Haftorah This Week
Welcome to Haftorah This Week, the place where you will find thoughts and
reflections by CLAL faculty and associates on this week's Haftorah.
HAFTARAT MACHAR CHODESH
(I Samuel 20:18-42)
Machar Chodesh is a segment from the Book of Samuel which is read whenever Shabbat
falls the day before a new moon (Rosh Chodesh). Its relationship to the new moon is clear,
for the text begins with the words: "And Jonathan said to him: Tomorrow is the new
moon" (I Samuel 20:18).
Jonathan is the son of King Saul and heir to the throne. David is a hero of Israel so
powerful that Saul sees him as a threat to his kingship, a potential rival to Jonathan.
Both will marry and have children, but Jonathan will die tragically in battle. And they
deeply love each other.
This Haftarah retells how the two young men meet in the field and realize that one,
David, must flee the violent fury of King Saul. Anticipating the pain of separation, they
"kissed one another and wept together, David the most. And Jonathan said to David:
`Go in peace, for the two of us have together sworn in God's name declaring: The Eternal
shall be among us our progeny forever.'" (I Samuel 20:42)
The devotion and affection that they express, and not that of husband and wife, is the
rabbinic model of true and pure love. Out of their relationship, the Mishnah will
determine a general principle:
Any loving relationship which depends upon something, [when] that thing is gone, the
love is gone. But any which does not depend upon something will never come to an end....
What is a loving relationship which does not depend upon something? That is the love of
David and Jonathan. (Avot 5:18)
Here is a tradition that provides a loving union between two men (for two women, the
Bible offers Ruth and Naomi) filled with deep intimacy and commitment. Human dignity is
magnified by their respect and love, yet the uniqueness of each is not jeopardized. The
rabbis highlight what for us is a modern observation: love is not locating an object to
fulfill one's needs, but seeking another human being created in God's image with whom to
be in a relationship.
Their passion for each other is so great that when Jonathan dies, David publicly
I grieve for you, my brother Jonathan, you were most dear to me. Your love was
wonderful to me, more than the love of women. (II Sam. 1:26)
In spite of the erotic tensions, the rabbis are unafraid to elevate David and Jonathan
as their paragon of relationship. Such caring between two individuals of the same
gender--filled with shared support and loving--is easily validated by the rabbis,
providing us with a model of love to emulate in our most intimate relationships.
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