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Haye Sarah 5767

Parshat Haye Sarah
(1 Kings 1:1-31)
November 18, 2006

The conflict between Adonijah and Solomon over the right to succeed their father had a profound impact not only on the relationships in David\’s family but on the kingdom as well. It threatened the integrity of David\’s fragile monarchy which had only been in existence a single generation. How was David to fend off this challenge to his rule and how was he to protect his own ability to name his successor?

David thwarted Adoniyah\’s palace coup by having his son Solomon anointed as king: \”Let the priest Zadok and the prophet Nathan anoint him there king over Israel, where upon you shall sound the horn and shout, \’Long live King Solomon!\’ (verse 34) Sages in rabbinic times (2nd century Eretz Yisrael) noticed, however, what they thought to be a halachic anomaly in how David met the threat to his kingdom. David\’s move contradicted what for the sages was established law and consequently established a new precedent: \”[the anointing oil made by Moses] was used to anoint the high priest who was the son of the high priest but a king who was the son of the king need not be anointed. So why then was Solomon anointed? [He was anointed in order] to resolve the dispute with Adonijah. (Sifra Tzav, Mechilta d\’Milluim Parsha 1, 9)

David\’s stop gap measure become established law and was ultimately codified by Maimonides: One does not anoint the king who is the son of a king, except where there is a dispute or a war over the crown. In these instances, one anoints the future king in order to quash the dispute. This is why they anointed Solomon – because of Adoniyah (Mishneh Torah Laws of Kings 1:12)

This ruling played an interesting role in a ruling (teshuva) of the First Sephardic Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel, Rabbi Ben Zion Uziel, who was asked whether the position of rabbi of a synagogue was an inherited position or not. He asserted that a synagogue did not necessarily have to hire the son of its previous rabbi, noting that since Adoniyah had popular support, he would have become the accepted king if David had not had Solomon anointed. Where there is no possibility of anointing a leader, according to Rabbi Uziel, then popular acclamation was the means for determining a leader. Consequently, synagogues should not be bound to accept as rabbi a person who had inherited the position.

Furthermore, Rabbi Uziel asserts, using this argument that it is not acceptable for a kingdom to have a leader thrust upon the people of a kingdom where there is no popular affirmation. His reading of this story and its legal ramifications leads him to conclude that there are two conditions for leadership: 1. the leader must be qualified for the position; 2. the leader must have popular affirmation. (See Mishpatei Uziel 2:42:1)

Ultimately, Rabbi Uziel reads this law in a way which affirms the people\’s right to choose and the need for a normative means of choosing a leader. The governing stability that David sought to achieve in an authoritative way, Uziel seeks to establish by democratic means.

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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