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Shabbat Parashat Emor| 5764

Tell the Kohanim

Harav Yosef Carmel

Chazal conclude that Shaul sinned in one matter and had his kingdom rescinded, whereas David sinned in two and did not have his kingdom rescinded (Yoma 22b; see Rashi, ad loc.). This accounting of Shaul’s downfall seems to be contradicted by Ezra Hasofer, author of Divrei Hayamim. There (I, 10:13-14) four sins are mentioned in Shaul’s demise: “Shaul died (1) in his betrayal (ma’al) that he betrayed against Hashem that (2) he did not listen to Hashem’s words and also (3) that he consulted ov (necromancy) and (4) did not consult in Hashem, and He had him killed and handed over the monarchy to David ben Yishai.”
 The four sins are: 1) m’ilah from the ban on the property of Amalek; 2) that he did not wait for Shmuel in the war against the Pelishtim, as Hashem decreed (see Shmuel I 13:13); 3) resorting to necromancy; 4) destroying the kohanim of Nov, which caused him to be unable to use the urim v’tumim to consult Hashem (as they were removed by Evyatar, the sole survivor of the house of Achimelech, the kohen gadol).
 The simple answer to the contradiction is apparently the following. Shaul lost his kingdom already from the time of his first sin (his lack of patience in waiting for Shmuel’s sacrifice before starting the battle). Without getting into the reasons, the gemara points out that David was forgiven for two serious sins without losing the kingdom.
 Let us concentrate on the phrase, “he did not consult Hashem and He had him killed” and the redundancy of “Shaul died … He had him killed.” The midrash (Vayikra Rabba 26) explains as follows. Hashem showed Moshe every generation and its judges, its kings, its sages, its leaders, … In this framework, He showed Shaul and his sons falling by the sword in battle. When Moshe wondered how the first king of Israel could die such a disgraceful death, Hashem answered him with the first words of our parasha, “Tell the kohanim.” It was the kohanim of Nov, says the midrash, who acted as prosecutors against Shaul and caused his death.
 We can now explain that the “extra” mention of Shaul’s death in proximity to the sin of not consulting Hashem, which hints at his eradication of the kohanim of Nov, is particularly telling in this regard. Shaul fell by the sword, just as the kohanim did. If we look further, we will see that not only was Shaul’s act heinous in its own right, but it was also ironically misplaced. Shaul was commanded to destroy Amalek without mercy “from man to woman, from infant to nursing baby, from bull to sheep, from camel to donkey” (Shmuel I, 15:3). The exact same words are used in context of the actual murder of the kohanim of Nov (ibid. 22:19). Shaul’s mercy on the property of Amalek was misplaced, as he displayed cruelty against his own, and for this he paid dearly.
 Let us pray that Hashem bring about the fall of our true enemies and restore the kohanim to their proper station in the Beit Hamikdash.
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