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.