(2 Samuel 6:1-7:17)
April 17, 2004
King David’s greatest desire was to build a permanent home for God. Initially, Nathan, the prophet, confirmed David’s request but later, in a prophecy, God revealed to him that David would not be the one who would build the Temple. Instead, God granted David the following promise: “I will establish a home for my people Israel, and will plant them firm (untativ), so that they may dwell secure and shall tremble no more. Evil men shall not oppress them as in the past…” (2 Samuel 7:10) In this covenant, God promises David the peaceful continuation his royal kingdom.
The use of the verb “leentot” in this promise evokes an earlier prophecy found at the end of the Song of the Sea (Shirat Hayam): “You [God] shall bring them in and plant them (titaeimo) in your own mountain, the place you made to dwell in, O God, the sanctuary, O God, which Your hands have established.” (Exodus 15:17) The associations found in this verse, in turn, probably confirmed for David that the Temple would be built by his offspring.
The rabbinic tradition took the relationship between these two verses one step further. They could not conceive of a covenant which established a nation or its holy place without conditions: “I will establish a home for my people and will plant them firm” – Our Mishnah teaches: “Shimon HaZadik was one of the last survivors of the Great Assembly. He used to say: ‘By three things the world exists: by the Torah, by the [Temple] service, and by deeds of lovingkindness.’” (Avot 1:2) [A later sage] Rabbi Huna bar Aha explained: [The relationship between God’s promise and this Mishneh] was explained by those who crossed the sea: You [God] in Your kindness have led the people who You have redeemed’ (Exodus 15:13) – This refers to lovingkindness. ‘You have guided them in Your strength’ – This refers to Torah. When will the world be firmly established? When the children of Israel reach Your holy habitation [the Temple], as we learn from the verse from the book of Samuel: ‘And I have planted My people’ – eternally. (adapted from Midrash Samuel 26:4 Buber ed. P. 126)
This midrash teaches that the fate of the nation and indeed the entire world rests on the shoulders of those who accept the covenant. The nation’s destiny requires the building of a just, kind, Torah inspired society. The rabbis could conceive of nothing less.
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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