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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo 5778

Parashat Hashavua: Imperfect Vision

Harav Yosef Carmel

We will continue with what we discussed last week – why Hashem deemed David’s oldest brother unfit for kingship. We saw how Shmuel was criticized for thinking that he knew that Eliav was the proper candidate when indeed he had seen only superficially (on some level).

The Targum states that Shmuel saw that Eliav was indeed qualified for the position. Rashi follows this approach and just adds that Shmuel did not declare out loud that this was his opinion but just that he thought so in his heart. According to Rashi, why then was Eliav not chosen? (Last week, we suggested that Eliav was too aware of his own good qualities.). Rashi answers that Eliav had too great a temper, as we see when he was angered by David for his reaction to the way the soldiers dealt with Goliat’s challenge (Shmuel I, 17:28). Indeed the gemara (Pesachim 66b) says that we learn from the story of Eliav that whoever gets angry will lose a position that was set for him by Hashem. If so, there does not seem to be criticism of Shmuel, for Shmuel was correct based on the present, and he had not been informed about what would happen to Eliav in the future. We also see how damaging anger can be, as it may determine who can and cannot be king.

The Radak says that Shmuel assumed that Eliav was the correct candidate and may even had said so, because he was Yishai’s firstborn  and because he was tall and handsome like Shaul. He reasoned that Hashem was interested in kings of this nature because it makes the people be in awe of him… as long as they are good and have a straight heart. The Radak says that the problem was that Eliav did not have a good and proper heart. According to the Radak, Eliav was not at all fit, and Shmuel was thus clearly mistaken.

This approach also has basis in a midrash. When Shaul went looking for his father’s donkeys and ended up meeting Shmuel, Shaul asked Shmuel where the ro’eh (seer) is and Shmuel said, “I am the ro’eh” (Shmuel I, 9:19). The midrash (Midrash Shmuel 14:3) says that Hashem, inferring criticism of Shmuel, told Shmuel: “I will show you that you are not such a ro’eh.” This came to fruition when Shmuel thought that he saw that Eliav was the king-to-be and was mistaken. Indeed, Shmuel was taught a lesson in not being careful enough with the humility of his speech. Hashem is often very exacting with his demands on great people such as Shmuel.

Let us pray that, especially in as important a month as Elul, we will succeed in watching our speech. Let us also pray to merit leaders as honest and great as Shmuel HaNavi.

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