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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Chayei Sara

The People’s Choice

Rabbi Yossef Carmel24 Cheshvan 5769
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This week’s haftara deals with the issue of succession of David’s kingdom. While Adoniyahu took steps to claim the throne, Natan the prophet was convinced, apparently based on prophecy, that Shlomo should be king. David had previously sworn to Bat Sheva that Shlomo would succeed him (Melachim I, 1:11-14). On the other hand, it was clear to Natan that in practice Adoniyah had already effectively assumed the position based on several factors: 1) He assembled for himself a chariot, cavalrymen and 50 people running before him. 2) Other members of the royal family and court took part in his festivities (ibid.:5). 3) The general populace stood behind his claim to the kingship, as the oldest of the princes (see ibid. 2:15).
Natan’s approach to advancing Shlomo’s candidacy is perplexing. If he had prophecy that Shlomo was to be the next king, why didn’t he announce it before David and the nation? After all, Natan’s status as the court prophet was not in question. He had the confidence even to stop David’s plans to build the Beit Hamikdash, a project that David looked forward to throughout his life. He confronted the king forcefully in regard to the episode with Bat Sheva and Uriyah. Why here did he resort to a plan that avoided taking on the issue of succession directly?
Apparently, the prophet was not authorized to intervene in the matter of choosing a king against the people’s will. At first glance, the pasuk, "You shall place upon yourselves a king that Hashem will choose" (Devarim 17:15) seems to contradict this thesis. Yet the Ramban derives from the end of the pasuk, which commands the people not to choose a foreigner, that the people decide. The pasuk invokes Hashem’s Name because, in the final analysis, Hashem arranges for all leaders to assume their positions (Bava Batra 91b). However, as far as practical procedure, the people pick the king. The people choose, and it turns out that it was Hashem’s mandate.
Therefore, Natan had to devise a strategy whereby the people would throw their weight behind Shlomo. He knew that a royal ceremony could win over the masses. A ceremony was arranged at the Gichon stream, including anointing of oil and blowing of the shofar. The idea was for it to be a call to the populace to express acquiescence to David’s choice. Indeed it was successful, as the pasuk states: "All of the people said: ‘Life to the king, Shlomo.’ All of the nation came up afterward and the nation was playing flutes and were very happy, and the Land split to their sound" (ibid. 39-40). It is particularly the noise that troubled Yoav, Odinayah’s most prominent supporter. The harbinger, Yonatan ben Evyatar also connected the excitement with the result: "The city was teeming with the noise you heard, and also Shlomo sat on the throne" (ibid. 45-46).
May we merit leaders who are a proper choice of the nation and Hashem.
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