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EMOR 582

05/13/2022 01:01:57 PM


If you follow my weekly column, today's essay might seem familiar, as it is based on a midrash that I brought down last year. Besides the fact that it is one of my favourite midrashim, it seems most contemporary, in light of the carnage being orchestrated in Ukraine by the ruler of Russia.

By way of introduction: last week's parasha was replete with inspiring practical mitzvot. Yet it ended with a verse that seemed incongruous: a person who practices necromancy should be put to death.  This week's parasha opens with the words: "speak to the kohanim"   Is there a connection?

A midrash [see Yalqut Shimoni 626, at the beginning of the parasha] tells us that when Moses was on Mt. Sinai, he was a shown a video of all major events that would befall the Jewish people. Among these events, he was shown how King Saul would be killed a most ignominious death at the hands of the Philistines, as recorded at the end of the Book of I Samuel.  So, Moses asked God, "is it fair that Saul, the first King of Israel, should be so humiliated?"

And God answered Moses to "speak to the Kohanim," as it says at the beginning of this week's parasha. To understand what God had answered, we have to remember two facts about Saul that were related in the Book of I Samuel: (a) Saul suffered from a paranoia. He mistakenly thought that the priests in the city of Nov had been plotting against him.  And so: he had them executed!  (b) During his last battle with the Philistines, he went to consult with a necromancer, (a woman known in English literature, e.g. a poem by Lord Byron, as the "witch of Endor.")

According to the midrash, God answered Moses: "You want to know why Saul suffered such a tragic death? go ask the kohanim." In other words, the midrash is telling us an important lesson: morality is an important component of leadership. A king is not free to do whatever he desires!

Shabbat shalom

Mon, June 27 2022 28 Sivan 5782