Saturday, April 10, 2010

What's the line between honor and dishonor?

היום אחת עשר יום שהם שבוע אחד
וארבעה ימים בעמר
Today is the eleventh day, making one week
and four days of the omer
נצח שבגבורה
A day of perseverance in a week of strength

The haftarah we chanted today is one of those juicy readings that combines great stories with strong teachings that bring up complex issues. I'd love to study this in a group sometime.

The reading, 2 Samuel 6:1 - 7:17, starts with the incident of a man, Uzzah, who kept the Ark from falling off its cart during transport back to Jerusalem. What happens to him? "Adonai was incensed at Uzzah. And God struck him down on the spot for his indiscretion, and he died there beside the Ark of God"

Okay---this so does not work for me. The person who prevents this holy Ark from falling from the cart on to the dusty ground and saves it from potentially great damage, gets zapped? Shouldn't he be honored? I don't get it. Anyone want to explain?

Back to our story.....

After a three-month layover because everyone was just so freaked out by the incident, the Ark transport continued on to Jerusalem. When it arrived, King David "whirled with all his might before Adonai." Michal, daughter of Saul, the former king, saw David "leaping and whirling before Adonai and despised him for it." She said, "Didn't the king of Israel do himself honor today--exposing himself today in the sight of the slavegirls of his subjects, as one of the riffraff might expose himself!" David's reply, "It was before Adonai who chose me instead of your father and all his family and appointed me ruler of Adonai's people Israel! I will dance before Adonai and dishonor myself even more, and be low in my own esteem; but among the slavegirls that you speak of I will be honored."

When I first read this today, my take was that Michal was calling David out on inappropriate behavior, exposing himself as he danced, thus dishonoring rather than honoring. It was pointed out to me that David was likely dancing like the Whirling Dervishes of the period, and so it was an accepted sacred dance. Then it would be Michal who was being inappropriate in calling David out. Okay, that's one for discussion. Especially in light of what comes next.

King David notes that the Ark is a tent, not a house--the implication being he would like to build that house, the Temple, for the Ark. Nathan tells him to do what he wants, God is with him. But that night Nathan gets the word that while God is with the people Israel as they set roots in the land, Nathan is to tell David "When your days are done and you lie with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own issue, and I will establish his kingship. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever."

Was David's manner of dancing, whirling, connected to the reason he isn't to be the one to build the temple? Maybe his passion, even when it was directed at God, was so great that there was a need to have someone more grounded to direct this monumental endeavor. The builder was to be a direct line from David, unlike the way David took over from King Saul, so he still gets the kavod, the honor.

I'd love some input if anyone would care to offer any. Or maybe you have some questions of your own. Discussion anyone??

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