"How honored was the King of Israel Today!"
The Haphtarah of Parshat Shemini, taken from II Samuel 6:1-7:17, has much to tell us about "Emunah," faith in HaShem, a commodity that we could certainly use now.
When King David brought the Aron from the house of Obed Edom to Ir-David, the City of David, the Navi tells us, in II Samuel 6:12, that he did so b'simchah, with joy. In fact, we are told, in II Samuel 6:14, "David danced with all his strength before HaShem...," and we read in verse 6:16, "When the Ark of HaShem arrived at the City of David, Michal daughter of Shaul looked out the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before HaShem, and she was contemptuous in her heart."
So that when in verse 6:20, "David returned to bless his household, Michal daughter of Shaul went out to meet David and she said, 'How honored was the King of Israel today in the eyes of his servants' maidservants, as one of the empty ones might expose himself!' " And David responded (6:21-22), "Before HaShem Who chose me over your father and over his entire household to appoint me as ruler over the People of HaShem, of Israel - before HaShem did I rejoice! And truly I hold myself even more lightly than what you said, and even more lowly in my own eyes - and with the maidservants of whom you spoke, among them will I be honored!" And we are told (6:23) that Michal was punished by not being able to have a child for the rest of her life.
I think that the harsh words of David were not so much a spur-of-the-moment reaction to the unexpected criticism by his wife, or an ad hominem, personal attack on Shaul, whom he loved, though Shaul had come to hate him, but a statement of a fundamental difference between his and the religious philosophy of Shaul, and in their respective understanding of the role of the King as the leader of Israel. That deficit in understanding is indeed what led to the tragic error committed by Shaul when he fulfilled only partially HaShem's command to him through Shmuel to destroy Amalek completely.
We find there (I Samuel 15:5), "And Shaul came to the City of Amalek,..." and the verse continues with the enigmatic expression "VaYarev Ba-Nachal," And he struggled in the valley. CHAZA"L say in Yoma 22b, that its meaning is that Shaul struggled mentally and spiritually to reconcile himself with the seeming injustice of the command and he reasoned, "If for a single soul found murdered by the roadside, the Torah requires the atonement of the 'Eglah Arufah,' the calf that had to be decapitated (Devarim 21), how much more so if all these souls were to be destroyed! And also, regarding the cattle of Amalek, 'A human being is capable of evil, but how can an animal sin?' Whereupon, a Heavenly Voice was heard, saying to him, 'Shaul, do not be more righteous than your Creator.' "
Who was more righteous, David or Shaul? Rav Avrohom Yoseph Rosenberg, editor of the Judaica Press Nach Series, and beloved student of Rav Moshe Feinstein, ZT"L, says in his introduction to Samuel, "It was because Shaul was a temporary monarch while David was the rightful heir to the throne, that the Almighty was very strict with Shaul, punishing him for every infraction of the Law while David met with more lenient treatment. In many ways, Shaul was superior to David; in some, David was superior. But RASHI says in Moed Kattan 16b that Shaul was more righteous."
Specifically on one occasion, David showed his superiority. It was when Galyat, the Philistine giant was taunting the army of Israel and the G-d of Israel. David volunteered to fight the giant, and Shaul urged him at least to wear armor. But David had no need of armor, and said to Galyat (I Samuel 17:45), "You come against me with spear and javelin, but I come against you with the Name of the L-rd of Hosts, the G-d of the armies of Israel, Whom you have taunted." And David slew the giant with a stone from his slingshot.
As Rabbi Rosenberg writes, "Although Shaul was superior to David in many ways, David's implicit faith in the Almighty in the face of danger was superior to that of Shaul. We hesitate to dwell on this subject lest we belittle the character of either Shaul or David. It is impossible for us with our Lilliputian insight, to judge the giants of our People whose spiritual stature is too lofty for us to see, and whose shortcomings are so minute, yet magnified by the Scriptures in relation to what was expected of them..."
In our time, once again we find ourselves isolated in a world that can see in us only the negative, but in our evil enemies, only the positive. But David taught us long ago how to deal with this situation. In "Min Ha-Meitzar," Out of the Straits (Tehillim 118), we find, "HaShem is with me, I have no fear, how can Man harm me?... All the nations of the world surround me, with the Name of the L-rd I will cut them down!...Though they encircle me like bees, they are extinguished as a fire burning thorns; with the Name of the L-rd I will cut them down!"
And in Tehillim 83, we find "...For behold Your enemies make a tumult... They have said, 'Come, let us cut them off from being a nation (a high French official had a somewhat less delicate way of phrasing this); that the name of Yisrael never again be mentioned... The tents of Edom and the Yishme'elim; of Moav ... and Ammon and Amalek;... Ashur also is joined with them; they are the strong arm of the Children of Lot. O my G-d, make them like the whirling chaff; like the stubble before the wind. As fire burns a forest, and as the flame that sets the mountain on fire, so pursue them with Your tempest, and confuse them with Your whirlwind...That men may know that You alone, Whose Name is the L-rd, are alone the Most High over all the earth."
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel