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Shabbat Parashat Vayechi 5776

Parashat Hashavua: David Almost Like a Forefather

Harav Yosef Carmel

In Parashat Vayechi, we learn about Yaakov’s “spiritual will” – prophecies and instructions to his sons. In the haftara, we see a similar farewell address of King David to his son Shlomo. We will try to uncover part of this deep connection between the parasha and its haftara.

A famous midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Bereishit 41) connects David Hamelech to Adam. Hashem showed Adam the spiritual greats of each generation. When it came to David’s generation, he saw in David a great soul who had three hours allotted to his life. Adam, who was troubled with the world missing out on David, “donated” 70 years of his life so that David could live long enough to contribute significantly.

The Kedushat Levi (on our parasha) connects David’s life to the forefathers in the following manner. Avraham was “supposed to” live 180 years, as Yitzchak did. The five years that he did not live (he died at 175) were donated to David. While Yitzchak lived his full allotment, Yaakov lived only 147, and not the 175 that he should have lived, like his grandfather Avraham. Thus, he gave 28 years. Yosef was allotted 147 years like his father, but lived only 110, and thus he gave 37 years. 5 + 28 + 37 equals the 70 years that David lived.

We will now look at another connection between David and the forefathers. David asked Hashem why in davening we refer to Hashem as the G-d of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov and not “the G-d of David.” Hashem answered that the forefathers were tested and David was not tested, to which David responded that he wanted to be tested to deserve the distinction (Sanhedrin 107a). David realized he was in a bind. If he would pass the test, he would have ka’v’yachol beaten Hashem. If he would fail the test, he could end losing much more than he reckoned for. At the end, the test had to do with the episode with Bat Sheva, and it ended in failure. While he could have lost his special status, he maintained most of it by employing teshuva in a complete manner.

At first glance, David did not merit getting what he wanted – mention in Shemoneh Esrei of the “G-d of David.” However, further investigation reveals that Shemoneh Esrei is introduced with the pasuk, “Hashem, open my mouth so that my mouth will speak Your praises” (Tehillim 51:17), which David himself wrote. In fact, he composed the pasuk as part of the mizmor that deals with his repentance from the sin involving Bat Sheva (ibid.:2). David is also the only other person from Tanach whose name is mentioned in Shemoneh Esrei (“prepare the throne of David in the midst of Jerusalem” and “the blossoming of your servant David …”

We see, then, that on many levels there are connections between the characters in the parasha (primarily, Yaakov) and those from the haftara (David). May we merit having leaders in our generation who can be considered students of the forefathers and David.

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