Haftarah Parshat Haazinu
(2 Samuel 22:51)
September 29, 2012
13 Tishri 5773
The Song of David expresses its author’s thanksgiving to God for his personal redemption from the trials, tribulations and persecution that faced him at the hands of his enemies. Tradition has it that David wrote it toward the end of his life when all the “dust had settled”. It encapsulates then his existential transformation on his path to the monarchy.
This song, which in modified form also appears as Psalm 18 in the book of Psalms, was understood by at least one rabbinic voice as more than one single individual’s triumph over misfortune. Midrash Tehillim quotes the following reference regarding this song: “Rabbi Yudan in the name of Rabbi Yehudah said: ‘all that David said in his book applied to him, to all of Israel and to all times.’” (Midrash Tehillim 18:1 Buber ed. p. 135)
Rabbi Levi ben Gershom (Provence 14th century), a philosopher and exegete, seems to have taken these words to heart when he culled a number of valuable lessons from this song. These are just a few of the practical lessons he teases out of David’s song:
1. Show gratitude when someone does something good for you just as David did when he sang a song of thanksgiving to God: “David addressed the words of this song to the Lord, after the Lord saved him from the hands of his enemies and from the hands of Saul.” (22:1)
2. Even in bad times, appreciate that God will be the ultimate source of strength that will help you pull through.
3. Appreciate that prayer is heard so it should be taken seriously: All praise! I called on the Lord, and I was delivered from my enemies.” (22:4)
4. If a person wants to succeed, he must strive hard even in bad times. This is what is mean when David says: “But the Lord was my stay.” (22:19) God will be with you when you strive through hard times.
God helped David turn tribulation into triumph. He can do the same for us as well. Just understanding this is worthy of song.
This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
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