Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

In our parsha this week we learn of the deaths of Yaakov and, in due course, of Yosef and all of the shevatim. This is the end of the saga of the forefathers that has been the main focus of the Torah until this point. When we begin learning the book of Shemot at mincha this Shabbat, we will be focusing on Israel as a nation and no longer simply a collection of individuals. In the haftara, we learn of the passing of David HaMelech and the ascendancy of Shlomo to the throne. The Kedushat Levi (R’ Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev) cites the Zohar (Vayishlach 168) describing how David HaMelech was given the years of his life by his ancestors.

It’s somewhat widely known that Adam was reputed to have given up 70 years of his life for David. It is less well known that the Zohar there goes on to explain that these 70 years obtained from Adam gave life to David, but didn’t make him exceptional so that he would be able to complete the tasks given to him as the Mashiach, the anointed leader of all Israel. Therefore, Avraham, Yaakov, and Yosef are also said to have given years of their lives so that David could partake of and use some of their unique greatness. The Kedushat Levi shows how the years granted by the forefathers correspond to the years of David’s reign.


Similarly, the Gemara in Zevachim (118b-119a) traces the sojourning of the Mishkan in the desert, in Nov, in Giveon, and finally in Shilo. Then the Aron is followed on its journey from Shilo to Yerushalayim and we learn of the duration of the two Batei Mikdash, alongside the reigns of the kings of Israel from Shaul (during the time of Shmuel) to Shlomo. Each stage of this journey represents the completion of a spiritual task, an ongoing rectification of the physical universe to prepare for the immanence of Hashem in the place of the Holy of Holies upon the Foundation Stone. In fact the Zohar (Noach 72) interprets the final verse of our haftara (Melachim I 2:12) as meaning that Shlomo’s kingship was very stable because it was perched figuratively and literally upon the bedrock of the Temple Mount.

The navi recounts various stages in the progression of the monarchies of David and Shlomo, and these can be read as a gradual development of the spiritual leadership of Israel, corresponding to our own merit. It is known, after all, that Israel gets the leaders we deserve. David ruled as king for 40 years: first in Hebron over Yehuda for seven, and once acknowledged as king over all of Israel, in Yerushalayim for 33 years. After David’s passing, Shlomo built the Beit HaMikdash and ruled for 40 years. Abarbanel points out, on the aforementioned passage regarding the stability of Shlomo’s rule, that he didn’t endure any of the frequent challenges or existential struggles that David had to constantly contend with. For Shlomo the challenges were spiritual and intellectual; sometimes he was equal to them and sometimes he fell short. But neither his father-in-law nor his sons chased after him to murder him and steal his kingship.

Abarbanel explains that the story of David concludes thus, not unlike how we see Yaakov brought to his final rest by his sons, to show us the greatness of David reflected in the reign of Shlomo. The navi tells us here – at the beginning of the reign of Shlomo – how peaceful and stable his rule would be, not because of how it reflects upon Shlomo, but as the final crowning achievement of David HaMelech. To wit: He not only laid the foundations of the Beit HaMikdash, but he also laid the foundations of the remarkably successful monarchy of his son Shlomo.

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Avraham Levitt is a poet and philosopher living in Philadelphia. He writes chiefly about Jewish art and mysticism. His most recent poem is called “Great Floods Cannot Extinguish the Love.” It can be read at He can be reached by email at [email protected].