Parshat Haye Sarah
(1 Kings 1:1-31)
November 22, 2008
24 Heshvan 5769
David, the king of Israel, relentless warrior and architect of the kingdom, poet and sweet singer of Israel, was no less mortal than any other human. This man who exuded the essence of power also came to suffer the vicissitudes of old age. Even for David there was no escape: \”King David was now old, advanced in years; and though they covered him with bedclothes, he never felt warm.\” (1:1) His old age left him not only physically impaired, but also left him acutely unaware of the important events which happened around him. If his attendants had not kept him abreast of events, his own son would have wrested the monarchy from him without his ever having noticed.
These inevitable life changes left David incredibly vulnerable and frightened. In the following midrash, David seeks God assurance: David said before the Holy One Blessed be He: \’\”Don\’t cast me out in my old age\’ (Psalms 71:1) When I was young, I went to out to war, willingly risking my life for Your children, but now that I am old, I no longer have any strength. People say about me: How much longer will that old man live? As it says: \’My enemies speak evilly of me: When will he die and his name perish?\’ (Psalms 41:6) Please, \’even in hoary old age, do not forsake me, God\’ (Psalms 71:18)\” The Holy One Blessed Be He responded to him: \”\’Until you grow old, I remain the same; when you turn grey, it is I [God] who will carry [you]\’ (Isaiah 46:4)\” (Agadat Bereishit 35:1 Buber ed. p. 71)
This anecdotal midrash uses David to capture the anxiety bottled up in each of us at the very thought of the vulnerability of old age. If these life changes can happen to someone as powerful as David; if old age causes him apprehension, what about us lesser mortals? What will be of us? Who will ensure that we feel secure when we are in need? We also seek reassurance and want to know that we will not be left abandoned. This midrash makes it clear that God will not abandon us in our old age, but it also implies that those who are God\’s agents in the world should show similar concern.
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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