Haftarah Parshat Pekudei
(2 Kings 12:1-17)
March 1, 2014
29 AdarI 5774
Neither the Temple nor the governing monarchies in Judea and Israel in biblical times were immune from corruption. Before the story in this week’s special haftarah begins, the nation was caught up in a palace intrigue where the former king’s mother, Athaliah, attempted to usurp the monarchy by murdering all of the royal seed. For this reason, Joash, the child king, was raised in the Temple, well-hidden from his murderous grandmother. He was raised to be righteous and upstanding by Jehoiada, the high priest and is thought to have been responsible for the new found transparency in both the government and the Temple.
Jehoiada and Joash’s reputations for integrity expanded beyond biblical accounts, giving them an almost mythic standing in the tradition for fortitude. Seder Olam Rabbah, a chronological work from the period of the Mishnah which attempts to chart out a biblical timeline, records an interesting statement regarding their lives: “When Joash was twenty three years old, he took account in the Temple. There were one hundred and fifty five years between the time when Solomon built the Temple until Joash took its accounts. “And Joash did that which was righteous in God’s eyes his entire life.” (2 Chronicles 24:15-16) When corruption arose in the days of Solomon, Jehoiada was born to fix it.” (Seder Olam Rabbah vol. 1, Milikowsky ed., p. 275)
Without getting into all of the chronological questions raised in this passage, one, in particular, stands out. Even given that Jehoiada lived a very long time (130 years), what corrupt event at the end of Solomon’s life could possibly be referred to? Seder Olam is silent, but its commentators have a field day. The most popular explanations refer to Solomon’s son, Rehoboam’s rebellion against God. Others cite Rehoboam’s economic malfeasance as a root cause for God’s need to raise up a “Jehoiada”. (Milikovsky, vol. 2, p. 299) It is clear that we will not get to a definitive answer to this question. We do, however, get the gist of the interpreters thinking on this question. They apparently want to assert that God will not leave us abandoned when we get ourselves in “hot water”. He will help us raise up the means to correct ourselves when we fall short, never abandoning us even for a short time. This chronological anomaly was intended to teach us that we should never feel that we are alone in our struggle to right wrongs and build God’s world. God will ensure that we have the Jehoiada’s and the Joash’s when we need them.
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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