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.
(I Kings 2:1-12)
Rarely do we readily read the rantings of a respected leader as he is escorted from
office or from the courtroom for the last time. In fact, most readers of papers or
journals prefer not to read all that is said upon a deathbed or is uttered upon
conviction, precisely because we don't truly want to know our leaders (or ourselves) when
their (our) defenses are down. Thus we prefer to hear the televised soundbyte, and not
witness the cursing as the last boxes are carted out. Nor, after their downfall, do we
wish to recall the subtleties of their struggles.
The harsh selection of the opening lines of chapter two of Kings for a Haftarah reading
allows us no such luxury. True, King David upon his deathbed holds the center of the stage
by uttering to Solomon: "I am going the way of all the earth; be strong and show
yourself a man. Keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in His ways, and following
His laws." But quickly does David fall to the common way, lashing out from his
deathbed at the memory of an old opponent: "So do not let him go unpunished, for you
are a wise man and you will know how to deal with him and send his gray hair down to Sheol
This is certainly not a morale builder for the modern Jewish reader. Our shock is due
to our hope that the deathbed [David's or ours] would be a time of peaceful reflection,
and certainly one of nonviolence. To continue to struggle with enemies--real and
imagined--at the last moment of consciousness is to miss the larger opportunity of setting
right our relations so that there is no continuing spiral of older family and societal
conflicts after our deaths. The editor of the story of Kings knew that we are not easily
drawn to such reflection: hence the tabloid technique of promising us a telling revelation
from the real David. But let us conclude with the re-examining of our own shock that a
great leader would revert to violent ravings upon his demise. We, who might have hoped
that David, the builder of Jerusalem, would utter guiding words of nonviolence as his last
testament, should ask ourselves why those imagined words would have any more effect upon
us than these words left to us by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a 1963 television
There are many people who will accept nonviolence as the most practical
be used in a social situation, but would not go to the point of seeing the necessity of
accepting nonviolence as a way of life.... I think that nonviolent resistance is the most
potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and human
dignity. It was a way of disarming the opponent. It exposes his moral defenses. It weakens
his morale and, at the same time, it works on his conscience.
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