Beit Midrash

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Rabbi Yossef Carmel

Av 20 5780
This week we will be reciting Birkat Hachodesh for the upcoming month of Elul. One of the things that we ask to be given is "chayim arukim" (long life). Actually, in some siddurim it reads "chayim aruchim." This is not just a different grammatical opinion about how to verbalize long life, but it means something different. What is it that it means?

In almost all Jewish communities, as Shabbat is about to enter, we sing Lecha Dodi, written by Rav Shlomo Alkabetz. A couple of passages are based on p’sukim in Yirmiyahu (30:16-18): "All who consume you will be consumed, and all your oppressors will all go into captivity. Those who attack you will be smitten (v’hayu limeshisa shosayich), and those who plunder you will be taken as spoils… for I will bring healing to you (ki a’aleh arucha lach) and from your wounds I will heal you (erpa’ech) … and the city will be built on its ruins…" We see from these p’sukim that arucha means to heal. Thus, chayim aruchim means life of health. With this under our belt, we can understand another section of Tanach as explained by Chazal.

After David was told that his brilliant advisor Achitofel was among the supporters of the rebellion of Avshalom, David did not break, but he turned in prayer to Hashem to cause Achitofel’s plan to fail. As part of Hashem’s mode of helping David, David was approached by Chushay Ha’arki, who volunteered to undermine Achitofel’s plan.

The midrash (Shocher Tov, Tehillim 3:3) cites various opinions about Chushay’s second name, Ha’arki. One opinion is that it means that he was an important officer in David’s court, as he is called a rei’ah of the king in Divrei Hayamim (I:27:33). Another opinion is that it means that he caused David’s dynasty to be firmly established, as Avshalom’s rebellion had put it in jeopardy. A third opinion is that Ha’arki refers to Chushay’s hometown. The Radak, following the latter approach, identifies a place called Arki in the region of the Tribe of the Sons of Yosef (Yehoshua 16:2).

Abarbanel brings a different midrash (Shocher Tov 55) – when David saw Chushay, he exclaimed: "There is arucha for my wound." One can propose a similar approach – that it brought healing to the state of the kingdom after the great trauma of Avshalom’s rebellion. According to all explanations, Chushay certainly played a crucial role in extricating David from a dangerous situation. When an important officer lends a hand, it is a matter of healing. Even if Ha’arki just refers to a place, the fact that it was in the region of the Sons of Yosef, who are not the natural allies of the Tribe of Yehuda, also represents a great accomplishment that bodes well for the survival of the dynasty. (We will develop that point in the upcoming sefer, "Tzofnat Shmuel, the Kingdom of David.")

Let us pray that we will continue to see with our own eyes the realization of the longings of the great tzaddikim of Tzefat, who, over 500 years ago, saw Hashem bringing arucha to the pain of our nation.
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