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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘King David’

King David Hotel Named One of World’s Top 100

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Jerusalem’s historic King David Hotel is being called one of the top 12 “iconic hotels” and one of the world’s best 100 by Fodor’s.

 

Fodor’s is one of the world’s foremost publishers of English-language tour and travel guide books.

 

This is Fodor’s first Top 100 Hotel Awards, which placed the hotels in one of eight categories: New and Noteworthy, Grande Dame, Casual Chic, Design, Local Flavor, Clubby Atmosphere, Luxurious Retreat, and Trusted Brand.

 

Israel was listed in the “Grande Dame” category, “legendary hotels with superlative history and service.”

 

“The grande dame of Israeli luxury hotels opened in 1931 and has successfully (and self-importantly) defended its title ever since,” Fodor’s said.  “There are other luxury hotels in Jerusalem, but none possess the historical significance and elegant surroundings of the landmarked King David. From the dignified lobby filled with travel guide-toting visitors and diplomats making notes for their next meeting, one can feel the energy of the momentous events that have taken place here. Sit on the flower-filled terrace overlooking the city’s loveliest pool and sip a glass of mint tea while gazing at the stately walls of Jerusalem’s Old City… And when you’re eating the famously excellent breakfast, don’t be surprised if you bump into royalty, world leaders, or rock stars.”

 

The King David hotel was built with the funding of Egyptian Jews in 1931, and was famously attacked by the Jewish liberation fighters of the Irgun in the summer of 1946, when the King David was used by the occupying British as an administrative and military headquarters.  Famous guests at the King David include King George V, former US Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Richard Nixon, British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, and celebrities Richard Gere, Elizabeth Taylor, and Madonna, as well as then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.   It features 233 rooms, 42 luxury suites, a presidential suite and a royal suite.

 

Other “Grande Dame” hotels awarded by Fodor’s are  Baur au Lac Zurich, Switzerland; Breakers Palm Beach, Florida; Carlyle, New York City; Hotel de Russie, Rome; Hay-Adams Washington, DC; Villa D’Este, Lake Como; La Mamounia, Marrakesh; and The Savoy London, England.

Caring For Bubbie – A Privilege

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

My mother lives with me and needs a great deal of attention, as do my four children. It seems as if everyone is pulling at me at once, and I don’t know in which direction to turn first. All this stress has definitely affected my mental and physical health. I suffer from backaches and stomach trouble and lack the patience necessary to be a good wife and mother.

My husband feels the best solution might be to place my mother in a retirement home, but I find the prospect very painful. I don’t think I could live with myself if I did that.

My friends tell me I am a fool and should learn to think of myself rather than allow others to take advantage of me. There are times I am tempted to follow their advice and run off someplace by myself and forget everything.

My Dear Friend:

Many of us, when confronted by difficulties, daydream of flying to some distant land where we can forget all our problems. However, reality dictates there is no escape – for no matter how high or far the plane flies, eventually it must land with the same cargo that was loaded aboard. Therefore, rather than indulging in fantasy, let us try to resolve your problem in a constructive manner.

The greatest joy one can experience comes from being part of a loving family. But as with all gifts, this happiness comes at a price. For example, if you love someone and that person is hurting, you will feel his or her pain, and if you are unable to alleviate the suffering, your anguish will be even more intense. Therefore, I understand your agony over your mother’s infirmity and her inability to care for herself, but I cannot see why you should feel a conflict between caring for her and your children.

To honor and revere your mother is not your responsibility alone, but must be shared by your husband and children as well – and children are never too young to learn that responsibility. To revere, love and care for Bubbie is their privilege and should never be regarded as a burden. Not only should you enlist their aid in being attentive to your mother’s needs, you should make them understand how blessed they are to have a Bubbie living with them. It is a zechus, a great merit, to ease the pain of a grandparent, to divert her with a story or a song and to bring a smile to her face.

One of the outstanding women in Jewish history was Serach, the daughter of Asher. She lived for many centuries, and in the days of King David was renowned as Isha Chachama – the Wise Woman. Why was she granted this awesome honor? What was unique about her? Why was she so special?

She would comfort her Zeyda, the patriarch Jacob, by singing to him and offering words of consolation and hope. “Od Yosef chai” — “Joseph still lives” – she would sing again and again after Jacob was shown Joseph’s bloody coat. It was for having performed this great mitzvah of honoring and comforting her grandfather that she was granted her incredible longevity and wisdom.

Not every family has the merit of caring for elderly grandparents, so instead of resenting the mitzvah, teach your children to embrace it with love.

Long after your mother is called by G-d, your children will remember those special years when Grandma was part of their lives, and that is a treasure no one will ever be able to take from them. The best way to train children is through example. If you wish your children to feel the joy of the presence of their grandmother, then you and your husband will have to show them the way. Through your attitude you will have to demonstrate that to care for your mother is a privilege you wouldn’t barter for anything in the world.

Once you make your children active participants in this family responsibility, their resentment will disappear. Instead of feeling put upon, they will feel honored and want to give of themselves, and through that giving they will become better people. And one day, when old age catches up with you and your husband, your children will remember the love you showered on their Bubbie and, with G-d’s help, will impart the same to you.

As far as your friends are concerned, don’t let their opinions bother you. They are just parroting the meaningless words in vogue nowadays: “Think of your own happiness; don’t let anyone take advantage of you.” Can honoring one’s parents be regarded as being taken advantage of? What happiness can you have if your mother is hurting? Do your friends imagine you are a machine without a conscience who can simply block your mother out of your heart and mind?

Now, I do not minimize the sacrifice that is demanded of you, but we are a nation that has lived by these sacrifices – parents living for their children, and children, in turn, living for their parents. That’s what life is all about. Giving. The bottom line remains: if you inspire your family to join you in honoring Bubbie, that which at first glance seemed to cause a conflict will act as a catalyst to unite your household.

I can assure you that Bubbie will forever be enshrined in the hearts of your children as a legacy of love.

The Sprouting Of Mashiach

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011
           What is it about Tu B’Shevat?
            There are four “Roshei Hashanah.”
The First of Tishrei we all know about. That is the day we blow the shofar.
The First of Nissan and the First of Elul come and go in our times without much notice.
             But Tu B’Shevat is different. There is a sense of simcha, a sense of hope and many minhagim associated with it: we eat fruit and make a Shehecheyanu. We omit Tachanun.
           What is different about Tu B’Shevat?
One reason for the simcha is the universal joy felt at the advent of spring, and Tu B’Shevat is a harbinger of spring. “For on this day the strength of the soil of Eretz Yisrael is renewed and it begins to yield its produce and demonstrate its inherent goodness” (Book of Our Heritage, page 331). Who does not experience a surge of hope when the snows melt, the air turns warm and the trees are filled with magnificent blossoms? It hints of techias hameisim, the resurrection of the dead.
   In fact, the blessing of techias hameisim in Shemoneh Esrei ends with the words “umatzmiach yeshuaand He causes salvation to sprout.”
   I would have thought the shofar sounding and Mashiach ben David riding in on a donkey is far from “sprouting,” but apparently not.
   Actually the blessing for Mashiach implies sprouting. Does it not say “tsemach David – the sprouting of David”?
   Why is Redemption compared to the agricultural process?
   I believe this can illuminate the nature of the geulah shelemah.
 
   Where did King David come from? His great-grandmother Ruth came from Moab, a nation founded in perversity and immorality (the relationship between Lot and his daughter). Mashiach is raised in darkness and appears from the most unlikely of all possible places. As we say in Psalms, “Even ma’asu habanim haisa l’rosh pina – the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone .” (Psalm 118). This refers to David, according to the Targum. No one, not even David’s own family, wanted to believe David had been selected by God to be the redeemer of Israel.
   What is a seed and how does it germinate? It lies in blackness and obscurity, under the ground, unseen by the world. No one knows where it is. Some people forget about it completely, and during the winter it is buried under snow and ice in the frozen earth. It requires rain. From where does the seed arise? It comes from the fruits of the past, which have died and rejoined the earth after having nourished past generations.
This is so much like Mashiach ben David. Mashiach also lies, so to speak, in obscurity. No one knows who Mashiach is and where he will arise. He requires tears just as the seed underground requires rain. And Mashiach arises from the past; he is the fruit of King David, who will come to nourish future generations just as his father nourished generations of the past.
What is the highest form of food? After the Flood, mankind was permitted meat in order to have the strength to live in the new and challenging world. What about before the Flood?
After the expulsion from the Garden, Hashem said to Adam, “accursed is the ground because of you. Through suffering you shall eat of it . Thorns and thistles shall it sprout for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. By the sweat of your brow shall you eat of the bread until you return to the ground from which you were taken, for you are dust, and to dust shall you return” (Bereishis 3: 17-19).
   In other words, after the Expulsion mankind started eating herbs. After the Flood mankind started eating meat. What about before the Expulsion?
   It seems mankind was meant to eat fruit of the trees, from all types of trees except one.
   Why is the fruit of the tree the highest form of food?
   Herbs require destroying the plant. When you pull up a carrot from the ground you have uprooted the plant. There is no more carrot plant. You will eat, but you have destroyed a plant.
   When you eat meat, you have killed an animal. Your chicken or your steak or your fish required destruction of an animal.
   But the fruit of the tree is perfect. Nothing has been killed. The tree remains to produce more fruit and to bear beautiful blossoms and fruits. The fruit itself will produce more trees. In fact, I heard the brilliant Reb Zev Smith say he heard that if you plant one apple seed, it will grow into a tree, and then you take the apples from that tree and plant all their seeds, within twenty years you can feed the entire world from that one seed.

   This is Mashiach ben David. From this one “sprouting” seed of the Tree of Yishai the entire world will be saved. This is “tsemach David,” the sprouting of David. This is what excites and thrills us on Tu B’Shevat. We feel the sap pulsing in the trees and sense the imminent sprouting of the advent of Mashiach ben David, may we greet him soon in our days.

 

 

Roy Neuberger’s latest book, “2020 VISION” (Feldheim), is available at Jewish bookstores, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and online at Amazon.com. Roy can be contacted at roy@tosinai.com.

Pieter Lastman’s David And Uriah Paintings

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker

March 15 – August 02, 2009

The Jewish Museum

1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street, New York

www.thejewishmuseum.org  

 

 

In one of the most complex and controversial of biblical narratives, the book of 2 Samuel recounts an almost operatic moment in which Uriah the Hittite, husband of Batsheva, was instructed by King David to unknowingly carry his own death sentence to the Jewish general Yoav (Joab). Had Uriah betrayed his king’s confidence and opened the letter, he could have surely have escaped death.

 

One can almost sense this nuance in a painting by the 16th-17th century Dutch painter (and Rembrandt’s and Jan Lievens’ teacher) Pieter Pietersz Lastman titled “David gives Uriah a Letter for Joab.” The painting is part of an exhibit at The Jewish Museum of works by many artists once owned by Dutch, Jewish collector Jacques Goudstikker, whose works were looted by the Nazis.

 

 

Pieter Pietersz Lastman (ca. 1583-1633). “David gives Uriah a Letter for Joab.” 1619.

Oil on panel. Private collection. Courtesy of The Jewish Museum, N.Y.

 

 

Lastman portrays David sitting on his throne clad in a blue-purple robe and red cape and bearing a golden scepter. Like many 17th century Dutch paintings, Lastman’s work should not be “read” simply on a surface level. Ironically, a dog, the symbol of fidelity in art, stands between David and Uriah, and two pillars, typically symbolic of fortitude, flank the anything-but-confident David on both sides. Additionally, a young boy, who seems most interested in the scepter, stands on the king’s left, and might represent Absalom, who later rebelled against his father, seeking to steal the kingdom from Solomon. Uriah kneels before David with his helmet at his feet, and about a dozen soldiers appear in the background, which contains a Christian propagandist element: a depiction of St. Peter’s Basilica, rumored to contain pillars from Solomon’s Temple. By casting an Old Testament scene in Vatican City (which of course did not exist in David’s era), the Catholic Lastman was suggesting that the episode from the Jewish bible also bore significance to Catholics.

 

 

Pieter Pietersz Lastman. “King David Handing the Letter to Uriah.” 1611. Oil on oak panel. Detroit Institute of Arts. Photo Courtesy of Detroit Institute of Arts.

 

 

The letter David holds in his right hand – in a pouch bound with the king’s seal – is exactly the same sort Lastman had depicted eight years earlier in “King David Handing the Letter to Uriah,” at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The Detroit version includes writing on the outside of the letter (presumably by David’s hand), which the later version lacks. (Incidentally, a letter written and sealed by a royal hand might be relevant in interpreting verses like Esther 3:12, 8:8, and 8:10, and 1 Kings 21:8, and Daniel 6:18). The boy who sits on the king’s right in the Detroit version might be the same one on his left in the later version, though he looks at David’s crown rather than his scepter. Though he wears armor, Uriah is dressed in the contemporary Dutch fashion (with a feathered hat replacing the helmet) in the Detroit version, while the later Uriah looks to be dressed in a more “biblical” fashion, though both in fact wear the same tan robe with brown stripes at the hem. St. Peter’s also appears in the Detroit painting, but it is accompanied by a fountain with a pagan river god pouring water. Another difference is that the Detroit David is a much older man than his peer in the other work. 

 

It is difficult to locate Lastman’s two depictions of David and Uriah in a larger artistic tradition, because there was not much of a precedent for the scene. Jean Colombe’s “David entrusts a letter to Uriah” from the “Tr?s Riches Heures du Duc de Berry” (1485-9) shows an entirely different composition: David in gold sitting in the foreground, Uriah, clad in blue, kneeling behind, in what appears to be a medieval castle, and two court advisors. The illumination accompanies the text of Psalm 50 (in the Greek numbering, 51 in Jewish counts), which begins, “A song to David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, when he went to Bathsheba.” On the throne, Colombe painted a jester carrying a stick and wearing animal ears, perhaps a reference to 1 Samuel 21, where David impersonated an insane person to evade capture at Gath.

 

 

French Gothic. Detail: “David and Bathsheba.” C. 1250. Pierpont Morgan Library.

 

 

The 1490 “David, accompanied by Bathsheba, gives Uriah a letter for Joab” by the Master of Cornelis Croesinck, also known as the “Master of the Dark Eyes,” also does not seem to have captured Lastman’s attention. The work, which is at the Hague, mysteriously adds Bathsheba to the scene standing behind David as he hands the letter to Uriah. This bold interpretive move, which makes little sense in the context of the larger story, is also unprecedented. Other depictions of Uriah that would have been available to Lastman feature Uriah’s death rather than his receiving of the letter (a 1511 “Killing of Uriah” by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, and a c. 1430 “Uriah is killed in the battle before the city of Rabbah” by Master of Otto van Moerdrecht, also in the Hague).

 

For the most part, other depictions feature a medieval knight kneeling before David , some include a letter, which often looks more like a loaf of bread than a letter (most notably a c. 1500 illumination from a Book of Hours and a 13th century illumination from “Image du Monde”), but most do not. “A 13th century illumination from a Psalter and Book of Hours” is the only one to show a letter bearing a dangling seal that resembles Lastman’s works, and might have served as a model for the piece. A supposed “David and Uriah” is attributed to Rembrandt in the collection of the Hermitage dated 1665, but the Hermitage calls the scene “Haman Recognizes His Fate,” and even though Rembrandt studied with Lastman, he does not seem to have copied Lastman’s motif.

 

 

Psalter and Book of Hours. Ms. 730, fol. 109v. Detail: “David sends Uriah to Joab.”

13th century. Pierpont Morgan Library.

 

 

But where Lastman’s predecessors tended not to show the Uriah scene altogether and when they did depict David and Uriah, they tended to opt for stylized portraits, Lastman’s David looks worried or morally torn, in short, more human. This is surely a mode of biblical interpretation that Lastman passed along to Rembrandt, evidenced by the latter’s many naturalistic depictions of biblical characters.

 

Many viewers will surely find the Jewish Museum show fascinating for historical reasons, and will be interested in the back-story of the return of looted art. But examining the larger context of even one of the works shows what a tragedy it would be for the public to not have access to viewing them.

 

Menachem Wecker welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, residing in Washington, D.C.

Pieter Lastman’s David And Uriah Paintings

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker


March 15 – August 02, 2009


The Jewish Museum


1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street, New York



 

 


In one of the most complex and controversial of biblical narratives, the book of 2 Samuel recounts an almost operatic moment in which Uriah the Hittite, husband of Batsheva, was instructed by King David to unknowingly carry his own death sentence to the Jewish general Yoav (Joab). Had Uriah betrayed his king’s confidence and opened the letter, he could have surely have escaped death.

 

One can almost sense this nuance in a painting by the 16th-17th century Dutch painter (and Rembrandt’s and Jan Lievens’ teacher) Pieter Pietersz Lastman titled “David gives Uriah a Letter for Joab.” The painting is part of an exhibit at The Jewish Museum of works by many artists once owned by Dutch, Jewish collector Jacques Goudstikker, whose works were looted by the Nazis.

 

 


Pieter Pietersz Lastman (ca. 1583-1633). “David gives Uriah a Letter for Joab.” 1619.

Oil on panel. Private collection. Courtesy of The Jewish Museum, N.Y.

 

 

Lastman portrays David sitting on his throne clad in a blue-purple robe and red cape and bearing a golden scepter. Like many 17th century Dutch paintings, Lastman’s work should not be “read” simply on a surface level. Ironically, a dog, the symbol of fidelity in art, stands between David and Uriah, and two pillars, typically symbolic of fortitude, flank the anything-but-confident David on both sides. Additionally, a young boy, who seems most interested in the scepter, stands on the king’s left, and might represent Absalom, who later rebelled against his father, seeking to steal the kingdom from Solomon. Uriah kneels before David with his helmet at his feet, and about a dozen soldiers appear in the background, which contains a Christian propagandist element: a depiction of St. Peter’s Basilica, rumored to contain pillars from Solomon’s Temple. By casting an Old Testament scene in Vatican City (which of course did not exist in David’s era), the Catholic Lastman was suggesting that the episode from the Jewish bible also bore significance to Catholics.

 

 


Pieter Pietersz Lastman. “King David Handing the Letter to Uriah.” 1611. Oil on oak panel. Detroit Institute of Arts. Photo Courtesy of Detroit Institute of Arts.

 

 

The letter David holds in his right hand – in a pouch bound with the king’s seal – is exactly the same sort Lastman had depicted eight years earlier in “King David Handing the Letter to Uriah,” at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The Detroit version includes writing on the outside of the letter (presumably by David’s hand), which the later version lacks. (Incidentally, a letter written and sealed by a royal hand might be relevant in interpreting verses like Esther 3:12, 8:8, and 8:10, and 1 Kings 21:8, and Daniel 6:18). The boy who sits on the king’s right in the Detroit version might be the same one on his left in the later version, though he looks at David’s crown rather than his scepter. Though he wears armor, Uriah is dressed in the contemporary Dutch fashion (with a feathered hat replacing the helmet) in the Detroit version, while the later Uriah looks to be dressed in a more “biblical” fashion, though both in fact wear the same tan robe with brown stripes at the hem. St. Peter’s also appears in the Detroit painting, but it is accompanied by a fountain with a pagan river god pouring water. Another difference is that the Detroit David is a much older man than his peer in the other work. 

 

It is difficult to locate Lastman’s two depictions of David and Uriah in a larger artistic tradition, because there was not much of a precedent for the scene. Jean Colombe’s “David entrusts a letter to Uriah” from the “Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry” (1485-9) shows an entirely different composition: David in gold sitting in the foreground, Uriah, clad in blue, kneeling behind, in what appears to be a medieval castle, and two court advisors. The illumination accompanies the text of Psalm 50 (in the Greek numbering, 51 in Jewish counts), which begins, “A song to David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, when he went to Bathsheba.” On the throne, Colombe painted a jester carrying a stick and wearing animal ears, perhaps a reference to 1 Samuel 21, where David impersonated an insane person to evade capture at Gath.

 

 


French Gothic. Detail: “David and Bathsheba.” C. 1250. Pierpont Morgan Library.

 

 

The 1490 “David, accompanied by Bathsheba, gives Uriah a letter for Joab” by the Master of Cornelis Croesinck, also known as the “Master of the Dark Eyes,” also does not seem to have captured Lastman’s attention. The work, which is at the Hague, mysteriously adds Bathsheba to the scene standing behind David as he hands the letter to Uriah. This bold interpretive move, which makes little sense in the context of the larger story, is also unprecedented. Other depictions of Uriah that would have been available to Lastman feature Uriah’s death rather than his receiving of the letter (a 1511 “Killing of Uriah” by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, and a c. 1430 “Uriah is killed in the battle before the city of Rabbah” by Master of Otto van Moerdrecht, also in the Hague).

 

For the most part, other depictions feature a medieval knight kneeling before David , some include a letter, which often looks more like a loaf of bread than a letter (most notably a c. 1500 illumination from a Book of Hours and a 13th century illumination from “Image du Monde”), but most do not. “A 13th century illumination from a Psalter and Book of Hours” is the only one to show a letter bearing a dangling seal that resembles Lastman’s works, and might have served as a model for the piece. A supposed “David and Uriah” is attributed to Rembrandt in the collection of the Hermitage dated 1665, but the Hermitage calls the scene “Haman Recognizes His Fate,” and even though Rembrandt studied with Lastman, he does not seem to have copied Lastman’s motif.

 

 


Psalter and Book of Hours. Ms. 730, fol. 109v. Detail: “David sends Uriah to Joab.”

13th century. Pierpont Morgan Library.

 

 

But where Lastman’s predecessors tended not to show the Uriah scene altogether and when they did depict David and Uriah, they tended to opt for stylized portraits, Lastman’s David looks worried or morally torn, in short, more human. This is surely a mode of biblical interpretation that Lastman passed along to Rembrandt, evidenced by the latter’s many naturalistic depictions of biblical characters.

 

Many viewers will surely find the Jewish Museum show fascinating for historical reasons, and will be interested in the back-story of the return of looted art. But examining the larger context of even one of the works shows what a tragedy it would be for the public to not have access to viewing them.


 


Menachem Wecker welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, residing in Washington, D.C.

A Regal Silhouette: King David The Musical

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008


David in Shadow and Light


Libretto by Yehuda Hyman;


Music by Daniel Hoffman;


Directed by Nick Olcott


Running now through June 22, 2008


Washington DC JCC Theater J


www.theaterj.org, tickets: (800) 494-TIXS


 


 


Light and shadow typically assume moral implications in literature, where light is often divine and dark symbolizes the unknown and the scary. In Greek mythology, the dead who could afford it, bribed Charon to take them across the River Styx to Hades, while those who could not, hovered around the river for eternity as “shades”. Plato saw this imperfect world as silhouettes projected on the walls of a dark cave. Film noirs build drama in scenes that are dark and perpetually rainy, while “The Lion King” turned to a dark, shadowy elephant graveyard as the place of supreme chaos and evil.

 

“David in Shadow and Light”, the current play at Theater J at the Washington DC JCC, builds upon the charged metaphors of light and dark with a new twist. In the play, the gaps between film frames serve as a metaphor for the life of King David. If the information about David’s life in the Bible is the series of film frames, the space between frames “contain” the many details the Bible could have provided but did not – the set of emotions, thoughts, and other actions that the play improvises upon.

 

 



The cast of David in Shadow and Light. Photo by Stan Barouh, courtesy of Theater J.


 

 

In an adaptation of the famous “RENT” song, “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. How do you measure, measure a year?” the characters of “David in Shadow and Light” lay out this methodology early on in a song: “Twenty-four frames per second of life/ An even division of shadow and light/ A vision projected on canvas of white/ In 24 frames per second of life.” In between frames, so the song continues, “is the moment between/ Where the vision goes dark to reveal the unseen/ Where the heart has to choose how to play out the scene/ In the moment between every moment between.”

 

The frames come from a projector upon which Archangel Metatron (Donna Migliaccio) shows the 930-year-old, wheelchair-ridden and dejected Adam (Norman Aronovic) how the future will unfold. Metatron shows Noah, Sarah, Ishmael, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Miriam, Samson, Shakespeare, Napoleon, Einstein, Martin Luther King, and Kennedy. But as she tries to fast forward past the young David, who is only destined to live a matter of hours, Adam insists that Metatron stop the reel:

 

“I wanna see the baby. The one with the red cheeks,” he demands. “Ah ah look at him see how he shines so bright. His heart is fire – holy light.” Though she has been sent to cheer Adam up, Metatron agrees to euthanize him and helps him transfer his final 70 years to King David.

 

 



Donna Migliaccio (Metatron) and Norman Aronovic (Adam).  Photo by Stan Barouh, courtesy of Theater J.


 

 

In Homer’s The Odyssey, Odysseus is accompanied throughout his series of journeys by his guardian angel: the “gray-eyed goddess” of wisdom, Athena. In “David in Shadow and Light,” King David (Matt Pearson) has the benefit of two protectors in Adam and Metatron, who try to defend him, even as he sins and fights with King Saul (Bobby Smith) and Michal (Carolyn Agan). Still, viewers know that David will ultimately have too much blood on his hands to build the Temple, and he will die unhappy for his inability to achieve this dream, just as Moses did when he only managed to see Israel from the distant peak of Mount Nebo.

 

Where most plays that address biblical topics deal in clichés and very loose allegiance to the text, “David in Shadow and Light” must be commended for its careful study of Jewish scripture and commentaries. Hyman does invoke poetic license at various points in the narrative, but he proves himself to be such a diligent student of scripture that these departures appear to be conscious decisions rather than ones bred from ignorance.

 

The basic storyline is based on tradition. According to the Zohar (Part 1, page 91b), God showed Adam how history would unfold, so Adam, who was supposed to live until 1,000, donated his final 70 years to David. The Zohar does not mention any angel, but the Yalkut Shimoni (Bereishit 41) does include Metatron in the story. In the Yalkut, Adam asks God for permission to give David the 70 years, and God agrees. Adam then writes up a contract (which perhaps inspires the contract Faust proposes to Mephistopheles in Goethe’s “Faust”), which he, God, and Metatron sign. Metatron is viewed as a protector of the Jews, and the name (which is not feminine in scripture) might mean “messenger.”

 

 



Matthew Anderson, Matt Pearson (King David), and Lawrence Redmond. Photo by Stan Barouh, courtesy of Theater J.


 

 

The play casts Goliath (Russell Sunday) as a punk rocker, with a Mohawk, a lot of spikes, and tight leather pants. This, of course, does not appear in the Bible, but a punk rocker with a serious attitude problem makes sense, in light of the biblical tale of Goliath trash-talking the Jewish soldiers in Samuel 1:17, “Why have you come out to battle? Am I not the Philistine and you the servants of Saul? Choose for yourselves a man, and let him come down to me.” He later curses David’s God and tells him, “Come to me, and I will give your body to birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.”

 

Even if the giant’s attire is more contemporary than biblical, the play does follow the Babylonian Talmud in its decision to have Goliath haunt David after he is beheaded and insist he is David’s relative. Tractate Sotah (page 42b), which responds to the moment in the Book of Ruth where Orpah kisses Naomi goodbye while Ruth, clinging to her, states, “Let the descendents of the one who kissed (‘neshukah‘) fall in battle to the sons of the one who remained (‘devukah‘).” The Talmud is of course referring to David and Goliath.

 

Other parts of the script depart from the biblical narrative. The Bible, for instance, makes no mention of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah being infertile (in the play David learns this before sending Uriah to his death), and in the play Samuel the prophet discovers David in the field shepherding sheep and tending to each one’s individual needs before anointing him king, whereas in the Bible (Samuel 1:16) Samuel approaches Jesse (Yishai), who parades all his seven sons (including Eliav, Avinadav, and Shammah) before the prophet. Jesse only presents David reluctantly when every other option had been exhausted.

 

“David in Shadow and Light” also employs some innovative moves from a lighting and set design perspective. For most of the play, the foreground and the background are separated by a screen, upon which many of the violent scenes are projected in silhouette. The projected shadows sometimes appear playful like a puppet show, and other times downright frightening, as when military leaders who address crowds cast imposing shadows that evoke Cold War propaganda films.

 

Contemporary punk and rock aspects aside, the royal figures in the play feel very Egyptian. The set is otherwise minimalist, with only Adam’s wheelchair, a director’s chair and the projector for Metatron, and occasional thrones and open doorways leading to hell (for Goliath) and heaven (for everyone else). The play also features a “non-traditional casting” move of “a David of color: a Tiger Woods-like natural phenomenon,” or “the Barack Obama of the Bible,” as Ari Roth, artistic director of Theater J states in the press release.

 

These new approaches to the biblical narrative left this reviewer rethinking the story of David and its relevance today. But sometimes, too many variations on a text yield a confusing story that overextends itself. “David in Shadow and Light” might approach that murky effect, but it is hard to criticize a play that approaches an iconic story that has been explored so often and so similarly from such a fresh perspective.

 

Menachem Wecker welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, residing in Washington, DC.

 

I am very grateful to my father, Rabbi Mordechai Wecker, for his assistance tracking down the Hebrew sources quoted in this article. 

Nitzevet, Mother Of King David: A Bold Voice Of Silence

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Shavuot marks the birthday of King David and for this reason it is customary in many communities to read Megillat Ruth since Ruth was his great-grandmother. What is not as known, however, is the remarkable story of Nitzevet, the noble mother of King David.




King David had many challenges throughout his life. At one point, this great individual describes that enemies who wish to cut him down surround him; even his own brothers are strangers to him, ravaging and reviling him.

 

Why did King David arouse such ire and contempt?

 

David was born into the illustrious family of Yishai, who served as the head of the Sanhedrin (Jewish Supreme Court) and was one of the most distinguished leaders of his generation. David was the youngest in his family, which included seven illustrious brothers.

Yet, when David was born, these prominent family members greeted his birth with absolute derision. David was not permitted to eat with his family, but was assigned a separate table in the corner. He was given the task of shepherd, in the hope that a wild beast would kill him.

 

Only one individual throughout David’s youth felt pained over his plight and felt a deep bond of love for the child whom she alone knew was undoubtedly pure. This was King David’s mother, Nitzevet bat Adel.

 

Torn and anguished by David’s unwarranted troubles, yet powerless to stop the degradation, Nitzevet stood by the sidelines waiting for the time when true justice would emerge.

It would take 28 long years for that to happen.

 David’s Birth





David’s father, Yishai, was the grandson of Boaz and Ruth. After several years of marriage and after having raised virtuous children, Yishai began to entertain personal doubts about his ancestry.


His grandmother Ruth was a convert from the nation of Moav. The Torah specifically forbids a Moabite convert. Boaz and the sages understood this law as forbidding the conversion of male Moabites, while exempting the female converts. Ruth gave birth to Oved, the father of Yishai.


Later in his life, doubt gripped at Yishai on whether Boaz’s decision was correct. If Yishai’s status was questionable, he could not remain married to his wife, a veritable Israelite. Disregarding the personal sacrifice, Yishai separated from her.


After a number of years, Yishai longed for an offspring whose ancestry would be unquestionable. His plan involved his Canaanite maidservant.


He said to her, “Prepare for tonight. I will be freeing you, conditionally. If my status as a Jew is legitimate, you are freed as a Jewish convert to marry me. If my status is blemished, I am not giving you your freedom, but as a Canaanite maidservant, you may marry a Moabite convert.”


Aware of the anguish of her mistress in being separated from her husband, the maidservant informed Nitzevet of Yishai’s plan and suggested a counter plan. “Switch places with me tonight.”


Nitzevet conceived that night.


Incensed, her sons wished to kill her and her illegitimate fetus. Nitzevet chose a vow of silence, refusing to embarrass her husband by revealing his plan.


Unaware of his wife’s behavior, but having compassion on her, Yishai ordered his sons not to kill her. “Instead, let the child that will be born be treated as a hated servant. Everyone will realize that he is a mamzer.”


From the moment of his birth Nitzevet’s son was treated by his brothers, as an abominable outcast. The rest of the nation, too, assumed that this youth was a treacherous sinner.

 King David’s Corronation





The prophet, Shmuel arrives in Beit Lechem to anoint the new king of Israel. As he lays his eyes on Yishai’s eldest son, tall and distinguished Eliav, he is sure that this is the future king, until G-d reprimands him not to look at outside qualities.


No longer did Shmuel make any assumptions. All the seven sons of Yishai passed before Shmuel. None had been chosen.


“Are these all the lads?” Shmuel asked.


Yishai answered, “A small one is left.”


Shmuel ordered that David be summoned. Out of respect, David first went home to change his clothes.


Nitzevet inquired, “Why did you come home?”


David explained. Nitzevet answered, “If so, I, too, am accompanying you.”


When David arrived, Shmuel doubted whether he was worthy of the kingship.


However, G-d commanded, “My anointed one is standing and you remain seated? Anoint David!”


Tearful weeping could be heard from outside – the voice of Nitzevet, David’s lone supporter and solitary source of comfort. The 28 long years of silence in the face of humiliation were finally coming to a close. At last, all would see that the lineage of her youngest son was pure.


Within moments, the once reviled shepherd boy became anointed as the future king of Israel.

 Nitzevet’s Legacy





King David had many sterling qualities. Many of these were inherited from his illustrious father, Yishai. But it was undoubtedly from his mother’s milk that the young David absorbed strong values and the courage to face his adversaries.


From the moment he was born, and during his most tender years, it was Nitzevet who taught him the essential lesson of valuing every individual’s dignity and refraining from embarrassing another, regardless of the personal consequences. It was she who displayed a silent but stoic bravery and dignity in the face of the gravest hardship.


Undoubtedly, it is from Nitzevet that King David absorbed a strength born from an inner confidence to disregard the callous treatment of the world and find solace in the comfort of his Maker. It was this strength that would fortify King David to defeat his staunchest antagonists and well as his most treacherous enemies, as he valiantly fought against the mightiest warriors.


And it was this strength that ultimately allowed him to become the forebear of Moshiach.


Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, the latest, Divine Whispers – Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org’s Weekly Magazine. Weisberg lectures on issues relating to women, faith, relationships and the Jewish soul and is currently scheduling a worldwide book tour for the coming year. To book a talk for your community, for information on her speaking schedule or to purchase a signed copy of her books, please contact: weisberg@sympatico.ca

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 3/03/06

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

Readers react to letter by “Unimpressed Male Onlooker” (Chronicle Jan.13).

Dear Rachel,

To the man who wrote that he is uncomfortable with women davening on the subway, my answer is for him not to look at the women. While the subway is not an ideal place to daven, I think it is great that a woman takes the time to do so – a time oriented mitzvah that is not really expected of women at all. It is especially commendable in these busy and troubled times. Though I myself daven at home daily, I don’t believe that it is in this man’s place to tell women what to do. I’ve seen both Jew and Gentile praying on buses and subways.

Glad to be living in a land of Freedom of Religion

Letter #2

I am an 18-year old student who frequently rides the subway and was very disturbed by your response to the “unimpressed male onlooker.” Since when have Jews concerned themselves with what others think when doing what Hashem wants of them? As far as calling attention to oneself, l find that females on the train who are just looking around or listening to music draw more unwanted attention. When davening or saying tehillim with your head and heart in the siddur, not only are you purifying the surroundings, you are safely distracted from the subway environment. I speak from personal experience.

The subway’s just fine for me

Letter #3

“Unimpressed male onlooker” seems more interested in carping and criticizing others (i.e. women) than studying a sefer on the train. Did he ever learn Pirkei Avos (1:6) – to judge others for merit (l’kaf zchus)? No, I suppose he is too busy studying girls on the train. How dare he act as judge and jury over his fellow Jew! On a personal note, my great-grandfather was renown for his great piety. And yes, there were occasions when he davened on the train. And yes, he had such kavanah and “devakus” (closeness) to Hashem that the secular surroundings did not dissuade or distract him. “Unimpressed

¼” is insulting my own family, as well as countless other Yidden whom he views as “overly pious.”

Both you and the letter-writer would do well to read SHMUEL ll (6:14-23) about Dovid HaMelech dancing, leaping and whirling before the Holy Ark with great kavanah and emotion. When Michal, his wife, saw this “tasteless display,” she accused him of being vulgar and “exposing himself” before the slave girls of his subjects. King David’s reply was – as you would say – “on target”: “Before the Lord Who chose me… I made merry. Before the Lord I will demean myself even more than this and be low in my own eyes

¼ and among the slave girls of which you speak, I will be honored…” So, what takes priority – the idle thoughts of man, or honoring Hashem?

Dismayed by your attitude

Letter #4

I read your article on a weekly basis. However, I was very disappointed to see your view on women davening. Did you consult a Rav before saying that women shouldn’t daven at all if that’s the only time they have to pray? Take, for example, a married woman of children who is the breadwinner for the family as her husband learns all day. Her job is out in Manhattan and she has to be there at 9:30 a.m. Why shouldn’t she daven on the train? What’s wrong with it? Even a girl, I’m sure, has reason for davening on the train. My mom had a baby last year. Having had a difficult birth, it took a while for her to get back to her normal self. My sister arose early to see our siblings off to school and to help out with the baby. Once when she hadn’t managed to fit her davening into her hectic morning routine at home, she took her siddur out on the train on her way to work. As she began to daven, an Israeli male said to her, “Miss, this is not the way

¼to pray on a train where you can’t concentrate. Get up a half hour earlier…” My sister politely told him that she had been up since 5:30 to send kids off to school, etc. The man embarrassingly apologized. So you can inform your letter writer that if he has a problem with women praying on the subway, he can either ask them why they are doing so or give them the benefit of the – in that maybe this is the only time the girl can make for davening. And what’s wrong with purifying the train and making it holier? Tell this man to move to a different car so that he doesn’t see what the nashim tzidkonios of this generation are doing. What a selfish man! Even the few minutes that a woman has to talk to G-d he wants to take away from her!

A very upset reader

(To be continued )

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-11/2006/03/01/

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