Shaul

February 5, 2014

Saul, the first King of Israel, anointed by the Prophet “Shmuel,” or Samuel. Described in the Bible (“Shmuel Aleph”/Samuel I 9:2) “exceptional and fine; there was no one in Israel finer than him; from his shoulders and up, he stood taller than the rest.”

Shaul was a Torah Scholar and a successful warrior-king against the enemies of Israel. After some time, Shmuel commanded Shaul in the Name of Hashem to fight against Amalek, and to totally annihilate that evil people, the sworn enemies of G-d. Shaul achieved a complete victory over Amalek, but he failed to totally annihilate that nation. He spared the best of the sheep and the cattle and Agag, the King.

Hashem informed Shmuel that Shaul had failed to fulfill the command to destroy Amalek. When Shmuel met Shaul, he mockingly imitated the sound of sheep, “U-me-e-eh kol ha-tzon b’aznai?” What is this sound of sheep that I hear? Ultimately, Shaul admitted that he had not felt strong enough to oppose the will of the People concerning taking the sheep and cattle as booty. Shmuel told Shaul that just as he had rejected the word of Hashem, so had Hashem rejected him as King of Israel.

Shaul fell into an intermittent depression at this bad news and the only one who could get him out of it was, paradoxically, the man who would ultimately replace him as King. When Shaul realized this, he developed a complex love-hate relationship with David, whose greatness he admired and appreciated even more than the rest of the People.

In a battle against the Philistines, both Shaul and his son, Yehonatan, who was a loyal and beloved friend of David, met their deaths. Yehonatan was killed by the enemy, and Shaul was surrounded by his foes. He chose to die by his own hand rather than be captured alive, be abused and be made a living source of “Chilul Hashem,” “Desecration of G-d’s Name.”

When he learned of their deaths, David eulogized them, “Shaul and Yehonatan, who were beloved and pleasant in their lives and, in death, were not separated, were swifter than eagles, and mightier than lions.” (“Shmuel Beit”/Samuel II 1:23)