This Weeks Haftorah
Rabbi Levi Langer

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One Discordant Note

Our haftorah details the construction of the Temple under the direction of King Solomon. It begins, "And Hashem granted wisdom to Solomon as He had promised him." This phrase introduces the passage because, as the ensuing sentences make clear, it was a tribute to Solomon's wisdom that he had earlier established friendly diplomatic relations with Hiram, King of Tyre, whose assistance he would sorely need. It was Hiram who provided much of the raw materials for the Temple, and he also sent artisans skilled in the working of precious metals.

And yet, if we study carefully the wording of that first sentence, we are struck by a discordant note. "VaHashem"--"And Hashem" granted wisdom to Solomon. Chida notes that according to the Midrash, wherever this wording "VaHashem" is used in Scriptures, it means "Hashem, along with His celestial tribunal." This is implied by that extra prefix, "and," at the beginning of the word. In other words, the use of this word implies that Hashem's attribute of judgement is being brought into play. How does this concept apply here, right in the midst of all the joyous preparations for the Temple?

Chida answers that Hashem's gift of wisdom to Solomon was actually a double-edged sword. And paradoxically, it was Solomon's wisdom--the very same wisdom which had enabled him to lay down the groundwork for constructing the Temple--which sowed the seeds of its eventual destruction. For we find that although the Torah admonishes the king of Israel, "He shall not marry many wives, for they will turn his heart," the Talmud records that Solomon said, "I will take many, and my heart will not be swayed." He placed his trust in his great wisdom and felt that the Torah's admonition could surely not apply to him.

What was the result? Witness the prophet Jeremiah's harsh condemnation (Jer. 32:31): "For My anger and My wrath have been upon this city [Jerusalem] from the day it was built." Rashi explains: "On the day that the Temple was inaugurated, Solomon married the daughter of the King of Egypt." Solomon wished to combine his personal joy with the joy of the entire nation in its Temple. Yet in this he made a grevious error. For in Hashem's eyes, he had weakened the very foundation of the Temple: on this very day, a foreign influence and a foreign culture had made themselves felt in the royal household itself. And it was at that very moment that the first spiritual flaws in the Temple became manifest.

Solomon's wisdom was a wonderful gift--indeed, it was because of it that he was able to build the Temple. Yet in the story of Solomon's life we see the truth of the dictum of our Sages (Eruvin 13b) that one must not only examine his actions constantly, but he must also "feel them out." Messilas Yesharim (Chap. 3) explains: even in the good that one does, he must always make sure that it is not tainted by some foreign element which is incompatible with the spirit of the Torah. In our story, we see the joy and the grandeur of the construction of the Temple--but hand in hand with that, we see also the cracks in the edifice, which would eventually bring about its destruction.

Copyright (c) 1997 by Rabbi Levi Langer

Courtesy of JewishAmerica (

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