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January 2, 2010
Va-yehi Askenazim 1 Kings 2:1-12

Musings: This is the third selection from the first book of Kings in the Haftarot that parallel the book of Genesis. If we were concerned with the story of the end of David's life and the succession of Solomon we would have read the Haftarot in a different order. If you are interested you might want to go back and read the Haftarah from Hayye Sarah (1 Kings 1-31) and Miketz (1 Kings 3:15-41).

Word to learn: Sheol The place where the dead are supposed to congregate. A synonym for “pit” or abyss. By the advice that Jacob and David deliver to their sons at the end of their lives, the introductory language of Torah and Haftorah is similar and both selections are similarly structured. Genesis ends with Joseph's death, “So Yosef died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Mizrayim." The Haftorah concludes; “So David slept with his fathers, and he was buried in the city of David. The length of David's reign was …..And Solomon sat upon the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established.”

Joseph's message to his sons was metaphoric and is difficult to comprehend. David speaks to Solomon differently. He speaks in the language of a caring parent who wishes to impart final directions and advice.

What wisdom would you share with your children if you knew you were about to die? I suspect you would attempt to instill in them a combination of practical wisdom and the importance of living their lives in an upstanding way.

Listen to what David tells his son. “Be strong and show yourself to be a man. Keep the charge of the Lord! Follow the laws (live justly) and if you do, and if your descendants are scrupulous in their conduct and walk before me faithfully, with all their hearts and soul, your line on the throne shall never end!”

How many of us would fail to tell their children to live ethical honest lives? Very few I suspect. And then David shared practical wisdom, the stuff he learned at work and in life with Solomon.

“Be gracious with the sons of Barzillai for they befriended me when I fled from your brother Absalom.”

Finally, there are always some items left undone that the son needs to do in order to assure his role will not be challenged. Like Michael Corleoni in “The Godfather”, David tells Solomon, “Take care of Joab. See that his white hair does not go down to Sheol in peace.” Don't forget Shei son of Gera, I swore to him he wouldn't be hurt during my life. I am counting on you to take care of it.”

How many of us wish we had the opportunity to deliver our wisdom and our feelings before we too are buried with our fathers. The Haftarah reminds us that unlike David we will only have the opportunity to share what we believe is important, what we think we have learned and what still has to be accomplished with our descendants if we make the time to do so and then do it.

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

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.

Get a $6 discount per case on 25 or more cases of FJMC Yellow Candles when order is placed by December 31st, 2009. Save over $150!

Don't forget, we end the Book of Bereshit this week - there's a Hazak before the Haftarah!
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