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David Hamelech & Shavuot

By Guest Rabbi

 

כִּי יִּהְיֶה בְךָ אֶבְיוֹן מֵאַחַד אַחֶיךָ בְאַחַד שְעָרֶיךָ בְאַרְצְךָ אֲשֶר יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נתֵֹן לָךְ לֹא

תְאַמֵץ אֶת לְבָבְךָ וְלֹא תִּקְפץֹ אֶת יָדְךָ מֵאָחִּיךָ הָאֶבְיוֹן : כִּי פָתחַֹ תִּפְתַח אֶת יָדְךָ לוֹ וְהַעֲבֵט

תַעֲבִּיטֶנּוּ דֵי מַחְסרֹוֹ אֲשֶר יֶחְסַר לו : )דברים טו,ז-ח(

(Bava Batra 10a):

רב פפא הוה סליק בדרגא אישתמיט כרעיה בעי למיפל אמר השתא כן איחייב מאן דסני לן כמחללי שבתות

וכעובדי עבודה זרה א”ל חייא בר רב מדפתי לרב פפא שמא עני בא לידך ולא פרנסתו

Rav Pappa was climbing a ladder, a rung gave way and he nearly injured himself. Chyia Bar Rav Midifti offered him a potential explanation. Perhaps a pauper came to you and you refused?

The Vilna Gaon asks1: What has a rung breaking have to do with Tzedaka?

(Devarim 15,8) “לו ידך -את תפתח -פתח כי ”

The cantillation notes on the words תפתח -פתח are called Darga Tevir which is Aramaic for “broken step”. Even the cantillation notes are מסיני למשה הלכה , and hold secrets and answers!

Rabbi Isaac Bernstein ZT”L comments that it reminded him of a Gemara in Shabbat 30b2:

כל יומא דשבתא הוה יתיב וגריס כולי יומא ההוא יומא דבעי למינח נפשיה קם מלאך המות קמיה ולא יכיל ליה

דלא הוה פסק פומיה מגירסא אמר מאי אעביד ליה הוה ליה בוסתנא אחורי ביתיה אתא מלאך המות סליק

ובחיש באילני נפק למיחזי הוה סליק בדרגא איפחית דרגא מתותיה אישתיק ונח נפשיה

David Hamelech was informed he would die on a Shabbat. He thus spent the whole of every Shabbat learning so his soul could not be taken. On the Shabbat he was due to depart the המוות מלאך was unable to take his soul, and had to think of a plan. He went and shook a tree, David, startled by the noise, went to inspect. He climbed up the ladder, the rung broke, he stopped learning, and the המוות

מלאך took his soul.

Why did he die in this manner?

(Berachot 3b)3

דאמר רב אחא בר ביזנא א”ר שמעון חסידא כנור היה תלוי למעלה ממטתו של דוד וכיון שהגיע חצות לילה בא

רוח צפונית ונושבת בו ומנגן מאליו מיד היה עומד ועוסק בתורה עד שעלה עמוד השחר כיון שעלה עמוד

השחר נכנסו חכמי ישראל אצלו אמרו לו אדונינו המלך עמך ישראל צריכין פרנסה אמר להם לכו והתפרנסו זה

מזה אמרו לו אין הקומץ משביע את הארי ואין הבור מתמלא מחוליתו אמר להם לכו ופשטו ידיכם בגדוד

The Gemara introduces us to David’s daily schedule, with the famous harp to awaken him early. There was a famine that lasted 3 years. The Elders came in every day saying “פרנסה צריכים ישראל עמך ” but David told them he could not help and they should initiate battles against the bandits and take the spoils.

Rav Yonasan Eibishetz ZTZ”L asks why did they come in every day for 3 years with this same request and same reply? 4

He brings a Midrash5 based on Divrei Hayamim I (22,14):

כִּי מִּשְקָל אֵין וְלַבַרְזֶל וְלַנְּחשֶֹת כִּכָרִּים אֲלָפִּים אֶלֶף וְכֶסֶף אֶלֶף מֵאָה כִּכָרִּים זָהָב יְהוָֹה לְבֵית הֲכִּינוֹתִּי בְעָנְיִּי וְהִּנֵּה

1 Kol Elyahu Parshat Re’eh

2 Shabbat 30b

3 Berachot 3b

4 Some learn this only occurred one day, but the lesson still applies.

5 Yalkut Shimoni Ruth Remez 603/607

תוֹסִּיף 6 וַעֲלֵיהֶם יהֲכִּינוֹתִּ וַאֲבָנִּים וְעֵצִּים הָיָה לָרבֹ

“And behold, in my poverty, I prepared for the House of the Lord one hundred thousand talents of gold, a thousand thousand talents of silver, and of copper and iron without weight, for it was in abundance, and I prepared wood and stones, and you shall add to them.”

Is this, he asks, called poverty?

The Midrash explains the source of this wealth. When David retuned from defeating Goliath the women threw their precious metals to him and he kept it all for the building of the המיקדש בית , and refused to use it for the poor.

Hashem was angry: “המיקדש -בית מבנין צדקה טובה ”. Therefore David would not be allowed to build it!

Indeed the Radak7 says that Shlomo finished building the המיקדש -בית and only then took the money inherited from David; but he did not use it for the actual building.

We can now understand, explains Rabbi Bernstein, why he died with a breaking step. He refused to help the poor and thus died with the Darga Tevir (broken step) of תפתח -פתח . Thus in refraining from supporting the poor, one’s own support is also withheld, midda keneged midda.

When I heard the Vilna Gaon’s insight, I thought of the following:

The Talmud Yerushalmi informs us that David Hamelech died on Shavuot8. According to some, that year Shavuot fell on the 7th of Sivan instead of the 6th of Sivan.9 The rule that Shavuot cannot fall on Shabbat is only now that we follow the fixed calendar, but at the time they were still fixing it via eyewitness reports and thus could fall on Shabbat. This way we can say there is no contradiction between the Yerushalmi (that it was Shavuot) and the Bavli (that it was Shabbat)10. (This also explains why some have the custom to read Megillat Ruth on the second day, i.e. the 7th of Sivan, to correspond to the actual date of David’s Petirah, even though in the time of David Hamelech there wasn’t even a 2nd day!)11.

The portion of the Torah we read on the 2nd day Shavuot which falls on Shabbat (i.e. Shabbat 7th Sivan, the day of David Hamelech’s Petirah) is this exact Parasha containing תפתח -פתח ! (It was Moshe Rabbeinu himself who instituted the Yomtov readings12).

It thus seems likely that David Hamelech was learning דיומא עינינא , and Divine Providence ensured David stopped learning just as he uttered the words תפתח -פתח , as a result of David not prioritising the poor over the building of the המיקדש בית , causing the Darga Tevir, rung to break and allowing the המוות מלאך to take his soul.

This explanation is not a contradiction to Rabbi Bernstein’s but rather compliments it to show the absolute precision of Divine Providence.

פדלון חיים בן יוסף מורי אבי נשמת לעילוי

6 Divrei Hayamim I (22,14)

7 Malachim I (7,51)

8 Yerushalmi Chagiga 2,3 quoted in Tos Hagiga 17a

9 Seder Hadorot 2924

10 Shabbat 30b as brought above

11 Pri Megadim Eshel Avraham O”C 490,8 See Lik Sich Shavuot note 8

12 Rambam Hilchot Tefilla 13:8

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