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Haftarah Parshat Terumah

Haftarah Parshat Terumah (1 Kings 5:26-6:13)
March 4, 2017 / 6 Adar 5777

King Solomon’s wisdom is a major anthem of the book of Kings. At every turn, we are reminded of his wisdom. He prayed to God for wisdom and it was granted to him. Solomon is most well-known for the famous court case where he decided the fate of a baby claimed by two prostitutes. This week’s haftarah also puts into play his wisdom in the building of the Temple: “The Lord had given Solomon wisdom, as He had promised him. And there was friendship between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty.” (verse 26)

For Rabbi David Kimche (12th century Provence) this quality was mentioned here because it was particularly manifest in Solomon’s building projects. Others, notably, Rabbi Levi ben Gershom (13th-14th century France), known as Ralbag, was taken by the seeming non-sequitur in verse 26. What does Solomon’s wisdom have to do with his friendship with Hiram? Ralbag notes: “that Solomon’s great wisdom was the reason for the friendship between the kings, since it was on account of Solomon’s wisdom that Hiram loved him.”

This same theme was taken up by Rabbi Moshe Alshich (16th century Turkey) who further developed this idea: “It is possible that were it not for Solomon’s wisdom there would not have been a friendship between Solomon and Hiram. For on account of it all of the kings of the world were at peace with him and the princes drawn to his discipline. And if it were not for this, Hiram would not have been drawn to friendship with him even though he was the son of David. But since God gave wisdom to Solomon, this was the reason for the friendship with Hiram and the consequent treaty.”

Alshich makes the point that alliances are built upon respect and an assessment of the worth of a given relationship. If Solomon had been a fickle and feckless leader, then Hiram would have had no need for him. It was only on account of Solomon’s reputation for wisdom and a worthy accounting of his deeds that Hiram befriended him and assisted in the building of the Temple.

In this regard, things have not changed. Wise leadership is a prized commodity in the world. Capriciousness breeds dangerous instability. Alshich believed that it was Solomon’s stalwart behavior, which made for his stable relationships with the nations of the world. This is a thought which might have some value in our day as well.

About This Commentary

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.

The United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem offers students of all backgrounds the skills for studying Jewish texts. We are a vibrant, open-minded egalitarian community of committed Jews who learn, practise and grow together. Our goal is to provide students the ability and desire to continue Jewish learning and practice throughout their lives.
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