Sunday, December 28, 2008

David Withdraws

(שמואל ב, יא)
א וַיְהִי לִתְשׁוּבַת הַשָּׁנָה לְעֵת צֵאת הַמְּלָאכִים, וַיִּשְׁלַח דָּוִד אֶת-יוֹאָב וְאֶת-עֲבָדָיו עִמּוֹ וְאֶת-כָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיַּשְׁחִתוּ אֶת-בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן, וַיָּצֻרוּ, עַל-רַבָּה; וְדָוִד, יוֹשֵׁב בִּירוּשָׁלִָם. ס

ב וַיְהִי לְעֵת הָעֶרֶב, וַיָּקָם דָּוִד מֵעַל מִשְׁכָּבוֹ וַיִּתְהַלֵּךְ עַל-גַּג בֵּית-הַמֶּלֶךְ

(Shmuel II, 11)
1. And it was, at the return of the year, at the time of the going out of kings [to battle], and David sent Yoav and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed in Jerusalem.

2. And it came to pass, at the time of evening, that David arose from his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house...

David remains home - at the time the kings sally-forth David withdraws. What has happened? What precipitates this sudden shift in David? The great warrior stays home as his troops lay siege to Rabba-of-the-Children-of-Ammon?

David awakes from his bed - what is bothering him? What stirs him from his sleep?

What makes this war different? Let us see how the war with the children of Ammon began.

(פרק י)
א וַיְהִי, אַחֲרֵי-כֵן, וַיָּמָת, מֶלֶךְ בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן; וַיִּמְלֹךְ חָנוּן בְּנוֹ, תַּחְתָּיו. ב וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד אֶעֱשֶׂה-חֶסֶד עִם-חָנוּן בֶּן-נָחָשׁ, כַּאֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה אָבִיו עִמָּדִי חֶסֶד, וַיִּשְׁלַח דָּוִד לְנַחֲמוֹ בְּיַד-עֲבָדָיו, אֶל-אָבִיו; וַיָּבֹאוּ עַבְדֵי דָוִד, אֶרֶץ בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן. ג וַיֹּאמְרוּ שָׂרֵי בְנֵי-עַמּוֹן אֶל-חָנוּן אֲדֹנֵיהֶם, הַמְכַבֵּד דָּוִד אֶת-אָבִיךָ בְּעֵינֶיךָ--כִּי-שָׁלַח לְךָ, מְנַחֲמִים; הֲלוֹא בַּעֲבוּר חֲקֹר אֶת-הָעִיר, וּלְרַגְּלָהּ וּלְהָפְכָהּ, שָׁלַח דָּוִד אֶת-עֲבָדָיו, אֵלֶיךָ. ד וַיִּקַּח חָנוּן אֶת-עַבְדֵי דָוִד, וַיְגַלַּח אֶת-חֲצִי זְקָנָם, וַיִּכְרֹת אֶת-מַדְוֵיהֶם בַּחֵצִי, עַד שְׁתוֹתֵיהֶם; וַיְשַׁלְּחֵם. ה וַיַּגִּדוּ לְדָוִד וַיִּשְׁלַח לִקְרָאתָם, כִּי-הָיוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים נִכְלָמִים מְאֹד; וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ שְׁבוּ בִירֵחוֹ, עַד-יְצַמַּח זְקַנְכֶם וְשַׁבְתֶּם. ו וַיִּרְאוּ בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן, כִּי נִבְאֲשׁוּ בְּדָוִד; וַיִּשְׁלְחוּ בְנֵי-עַמּוֹן וַיִּשְׂכְּרוּ אֶת-אֲרַם בֵּית-רְחוֹב וְאֶת-אֲרַם צוֹבָא, עֶשְׂרִים אֶלֶף רַגְלִי, וְאֶת-מֶלֶךְ מַעֲכָה אֶלֶף אִישׁ, וְאִישׁ טוֹב שְׁנֵים-עָשָׂר אֶלֶף אִישׁ. ז וַיִּשְׁמַע, דָּוִד; וַיִּשְׁלַח, אֶת-יוֹאָב, וְאֵת כָּל-הַצָּבָא, הַגִּבֹּרִים.
(Chapter 10)
1. And it came to pass after this, that the king of the children of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his stead. 2. And David said: "I shall show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, just as his father showed me kindness. And David sent to comfort him through his servants, for his father. And David's servants came into the land of the children of Ammon. 3. And the princes of the children of Ammon said to Hanun their lord: "Do you think that David honors your father that he sent you comforters? Is it not in order to investigate the city and to spy it out, and to search it that David has sent his servants to you?" 4. And Hanun took David's servants and he shaved off a half of their beards, and he cut off their garments in half up to their buttocks, and he sent them away. 5. And they told it to David; and he sent to meet them; for the men were very much ashamed. And the king said: 'Remain seated in Jericho until your beards grow, and then you shall return.' 6. And the children of Ammon saw that they had become odious to David; and the children of Ammon sent and hired [of] the Arameans of Beth-rehob, and the Arameans of Zobah, twenty thousand footsoldiers, and [of] the king of Maacah, a thousand men, and [of] Ish-tov, twelve thousand men. 7. And David heard [of it], and he sent Joab, and the entire host of the mighty warriors.

David wished to do chesed with Chanun the son of Nachash just as his father had done kindness with him - no where in Tanakh does it record what chesed Nachash did for David. We can only surmise that when David was on the run from Shaul he found refuge for either himself or his family with Nachash. However, this is troubling. Nachash is one of the greatest enemies of Israel (read Shmuel I, 11)! In fact, it was Shaul's triumphant defeat of Nachash's army that consolidated his reign over Israel. Any help he gave David can only be viewed as an implementation of the principle: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Additionally, there is a deep irony in describing Nachash - in the first mention of him since the aftermath of his defeat in Shmuel I - as doing chesed? Isn't he the one that said to the inhabitants of Yavesh-Gilad, "On this (condition) will I make a treaty with you, by gouging out the right eye of every one of you, and I shall make it a reproach against all Israel. " (Shmuel I, 11:2)? What is David doing? The folly of David's international dealings quickly becomes apparent as Chanun responds with anything but gratitude and provokes (or, is convinced he has provoked and then actually provokes) a full-scale war.

Additionally, it must be considered whether David transgressed a prohibition from the Torah through his actions. We have already quoted the Radak in the previous post who cites the chazal that David had transgressed the prohibition of "לֹא-תִדְרֹשׁ שְׁלֹמָם, וְטֹבָתָם - Do not seek their welfare (peace) or their good" (D'varim 23:7). In the 6th chapter of Hilkhot M'lakhim uMilchamot the Rambam discusses this prohibition in the context of Israel's obligation to seek peace before going to war with its enemies. The exception (based on this verse) is Ammon and Moav with whom it is forbidden to seek peace. If we are to maintain the Rambam's explanation of this prohibition we must say that Chazal viewed David's chesed as an overture of peace[1].

Another framework for understanding David's misstep is the prohibition of "לֹא תְחָנֵּם - Do not be gracious to them (idolaters)" (D'varim 7:2). In the 10th chapter of Hilkhot Avoda Zara, the Rambam discusses this prohibitions. The following halakha is highly instructive for our investigation:

וְכֵן אָסוּר לְסַפַּר בִּשְׁבָחָן, וְאַפִלּוּ לוֹמַר כַּמָּה נָאֶה גּוֹי זֶה בְּצוּרָתוֹ; קַל וְחֹמֶר שֶׁיְּסַפַּר בִּשְׁבָח מַעֲשָׂיו, אוֹ שֶׁיְּחַבַּב דָּבָר מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם: שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר "וְלֹא תְחָנֵּם" (דברים ז,ב)--לֹא יִהְיֶה לָהֶם חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁגּוֹרֵם לְהִדָּבֵק עִמּוֹ וְלִלְמֹד מִמַּעֲשָׂיו הָרָעִים.
And similarly it is forbidden to relate their (idolaters') praises, even to say, "How beautiful is this gentile in his appearance!". All the more so to relate the praise of his deeds, or to hold precious any thing they say, as it says, "Do not be gracious to them", they should hold no grace in your eyes, because this causes one to cleave to him and to learn from his evil deeds.


Did Ammon hold some grace in David's eyes? Why would this be? Why now? The first verse of chapter 10: " וַיְהִי, אַחֲרֵי-כֵן - And it came to pass after this...", suggests we must look back one more chapter to the story of David's chesed with Mephiboshet the son of Yehonatan the son of Shaul for an answer. However, an analysis of that story must wait until the next post.
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[1] The Rambam writes, "וְאַף עַל פִּי שְׁאֵין שׁוֹאֲלִים בִּשְׁלוֹמָם, אִם הִשְׁלִימוּ מֵעַצְמָם תְּחִלָּה, מְקַבְּלִין אוֹתָן. - And even though we do not ask/seek peace with them, if they initiate peace of their own accord, we accept them." - perhaps David thought that Nachash's chesed was the initiation he required.

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