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Parshas VaYechi: The Yaakov and Dovid Connection

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Parshas VaYechi describes the last days of Yaakov Avinu’s life and it is therefore appropriate that the haftorah is a description of the last days of Dovid HaMelech’s life (the beginning of Sefer Melochim). But is that the only association? The last days of someone’s life? If so, there are other examples of the last days of someone’s life in Navi that could have been chosen. There must be deeper connections between the lives of Yaakov and Dovid.

Rav Eliyahu Wolf (Sefer Mah SheHaya Hu Sheyeheyeh) describes many other relationships between Yaakov and Dovid. Chazal teach Yaakov Avinu lo meis—he did not really die, he lives on through his descendants. The same is said about Dovid, Dovid Melech Yisrael Chai VeKayam. (The true depth of what these statements mean requires more space than this column; for our purposes it is enough to see the similarity between the two men.)

Yaakov had a son who ruled over him even while he was alive and Dovid did as well – he appointed Shlomo to be king even while he was alive so as to quell Adoniyahu’s (another son) rebellion and desire to rule. Both Yaakov and Dovid felt their energies weakening and were given an inner feeling and warning from Hashem that they were about to die. It gave both of them the opportunity to give over specific instructions to their sons in regards to the proper Torah legacy for Klal Yisrael. Yaakov was buried in Chevron and Dovid began his rule in Chevron in order to connect with Yaakov and the Avos as a firm foundation in launching Malchus Yisrael. There are many other connections mentioned by Rav Wolf as well. In fact, Rav Wolf cites a Riconti who writes that Yaakov and Dovid were like twins in the many similarities of their lives.

While these connections between Yaakov and Dovid are interesting, is there a practical message for us? Many times we feel as if no one has ever experienced what we are going through. No can understand us; no one can relate to my story and my dilemma. But this is not true. The Torah addresses all people, and all problems. One has only to look into Torah, study her stories and personalities, and one will find insights, lessons, and solutions to every issue. What happened to Dovid already happened to Yaakov.

Travels And Travails

Within the story of Dovid’s instructions to Shlomo is a fascinating insight described in Rav Shimshon Pincus’s sefer Tiferes Torah.

When Dovid HaMelech was on his deathbed, he instructed Shlomo regarding Shimmi ben Geira, who had cursed Dovid while he was fleeing from his son Avshalom. Dovid decided not to punish Shimmi for being moreid b’malchus, for rebelling against the king, a crime deserving of death, but on his death bed asked Shlomo to “take care of him,” to use wisdom in carrying out a capital punishment, and not just execute him.

Shlomo sent for Shimmi and ordered him never to leave Yerushalayim. He told Shimmi that if he crosses the Valley of Kidron, he would die. Shimmi accepted the arrangement. This lasted for three years, but then some of Shimmi’s slaves ran away and Shimmi left Yerushalayim to chase after them. Shlomo got word that Shimmi left the city and had him executed.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz asks how Shlomo knew that Shimmi was going to leave Yerushalayim. His father asked him not to let Shimmi die a normal death. In the end, the plan succeeded. But why was Shlomo so confident that his plot would work?

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz answers that Shlomo understood human nature. When someone is told, “This is where you have to remain and you can’t leave for the rest of your life,” even if he agrees, human nature is such that eventually that person will falter and leave. Why is this so?

Rav Pincus explains (based on the Gemara in Chagiga 12a) that when Adam HaRishon was created he was so tall that he was able to see from one end of the world to the other. After he sinned with the eitz hadaas, Adam shrunk. Now, Rav Pincus states that this midrash is not meant to be taken literally. However, he says that this characteristic, this natural curiosity about the world remained. This is the reason we enjoy going places and seeing new locales. This is why locking someone up, not allowing him to travel as he wishes, is torture for a person.

Most of us love to travel to new places. Each individual has an intrinsic relationship with the entire world – Asia, Africa, South America, etc. Consequently, each person has within him the curiosity and the desire to “reexperience” and revisit places all over the globe.

Amazingly, Rav Pincus points out, children who hate to be bored and to stay in one place will sit for hours in a car or plane as long as they can anticipate a new and interesting destination. This is all connected to Adam’s original state of being able to see the entire world.

Essentially, going to see a new place is a slight re-acquisition of what Adam originally had. Now, interestingly enough, another opinion in that same Gemara teaches that Adam was tall enough to reach the Heavens. Not only could he see from one end of the earth to the other, he could see all the way up into the skies. This, Rav Pincus teaches, means that Adam, and all of mankind, is connected to all information that exists, everywhere. We were given this characteristic so that we would learn Torah and gain all the spiritual knowledge that exists, but it also reflects man’s natural need to “know everything.”

The Gemara explains that both opinions refer to the same measure (idi v’idi chad shiura hu). The Tiferes Torah interprets the Gemara’s conclusion by saying that both measurements are equal but cannot coexist. Man’s focus can be either on one end of the earth to the other or on earth to heaven, but not both! The Tiferes Torah interprets the measure “from one end of the earth to the other” to mean that Adam related to the entire physical geography of the world, and “from earth to heaven” that he related to all of its spirituality. But, these two elements of man cannot thrive concurrently. The more one is involved in the physical, the less he can be involved in the spiritual.

Man’s drive today to connect with people all over the globe, to follow current events and news, to fly to new locations is based on this Gemara. In the past, even secularists were more spiritually attuned and spent many hours studying spiritual wisdom like astrology. Today, people are more materially inclined and to fill this connection, Hashem has given us the gift of technology so our drive and desires for information can be filled.

These are some of the happenings in this week’s haftorah.

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