retired businessman and a passionate student of Torah.
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