|February 20, 2010
1 Kings 5:26-6:13
The haftarah describes the beginning of the construction of Solomon's Temple. One can approximate the date to be around 958, B.C.E. In order for the raw materials to be obtained Solomon established a treaty with Hiram King of Tyre. Solomon exchanged wheat and beaten oil for cedars and cypress trees. Apparently some things never change. Construction costs were expensive, even in Solomon's time, and we are told that he “imposed forced labor on all of Israel”. I can't help but hear the echoes of Samuel's warning to the children of Israel when they asked him to anoint a King. He warned them that a King would tax them and would require all types of service that they had not anticipated. The commentators tell us that God had gifted Solomon with both political and executive wisdom. It causes me to wonder if this is always the price we pay for freedom.
The story of the construction of Solomon's Temple differed from that of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. In the wilderness God provided Moses with specific instructions for its building and he tells Moses “Make me a sanctuary and I will dwell in it” Ex. 25:8. In the Torah God visits the Tabernacle when he chooses. In the haftarah Solomon builds him a permanent residence and is forced to rely on the advice of his architect.
The end of the haftarah is most revealing. Verse 11 tells us that God will only take up residence if we, the people, fulfill God's commandments. The relationship between the God of Moses and the God of Solomon is different. In the wilderness God was our leader. In the book of Kings, God is a finicky tenant who will only take up residence if we follow his ways. The bargain he made with David that He would never forsake His people Israel, has morphed into a conditional one. The text tells us that “I will be with you for ever if you hearken to my way”. While we will never be forgotten; God will only be with us if we accept our responsibility to be a light unto the nations.
This week's Haftarah commentary was written by
Rabbi Charles Simon,
Executive Director of the FJMC and author of
"Building A Successful Volunteer Culture: Finding Meaning in Service in the Jewish"
Jewish Lights Publishing.
Translation of the Haftarah may be found here: http://www.jtsa.edu/PreBuilt/ParashahArchives/jpstext/
The FJMC weekly haftarah commentary is one of the few haftarah commentaries available on line. The USCJ through its Fuchsberg Center in Jerusalem has also been posting a weekly haftarah commentary for a number of years. We highly recommend it. If you are interested you can find a link on the left side of our weekly commentary and click through.
In 2003 the FJMC commissioned a Sefer Haftarah, a scroll consisting of all the Haftarot which follows the Haftarah order that appears in the USCJ and Rabbinical Assembly Torah translation and commentary Etz Hayim. The FJMC Sefer Haftarah visits a different synagogue in North America every week.This scroll contains vowels and cantillation and allows the haftarah reader to experience the Haftarah in a more personal way. FJMC also produces individual personalized Haftarot for those who wish to recognize a special occasion. Scrolls of Haftarot have been in use since the early middle ages.