David is old and weary. His body is frail and he just get get warm. His courtiers procure a beautiful young virgin to lie with him and keep him warm. This seems to work, although clearly not enough to restore David's vigor, for the text specifically tells us that he was not sexually intimate with her. If you'll forgive the pun, The King's staff did not rise to the occasion. But I digress.
We've all known this weariness, even if we have not yet reached our old age. We burn our candles at both ends, and our bodies eventually let us know in no uncertain terms that we have stretched it beyond endurance. We collapse, pull up the covers attempting to keep warm and to shut out the world and its pressures.
I've known this weariness myself often enough, and even now I find myself in a sort of emotional and physical doldrums. And here we have this lovely little American holidays of giving thanks to offer, perhaps, a slight respite. I think this Thanksgiving I am most thankful for the chance to rest my weary body, mind and spirit.
As much as we need these periods of rest, we must be cautious of the old ennui, for it is a great enemy of people. We cannot allow a periods of rest and recuperation to lull us into complete disconnection from things that are happening around us.
There's no clearer lesson about this than in the haftarah for Chaye Sarah, taken from I Kings. David is so weary, so worn, that Adonijah has all but had himself crowned as the next King. Whether or not David knew this was happening is irrelevant. He SHOULD have known it was happening. He should not have had to wait for the Prophet Nathan to come inform him of this. Nor should Bathesheva have had to remind her husband of his promise to make her son, Solomon, the next King.
Now, faced with this news, David could still have chosen to play the weary, frail, sick and tired King, and washed his hands of his people, his obligations, his promises. Yet, worn as he is, David find some source of inner strength and he musters the wherewithal to insure that Solomon, and not Adonijah, shall be the next King.
The haftarah ends leaving us wanting-we only hear that David summons Bathsheva and tells her that he intends to insure that his promise that Solomon shall rule will be kept, and Bathsheva bows low and praises David, "May my lord King David live forever!"
The details that follow don't matter much, although it is interesting, given the popularity of alternate histories these days, if someone would like to take a crack at an alternate history in which Adonijah and not Solomon ascends to the Kingship after David. (And further complicate it by having the inevitable challenge to Adonijah from Solomon fail with Solomon killed or imprisoned. Does that leave us without a Temple being built? Hmmmm. Anyone wanna take a crack at this alternate history story?)
When we are weary, it is all too easy to give in to ennui. Yet while we are resting or sleeping or not caring enough, a lot of things can happen. Kingdoms can topple, wars can be fought and won-or lost. We must not succumb to apathy.
[The scene from the musical adaptation, "Man of LaMancha" comes to mind. Alonso Quijano is old and weary, stuck in the old ennui. Yet a little gossip from his faithful friend Sancho Panza, and he is ready to rise again, tilt and windmills and fight for right. (It's interesting to note that in the Tankakh, David starts out as a shepherd. In the closing of Miquel de Cervantes novels, Alonso Quijano, nee Don Quixote de La Mancha, is to spend his remaining days in the pastoral life of a shepherd.)
No matter how tired and cold we are, we need to keep a bit of our attention focused on things outside the realm of our immediate comfort. I know that this is something I'm going to have to work on proactively throughout the remainder of this holiday weekend as my body and mind demand of me their much needed break. How about you?
Not that I'm fond of quoting anti-Semites, but Rudyard Kipling does say it quite eloquently:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
©2005 by Adrian A. Durlester
Some other musings on this parasha:
Chaye Sarah 5763-Life Goes On
Chaye Sarah 5757-The Shabbat That Almost Wasn't
Chayeh Sarah 5761-L'cha Dodi Likrat Kala
Chaye Sarah 5762-Priorities, Redundancies And Puzzles
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