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(G-d had said to my Father, King David) '…You will not build the Temple, but your son will…' (Kings I 8:19)
The setting of the Haftara (Kings I 40-50) is the Holy City of Jerusalem, The events described take place in a rare era of peace and prosperity. That was characteristic of all but the later years of King Solomon's reign (approx. 970-930 BCE) over the United Kingdom of Israel. During much of his sovereignty, Jerusalem was not only the fully functioning capital city of the Israelites, but it took on international dimensions as a center of both Divine Worship and trade, open to all peoples and nations.
Solomon had the good fortune of ruling at a time that the great powers of the Middle East had neither the will, nor the means to challenge his international policies. Throughout the period that the Israelites were in the Holy Land until the Destruction of the First Temple, they were living in an area that functioned as a geographical buffer zone between two great powers: Egypt to the west, and Mesopotamia to the East. Egypt had too many domestic issues to challenge Solomon - though it recovered sufficiently to launch a successful invasion after the kingdom was divided during the reign of his son, Rehaboam. Mesopotamia, unlike Egypt, was a region that oscillated between periods of stability and power, and instability and disorder. The great power of Mesopotamia in the form of the Assyrian Empire was not yet on the horizon during the reign of King Solomon.
Thus there were few barriers to the growth and increasing importance of the Israelite Kingdom - achieved by means of the political, marriage, and trade alliances characteristic of his reign.
Like the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, the building of the Temple was for residence for G-d's most intense Divine Presence on Earth. As the Israelites traveled through the wilderness, they made a home for Him in the form of the moveable Tabernacle. And after many years of conquering and settling Holy Land, they constructed a new permanent abode - the Temple.
Both structures served the same function, and were constructed on broadly similar lines. However, the circumstances in which they were built were different. All the materials used for building the Tabernacle were donated generously and enthusiastically - to such an extent that Moses had to intervene personally to limit the number of gifts. With the Temple, however, everything was planned beforehand. Whole armies of porters and craftsmen were engaged, together with tens of thousands of men Solomon sent to Lebanon to cut the best quality durable softwoods available - to the continued profit of Hiram, King of Tyre. The Hebrew word use for the labor is 'mas' - a word used to describe the oppression of the Egyptian bondage (Ex. 1:10). Whereas the Tabernacle was built from the free-will offerings of the entire people, the Temple was a product of a huge labor force specifically conscripted for that purpose.
In addition, the Tabernacle was built through the sole efforts of the Israelites people, according to the architectural plans of the Almighty. The Temple construction, in contrast, employed Phoenicians and other foreign craftsmen who also supplied some of the construction materials - turning them into an edifice designed by the Divinely-inspired (per. Chronicles I 29:19) wisdom of Solomon.
The actual text of the Haftara opens with Solomon putting the final touch to the Temple - in bringing into its premises the gold, silver, and utensils contributed through the efforts of his late father, King David. That was followed by an elaborate consecration assembly of national proportions - on Sukkot, where the Holy Ark was brought into the Temple amidst animal offerings on a huge scale. It appears that the essential vessels of the Tabernacle described in Exodus were transferred to the Temple - indeed the text relates that 'they carried up the Ark of the L-rd' containing the 'Two Tablets of Stone' (8:6,9). Indeed, the Talmud (Sotah 9a) carries the tradition that the Tabernacle building itself was stored beneath the Temple.
As with the Tabernacle (Ex. 40:34), the seal of Divine approval came in the form of the cloud: 'The priests were not able to remain and perform the service because of the cloud, for the glory of the L-rd filled the House of the L-rd' (8:10-11). Only this time the cloud did not rise telling the Israelites to continue to their travels; they finally came to journey's end in Holy City of Jerusalem. Possibly the cloud was a reminder of His first appearance at the Revelation at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:9), and that it was an instrument of His Providence in guiding the Israelites through the wilderness (Ex. 40:36).
In opening his dramatic address to the Israelites, Solomon recalls his father, David. He relates how it was David's deepest wish to build the Holy Temple. G-d kindly, but firmly rejected his plans, as he had 'shed much blood' in 'warfare' (Chronicles I 22:8). And the text in Chronicles recalls that David nevertheless made elaborate preparations for the Temple even though he would not be privileged to be involved in its actual construction. Solomon openly recognizes that he was merely his father's replacement (8:20) and pays due respect to his dedication.
As stated in the guided tour above, King Solomon opened his Temple-inaugural address with relating how it was his Father, King David's, deepest desire to build the Holy Temple. G-d kindly, but firmly rejected his plans.
Why did Solomon not recount the precise reason before the Congregation of Israel - namely that he had 'shed much blood' in 'warfare' (Chronicles I 22:8). As remarked before, it was spiritually incompatible with so pure an undertaking, however necessary battle had been at the time. Why did he leave his the reason vague?
In addition, the text relating G-d's refusing King David permission to build the Temple (Samuel II 7:4-17) does not give that precise reason. In fact, the only place where his having 'shed much blood' in 'warfare' is referred to in that context is in the Book of Chronicles. Why does is it not given in either this narrative in Kings, or in the earlier one in Samuel?
One clue may lie in looking at the wider purpose of the Temple. It was to be a place of worship for all mankind. As Solomon put it - in the same address:
When the non-Israelite… comes for the sake of Your Name from far away … You, O Heavens, shall hear! … So that all the people of the Earth shall know Your Name, as Your People Israel (8:41-3).
That verse appears to encapsulate the ultimate purpose of the Temple. As Isaiah, nearly three hundred years later, put it:
For My House shall be a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 57:7).
In other words, Solomon appears to have envisaged Israel's destiny in similar universalist terms as Isaiah - as a 'light to the nations' (ibid. 49:6).
That helps to answer the question. There would have been no problem with indicating David's bloodshed in Chronicles, as that Book only came into being after the Destruction of the First Temple. In any case, Ezra (the writer of that Book following Baba Bathra 16a) seems to have been far more concerned about preventing Jewish assimilation (Ezra 10:11) than in reaching out to the pagans. In short, such a reference would not have ruined his particularist campaign.
But it was different with Solomon. If the Temple was to be a spiritual center to Mankind, it would have been most inappropriate for Solomon to refer openly to his father's wars against the very people that he wished to reach out to. Why unnecessarily alienate potential 'spiritual clients' by opening up old wounds? Moreover, those wars had to be fought, so that Israel might have the military and geographical security and stability to build a Temple. Indicating to David earlier in his life that his actions would disqualify him from building the Temple may well have prevented him from fighting those battles with sufficient zeal.
The power of communication and address lies in not only in what is said, but in what is left out.
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: email@example.com for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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