OU TORAHDedicated by the Jacobs and Chill Families in Memory of Harold and Pearl Jacobs
Dora Bas Rivka Silver O'H
Sometimes, the Apple is Thrown REALLY FAR from the Tree
If Chizkiyahu was one of the greatest kings of Judah, his son Menashe was one of the worst. (His mother's name was Hephzibah, by the way. Just mentioning.) Menashe surpassed the worst kings of Israel when it came to idolatry. He restored Baal worship, Asheira worship, and Molech worship. He introduced the worship of heavenly spheres and put altars to them in the Temple. He practiced astrology, necromancy and divination. And he did much of it just to antogonize G-d. Menashe seriously led his people astray.
G-d sent the prophets Nachum, Yoel and Habakkuk to Menashe with a dire message: Because Menashe exceeded all his idoltrous predecessors, G-d would punish Judah and Jerusalem so severely that just hearing about it would be enough to make one's ears ring! G-d would judge Menashe and Judah the way He did Ahab and Israel. He will wipe out Jerusalem like one wipes a dish then turns it upside down. The Jews will be at the mercy of their enemies.
Almost as an afterthought to Menashe's evil, the Navi mentions that he also spilled innocent blood. Menashe reigned 55 years - longer than any other king of Israel or Judah! When he died, he was succeeded by his son Amon. (That's spelled with an alef; the nation Ammon is spelled with an ayin.)
Amon was an idolator like his father. He reigned for a mere two years, when he was assassinated by his servants. The people of the nation executed the assassins and installed Amon's young son Yoshiyahu (Josiah) as king.
We have to explain Menashe's addiction to idolatry, because nowadays we just don't get it. In the Talmud (Sanhedrin 102b), Rav Ashi made a disparaging remark about Menashe. That night, Menashe appeared to Rav Ashi in a dream and asked him an obscure question of Torah knowledge. Rav Ashi didn't know the halacha, but Menashe did. Rav Ashi was flabbergasted. "But - - if you're such a Torah scholar, how could you worship idols?" "You don't know the temptation we had for idolatry," Menashe replied. "If you had lived in my day, you'd have been a bigger idolator than I was!" After that, Rav Ashi referred to Menashe, Ahab and company more respectfully.
A short Insight into II Kings, Chapter 21Once after someone won a special prize at a communal event, they were wondering why Hashem had bestowed this gift upon them. After pondering the possibility that they had earned various merits through learning and the fulfillment of various mitzvos, the person had an idea pop into his mind. He wondered if this was a way for Hashem to show some affection for him and his family as a way of encouraging him not to stray in his observance. In other words, maybe Hashem was reaching out, not through a bold warning, but through an act showing Hashem's caring.
Actually, the gemora in Sanhedrin (101a) tells us a straightforward insight related to this idea from the story from the life of Menashe and his father Chizkiyah.
In Mishlei (25,1) the verse reads, “These are also the proverbs of Shlomo which were copied by the men of Chizkiyah, King of Yehuda.” This refers to the fact that after Chizkiyah was appointed king, he taught the Torah and made sure that he had students in every city to spread the knowledge and the practice of the Torah.
The gemora asks, “Did Chizkiyah exert efforts to teach Torah to all Jews and to Menashe he did not teach Torah?”
Rather, R' Akiva explains, “Despite the effort he exerted and for all of the energy he expended towards the education to entice his son to stick to the path of Torah, Chizkiyah was not successful.
Without question, Chizkiyah created the best atmosphere – with the best teachers and the best group of friends – in which to raise Menashe. Without question there were many positive reinforcements offered by Chizkiyah to Menashe for following in Hashem's ways. In the final analysis, though, the “chinuch” that Menashe received was not able to keep him back in the fold. Menashe dd not reflect on all of the blessings in his life and conclude that these were enticements to return to Hashem. Menashe did not accept the fact that all of the blessings he received as king were evidence of Hashem's affection to him – a plea from Hashem to Menashe to repent and come back home – to Hashem.
Hashem did not give up on Menashe. Instead, Hashem pursued a different strategy. As the verse in Divrei Hayamim ll (33,10-13) says, “Hashem spoke to Menashe and his nation and they did not pay attention. And Hashem brought upon them the officers of the army of Ashur and they captured Menashe with hunting hooks; bound him in chains and led him off to Babylonia … But in his distress he beseeched Hashem … he humbled himself greatly .. and He returned him (Menashe) to his kingship.
Since Menashe did not heed the loving message of the blessings in his life, Hashem needed to show his caring with a dose of “tough love.”