Photo Credit: Koby Gideon (GPO)
President Rivlin at 929 Bible Study Group, August 4, 2019

President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday hosted the 26th Bible Study Group of the 929 initiative, on the theme of “David – King and Father.”

929: Tanakh B’yachad (Hebrew: Bible Together, 929) is a project for learning one chapter of Tanakh per weekday, totaling 5 chapters each week. The name ‘929’ refers to the total number of chapters in the Tanakh.

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The project was launched in 2014 by Israel’s education ministry, and the first cycle was completed on April 18, 2018, coinciding with Israel’s 70th Independence Day. The first cycle offered content in Hebrew only. The second cycle, which began on July 15, 2018, offers some content in English as well, and will conclude on February 2, 2022.

Gal Gabai, one of the founders of 929 and for whom this was his last Bible Study Group, spoke at the event, as did 929 co-founder Rabbi Benny Lau, author Meir Shalev, Dr. Aliza Levy and spoken word artist Zvia Margalit.

The president thanked Gal for her wonderful work as part of the 929 initiative and embraced her.

Speaking on the subject of the study group, the president said: “As we refer to Abraham as ‘Our Father Abraham,’ so do we speak of David as ‘King David,’ the one and only. Indeed, there is no doubt about David’s greatness as a king, from whose seed the Messiah will be born. But the text itself shows us that in his behavior as a father, David’s character has a certain complexity.”

“King David, the master of emotion and trickery, shows his soft side in his attitude to his sons. Whoever was capable of writing the famous, beautifully constructed lament for the death of Saul and Jonathan – was left speechless, crying bitter tears, when he learned about the death of Amnon at the hands of Avshalom. The pain of Amnon does not dull the pain of Avshalom, while the pain of Avshalom does not numb the pain of Amnon. The heart of David the father goes out even for those rebellious and sinful sons. Is there anything more fatherly than this?” the president asked.

He continued: “When David the father is absent, silent but still present, in what Amnon does to Tamar, this is primary evidence of his paternal failure and of a failure of his leadership. It is a failure that develops over time. The story of Amnon and Tamar heralds Avshalom’s rebellion and the tearing down, the ripping apart of David’s kingdom. Coming from a ‘good family’ imposes obligations, rather than granting exemption from them. The burden of proof falls on the boys, but no less on their fathers.”

Concluding his remarks, the president said, “The subject of fatherhood and monarchy, which we have discussed together this evening, reminded me of the words of the piyut (liturgical hymn), ‘Avinu Malkeinu / Our Father, Our King,’ one of my most beloved pyutim. The repeated phrase ‘Our Father, Our King’ encapsulates the complex relationship between us and the creator. He is the King, and He is the Father, while we are ‘sons, and subjects.’ Indeed, it is difficult for both of the roles of father and king to coexist. David thus serves both as a role model and a warning sign for us.”

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