Rabbi Oury Cherki
Vayechi (Haftarah) - Final Instructions
In this Haftarah (Kings I Chapter 2), King David teaches his son Solomon the essentials of how to manage a kingdom, as the ultimate example of the ideal government. There are six basic principles:
- Adopting good practices, the foundations of morality: "Be strong, and act like a man" [2:2]. The desired trait that is emphasized for a king is courage. This includes two aspects: One is the way the king himself acts, "Who is courageous? One who conquers his evil inclination". [Avot 3:1]. The other aspect is related to other people. The king must be strong and brave, and he must be prepared for war (Rambam, Eight Chapters, Chapter 4).
- To perform the mitzot: "And you shall keep the charge of your G-d" [2:3], with an emphasis on doing what is "written in the Torah of Moshe". This means that the king must study the straightforward meaning of the text as a guideline for his policies. This is the opposite of the Oral Torah, which establishes the halacha for every private person in Yisrael (The Natziv, Harchev Davar, Devarim 24:16).
- Maintaining the continuity of the government: "In order that G-d will keep His word, which He spoke to me, saying: If your sons maintain their way, going before me in truth with all their heart and all their soul, no man of yours will ever be cut off from the throne" [2:4].
- Doing justice, even when it involves a prominent figure: Taking revenge on Yoav, who rescued Yisrael but then spilled innocent blood. "And you also know what Yoav Ben Tzruyah did to me by what he did to two military leaders of Yisrael, when he killed Avner Ben Ner and Amassa Ben Yeter, thereby instigating war at a time of peace. And he placed the blood of war on the belt that is on his loins and on the shoes on his feet. Do not let him live out his life in peace". [2:5-6].
- Performing kindness for those who deserve it: "Be kind to the children of Barzilai of Gilad, let them eat at your table" [2:7].
- Maintain the respect for royalty: "And here with you is Shim’i Ben Geira, of Binyamin, from Bachurim, who cursed me strongly on the day I went to Mahanayim… And I swore to him in G-d’s name, saying, I will kill you by the sword. And you shall not release him". [2:8-9].
In a superficial glance we might conclude that David is involved in personal grudges and vengeance. However, if we look in depth we see in these moves deep wisdom that insists that the kingdom cannot survive without having a strong moral basis. The specific people who come to harm because of these policies serve as examples of the general policy. Solomon made sure to accede to his father’s demands, and therefore the verse teaches us, "Shlomo sat on the throne of his father David, and his kingship was firmly established" [2:12].
Evidently the fact that the instructions given by David were chosen by our traditions for the Haftarah of the portion of Vayechi is not just because both passages tell about the deaths of one of the main characters in the life of the nation, the Patriarch Jacob or King David. Rather, in both cases the general and political ramifications of their wills are emphasized in a way that is not limited to rules of justice and piety only in the realms of private people.