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Beit Midrash Series Parashat Hashavua

Where’s the Beef?

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This week’s haftara deals with David’s son, Adoniya’s, failed attempt to seize the throne during his father’s last days and Bat Sheva’s successful bid to secure the kingship for her son, Shlomo, to whom it was promised. While there is much to explore behind the scenes of this struggle, we want to highlight one apparently small but actually important point.

During his attempted coronation, Adoniya is said to have slaughtered (vayizbach) a variety of animals at a place called Even Hazochelet before his supporters (Melachim I, 1:9). During the subsequent coronation of Shlomo, which David initiated, there is no mention of the slaughtering of animals (see ibid. 33-34). Why is it that the same apparent activity in the same family for the same purpose would be different in regard to the slaughter of animals as part of the ceremony/celebration? For whatever reason, the classical commentators do not discuss the matter. First we must try to determine what the nature of this zevicha (slaughter) is, as it is found in the Torah in two different contexts, as we will discuss.

The Torah (Devarim 12:21) does use the word zevicha in reference to the simple halachic slaughter of animals in a manner that makes them fit for normal consumption. If this is the intention, then the people were simply taking part in a festive celebratory meal in honor of Adoniya’s ascension to the throne. However, this is difficult because the term is predominantly used in reference to the slaughter of animals as sacrifices. It is also difficult because then what is the significance of their slaughter that it should be stressed, as opposed to just saying that they were eaten. Is it a surprise that David’s son kept kosher?

We will therefore suggest that the decision of whether to slaughter sacrifices was at the heart of the issues behind the "political" struggle. When David declared Yerushalayim as the place of the future Temple, the rule that sacrifices could be offered only there became pertinent, even though it was technically permitted to bring sacrifices anywhere until the Temple was actually erected. David stopped all public sacrifices in non-central locations as of the time he bought the plot upon which the Temple would be built, as can be inferred from Divrei Hayamim I, 22:1. This was actually a major rallying cry behind Avshalom’s outright rebellion against his father, as the people were unwilling to give up their perceived right to "serve" Hashem wherever they pleased. As is stressed many times in Melachim, the people never overcame this desire to bring sacrifices on unauthorized altars (bamot).

By publicly bringing sacrifices on a bama, Adoniya was trying to "ride a wave" of support by his convenient stand on the above grassroots issue. It was as if to say: "Under my rule, sacrificing will be a matter of personal choice." Of course, David, as the promulgator of the centralized only policy, arranged a coronation for Shlomo without zevicha. It is ironic that after taking power, Shlomo himself was apparently influenced by the nation’s desire and, while serving Hashem, did offer sacrifices on bamot (before the Temple was built).

May we merit the rebuilding of the House of David, which was and will be built on the basis of justice

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