Beit Midrash

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Rabbi Yossef Carmel

This week’s haftara deals with Adoniya’s attempt to take over the throne within the lifetime of his father, David. One of the puzzling elements of this episode is the support that Adoniya received from Yoav, David’s nephew and Chief of Staff. After all, there was a high level of cooperation between David and Yoav. The navi (Shmuel II, 8: 15-16) says: "David would do justice and charity for his whole nation, and Yoav ben Tzruyah was in charge of the army." The gemara (Sanhedrin 49a) says that if not for David’s justice, Yoav would not have been successful in his handling of the army, and if not for Yoav’s handling of the army, David would not have been able to perform his duties of justice.
Even in the cases where there were disagreements between the two, it was Yoav who was particularly zealous in support of David and his kingdom. The most poignant example is in regard to Avshalom’s rebellion against David. While David gave instructions to defeat but avoid harming the rebellious Avshalom, Yoav decided to kill him (Shmuel II, 18). In mentioning Yoav’s support for Adoniya, the navi (Melachim I, 2:28) says that Yoav supported Adoniya but not Avshalom, which seems obvious considering Yoav’s brutal killing of Avshalom. Chazal actually infer from the wording there that he did not actively support Avshalom, but he actually went through a stage where he planned to. What would have led Yoav to support Avshalom, and what caused him to change his mind?
Yoav’s faith in David was shaken when he received written instructions from him to bring Uriya, the husband of Bat Sheva, who was one of his elite and trusted soldiers, to the front lines and then abandon him to be killed by the enemy (Shmuel II 11:15). He now understood that when David had previously called for his return home from the front that it was not for Uriya’s benefit. It is likely that at that time he thought that David should be replaced. If so, what made him change his mind? Clearly, it is the same thing that made Hashem forgive David: a complete and totally sincere process of repentance that David underwent. It included realizing the sin, having true remorse including doing practical actions that proved it, and taking active steps to bolster his acceptance not to sin in the future. All of these elements are alluded to in Tehillim 51. He also accepted with understanding the loss of Ru’ach Hakodesh (divine spirit) for a period of time and physical and spiritual punishments such as the death of children, leprosy, and exclusion from social connection with the scholars of the generation for a time (see Sanhedrin 107a).
Yoav saw all of this and, realizing some of the power of repentance, decided that David should remain king, and therefore, opposed Avshalom’s quest for the crown. According to his understanding, though, even repentance did not justify the kingdom being handed down to, of all people, Shlomo, the son of Bat Sheva, in relation to whom David had sinned. The truth is that repentance is so powerful that it is at the foundation of the blossoming of the House of David and his son Shlomo’s building of the Beit Hamikdash.
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