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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Chayei Sara

The Flaws of Flawlessness

Rabbi Yossef CarmelMonday, 17 Cheshvan 5768
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This week’s haftara deals with the inheritor of King David’s throne. In the past, we have dealt with the other contenders for that position from various perspectives. This time we will revisit that topic, putting specific stress on Avshalom’s personality.
The navi connects in a special way between Adoniyah and Avshalom, each of whom tried to obtain the kingdom during their father, David’s, life, the latter through an outright revolt. Both are described as taking chariots for themselves with 50 men running in front of them (Melachim I, 1: 5-6; Shmuel II, 15:1). Also, in introducing Adoniyah, it says that "she (Adoniyah’s mother) gave birth to him after Avshalom." This is strange as different women gave birth to them. One has to explain that Chagit (Adoniyah’s mother) gave birth to him after Maachah gave birth to Avshalom. However, the scripture’s intention in using such terminology must be to draw attention to similarities between the two. In fact, the midrash (Tehillim 2:9) notes the comparisons and says that just as Avshalom was a man of dispute and rebelled against his father, so too did Adoniyah.
Rav Tzadok of Lublin says that Adoniyah was the "complete" candidate for the kingship and that, in fact, this was his shortcoming. That is what the navi meant when it said that "his father had never saddened him by saying, ‘Why did you do such?’" Certainly had there been what to correct, David would have done so, but rather David had never seen anything that he felt needed correcting.
Avshalom has turned into the paradigm of the rebellious son, and for good reason (see Psikta Zutrata to Ki Teiztei). How is it then that the majority of the nation accepted his attempt to overthrow David, who was the most exalted king in our history? The answer is to be found in an earlier description of Avshalom as a man more handsome than any in the land, without a blemish from his foot to his head. A similar description is found regarding Adinayah, which leads us to reason that Adinayah’s not needing rebuke and Avshalom’s lack of blemishes are also parallel. Avshalom’s good looks were an expression of a general perfection that typified him. Even the description of the fullness of Avshalom’s hair was seen by one opinion in Chazal as due to his being a lifetime nazir.
The two "perfect" sons of David both suffered from the same problem: the conceit stemming from their vast potential and the feeling that they must have been chosen by Hashem. Those who could have been model leaders became model rebels. In these times of running after "ratings," we should pray that our leaders will know how to direct their potential toward noble goals so that their positive attributes don’t turn out to be their shortcomings.


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