(1 Samuel 11:14-12:22)
June 28, 2008
25 Sivan 5768
Samuel is deeply ambivalent about the monarchy. In the opening verses of this week\’s haftarah (11:13-4), he shares in the rejoicing over the anointment of Saul as Israel\’s first king. In the very next verse, at the beginning of a new chapter, he exhibits extremely bitter feelings over the establishment of the monarchy. What has raised Samuel ire? He seems to have viewed the establishment of the monarchy as a betrayal of his leadership over the people and more significantly as a betrayal of God, the only \”real\” king.
This animosity was deeply felt and Samuel was not short on expressing it. He took the people to task for seemingly implying in their decision that his behavior somehow led to this decision and had them confirm that his hands were indeed \”clean\”. But utmost in his mind, despite his affirmation of the monarchy, was the sense that the people had betrayed God in their decision to appoint a king that they were brazenly choosing a human being as their leader over God. There also seem to be strains in his contempt over the people\’s opting for local deities instead of God even though God had provided for their wellbeing.
In this very strained situation, Samuel was not acting exclusively as his own advocate. He was acting as God\’s representative in his role as a prophet, warning the people of Israel that they had gone astray. His message, however, was twofold and this is perhaps why his message is so significant. He not only chastised the people for their betrayal, he also presented them with an option for restoring their relationship with God: \”But Samuel said to the people: \’Have no fear. You have, indeed, done all of those wicked things. Do not, however, turn away from the Lord God, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Do not turn away to serve worthless things, which can neither profit nor save but are worthless. For the sake of His great name, the Lord will never abandon His people, seeing that the Lord undertook to make you His people.\’\” (12:20-22)
God, in contrast to the false deities which sometimes attract people, does not abandon people. He is always there for those who seek His closeness. There is no dead end in one\’s relationship with God. This, in itself, is an important recognition. Still, it is up to us to seek this intimacy. It is up to us to nurture our relationship. God is always there for this happen.
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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