Shabbat Parashat Vayechi| 5766
Look Both Ways Before Crossing - The KingHarav Yosef Carmel
This week’s haftara is connected to the parasha in that they each contain final instructions of a venerable leader to his son(s). David instructed his successor, Shlomo, in no uncertain terms, to see to it that Shimi ben Geira be executed. A little background is needed to understand who Shimi was, why David wanted his death, and how Shlomo accomplished the task.
When David was fleeing from Avshalom, Shimi, a member of Shaul’s (the previous king) family (see Esther 2:5), confronted him with one of the most brutal curses recorded in Tanach. After David survived the rebellion, Shimi asked for mercy, and David swore that he would not kill him. But, on the other hand, David did not want Shimi to escape unscathed from the episode or be able to aid in another rebellion, this time against Shlomo.
Shlomo instructed Shimi to build a house in Yerushalayim and administered an oath to him that he would not “leave there to here or to there, and on the day that you cross the Kidron (a riverbed northeast of Yerushalayim) know that you will die” (Melachim I 2: 37-38). Three years later, Shimi’s servants escaped to Gat (on the western coast). Shimi went to retrieve them, which was the violation that enabled Shlomo to carry out his father’s will. Upon being confronted by Shlomo, Shimi is not quoted as explaining his actions. It is hard to understand how Shimi, a brilliant man, who Chazal refer to as a teacher of Shlomo, the wisest of all men, could have been foolish enough to endanger his life to retrieve two servants.
The key to understanding Shimi’s actions and Shlomo’s cunning in fulfilling his father’s instructions may be through a halachic debate. The mishna (Bava Metzia 102b) discusses a case of a house rental for the price of 12 gold coins for a year, a gold coin per month. What happens if the year is turned into a leap year? Does the renter get an extra month for free, as they agreed on a year for 12 coins, or does he pay another coin for the 13th month, as the price was also quoted as a coin per month? Different solutions are offered. Rav (in the gemara)opinion is that the landlord gets the extra coin, because the final statement is the binding one.
If we go back to Shlomo’s command to Shimi, we will notice that he first told him not to leave Yerushalayim and then told him that if he crossed the Kidron he would be killed. The Kidron had special significance as the boundary between the tribes of Yehuda and Binyamin. If Shimi would be involved in a rebellion of his tribesman, he would cross the Kidron to join them. Yet Shimi went westward, to Gat, without crossing the Kidron. Shimi apparently thought that he would not be held to the first part of the oath, because he felt that the second part limited the limitations on his travels (like Rav’s opinon. Shlomo held him to the entire oath, interpreting his own word’s like the opinions that argue on Rav, and found a way to fulfill his father’s will. The navi concludes the episode, “the kingdom was secure in the hands of Shlomo” (ibid. 46).
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