Monday, September 8, 2008

Whip Him Good!

"When you come to the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and dwell in it, and then say, `I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are round about me'; you may indeed set as king over you him whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not multiply horses for himself, or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, `You shall never return that way again.' And he shall not multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply for himself silver and gold.
- Devarim 17:14-17

(By the way, does anyone have a good on-line Jewish source for the text of Tanach in modern English besides mechon-mamre? I can't stand all of the "thees, thous and "shalts").

The Gemara in Sanhedrin 21 explains that the maximum number of wives that a king may marry is eighteen and that he may accumulate only enough horses as is needed for his army. It also states why the reasons for most Biblical laws were not revealed, since "in two verses reasons were revealed, and they caused the greatest in the world to stumble." That "greatest" was Shlomo Hamelech who reasoned "'I will multiply wives yet not let my heart be perverted', yet we read, When Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart [I Kings XI, 4]. Again it is written: He shall not multiply to himself horses; concerning which Solomon said, 'I will multiply them, but will not cause [Israel] to return [to Egypt].' Yet we read: And a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six [hundred shekels of silver]. [I Kings X, 29]"

It is to the great credit of our sages that they were willing to criticize someone who they considered to be "the greatest in the world". It is especially appropriate in Elul to reflect upon the fact that if the greatest tzaddik can stumble, we must also recognize the need for introspection and correction of our personal shortcomings.

OK, that's enough musar for today - I don't call myself a Frum Heretic for nothing.

First, let's look at what Rambam says in Hilchos Melachim [3:2-4] regarding the restrictions of a king.

1) If he took more than 18 wives - which includes both wives and concubines - he is liable for lashes.

2) If he accumulated more horses than was needed for his mounted troops - even a single one - he is liable for lashes.

3) If he hoarded silver and gold to glorify himself and accumulated more than was needed (communal needs, the upkeep of the Temple, for wars and personal attendants), he is liable for lashes.

Shlomo Hamelech was obviously guilty of all three transgression, yet nowhere does anyone suggest that he actually received lashes (presumably 117 or 39 administered on three different occasions) of which he was certainly deserving according to Rambam. Ask your LOR about this, but be prepared for some interesting apologetics (two responses that I was given: 1) "His punishment came after his death" [I Kings 11:11-12]. But excuse me, why was he able to defer a punishment to be meted out to his descendents? Didn't we just read צֶדֶק צֶדֶק, תִּרְדֹּף - Justice, justice you shall pursue? 2) Even better - and this was given as a shocked reply - "How can you give Shlomo Hamelech lashes??).

Now let's take an honest look into this "greatest of tzaddikim."
  • Shlomo Hamelech was obviously an egomaniac, thinking that his wisdom put him above the laws of the Torah

  • He could not keep his penis in his tunic

  • He allowed his wives to built altars for idol worship (according to the most generous interpretation of "his heart turned after other gods")

  • His profligacy was legendary (Abravanel learns out from I Kings 5 that he had 60,000 guests at his table daily)

  • He cared more about his own house than with the Temple - it took him 13 years to build the former and only 7 years to build the Temple.house

  • And most contemptible, he imposed forced servitude upon the inhabitants of northern Israel to build his house. This was so burdensome that when Rechavam refused to lighten the 'grievous yoke" of daddy Shlomo, it resulted in the breakup of a United Monarchy into two kingdoms and the consequent destruction of the majority of Israel.
Yet somehow Shlomo is still mythologized as the wisest of individuals and as a tzaddik. It is near impossible for someone living under a democracy in the 21st century to imagine living under a theocratic monarchy of 950 BCE, but ask yourself: would you like to live in a society in which this "wise" "tzaddik" was king?

10 comments:

Holy Hyrax said...

Well, aside from mefarshim, I think the scripture itself does a good deal to chastise him for what he has done and due to him the kingdom was split. And that is basically recorded forever. That maybe is a bit worse than some lashes.

>He cared more about his own house than with the Temple - it took him 13 years to build the former and only 7 years to build the Temple.house

I think you are just making an assertion. We don't know why it was faster to build the temple. Maybe he had more of the matterials for it or plans done faster for it. Maybe he put more of the resource into the temple cause was more important to him. I mean, if it was the other way around, you would be saying that he cared more about the house since he wanted to complete it faster before giving a temple to the people.

But, like my rabbi says. Shlomo is the biggest looser in Nach. Everything was given to him on a silver platter and ended up throwing it all away.

It is interesting to compare the sins of all three kings.

With Saul and Shlomo, they both sin against God (m'komo) and loose the kingdom. The land in which God gave. With David, he violated a moral law (l'chavero) and in my opinion, probably has the worser of the punishments. His family is basically and personal life are basically destroyed from under his very nose. Ever since the incident that started on the roof of his castle, his personal life, between other people (not God) goes down the drain.

Frum Heretic said...

The "biggest loser in Nach"? Man, there's a lot of competition there, including Yeravam Ben Nevat, who could have walked side by side with ben Yishai and God!

Here's why it took almost twice as long to build his palace as the Temple: the main structure (100x50x30) was 4x the size of the Temple (60x20x30) and he built a second one like it for Pharoah's daughter! (see I Kings 7) BTW, there was much more to his palace complex besides this.

While I have heard Shlomo criticized by rabbanim, the overwhelming impression that is conveyed is that we can't judge such a great tzaddik on our own terms. Only the tannaim can do such a thing. I never bought this lame answer.

Finally, I did think about the greater punishment of losing the kingdom; it must have been devastating for Shlomo. (If you believe the story.) But again, the din is the din. If he was chayav malkos, that is the din. We don't say, well God will punish him so let's defer punishment in olam hazeh!

Of course, all of this assumes that such a punishment was part of the oral tradition that existed in 850 BCE, which I seriously doubt!

Holy Hyrax said...

>I never bought this lame answer.

Neighther do I, and neither do those that canonized the text.

>Of course, all of this assumes that such a punishment was part of the oral tradition that existed in 850 BCE, which I seriously doubt!

I agree. But lets just assume there was this punishment. I have a hard time that any judge can get to a king with the army backing him up. Also, if the priests are the ones that are heading the din, they are probably scared as well considering he exiled Evyatar the priest for going against him even before being crowned.

Frum Heretic said...

I have a hard time that any judge can get to a king with the army backing him up. Also, if the priests are the ones that are heading the din, they are probably scared as well considering he exiled Evyatar the priest for going against him even before being crowned.

EXACTLY! I am in 100% agreement. "You gonna take the king in to be whipped? You and which army?" Obviously, Rambam is speaking theoretically and not practically.

pondering said...

I do not know where this gemorah is, but there is makhlokos if one has to keep a mitzva if the reason for this mitzva does not apply - like the solomon's wives. so there is an opinion that one does not. i think i saw someone say that maybe Shlomo held like that opinion.
However Shlomo hamelekh did other things which I never found good solutions for - I Kings 7:23 he made 12 statues of cows for his "sea" (mikve); I Kings 10:19-20 he made again statues of lions for his throne; also many engravings on temple walls I Kings 6:29 and 7:29 and extra menorahs 7:49.
You mentioned the gemorah that brings the sin of buying to many horses - but there is no evidence that going to egypt to buy horses caused the jewish people to come back to egypt, unlike wives which did turn his heart aside.

Frum Heretic said...

I do not know where this gemorah is, but there is makhlokos if one has to keep a mitzva if the reason for this mitzva does not apply

Great - I vote therefore to allow kitnios on Pesach and for the elimination of yom tov sheni!

Frum Heretic said...

BTW, the menorahs don't seem that problematic as they supposedly were supplemental ones for glorification purposes, flanking the primary one in the center. The images are an issue, but doesn't someone suggest that they represented the images of Yechezkiel's Merkavah? Lions seems to be ubiquitous in shuls (carving on the aron, paroches decoration, etc.) I wonder if that is the original source? (And why-ever do they always have their tongues out??)

Frum Heretic said...

Oh, and one more thing regarding the horses. Note the difference in how David HaMelech handled an excess horses (captured in war): he hobbled almost all of them! (2 Shmuel 8)

pondering said...

> Frum Heretic said...
>Great - I vote therefore to allow >kitnios on Pesach and for the >elimination of yom tov sheni!

You do not need that gemorah for kitnios - just become a sefardi.
As far as yom tov sheni - Rambam (I might be wrong) holds since calendar is set, we do not need to keep it. Only problem is that shulchan oruch paskened like majority and rmbam was das yahid.

As far as statues of sholomo that i mentioned before - i wrote that i never found a good solution. Meaning i found some but i did not like them. Solution for cows was that shlomo did everything with ruach hakodesh, ok - but we had already a story in shmos with a golden cow - and we all know what happened.
Plus he had other statues right by his throne ( bad solution - to scare the people who are swearing over there).
Extra Menorahs - for some reason I thought it is like adding to commandments of the torah.

Frum Heretic said...

You do not need that gemorah for kitnios - just become a sefardi.

I thought about that, but I'd have to keep switching back every Elul to minimize the slichos!