Ethical Issues in the Historical Books of Tanach;
JOSHUA, JUDGES, SAMUEL, KINGS (Neviíim Rishonim)
These four books ostensibly are merely the history of Israel from the entry into the Promised Land until the destruction of the Temple and the temporary loss of independent statehood. In fact they are actually, in a specifically Jewish sense, the most deeply religious and spiritual books of the Bible. One does not have to be specifically Jewish to see or feel the religion and spirituality in the revelations of the prophetic writings or in the words of the Tehillim. They speak to all people, as evidenced by the fact that the Bible is still the world's bestseller and there are millions of non-Jews who regularly recite the Psalms. However, it is specifically and intrinsically Jewish to understand that G-d is revealed in the prosaic material, in the political, social and military events in the lives of ordinary men and women, kings and leaders that are described in the Nevim Rishonim. Here are described the ideology and religious thoughts in Judaism, while in Chronicles we have the purely historical.
Renaissance - A Jewish King! - Part 3
"What was created first? Bet Shammai said, 'The Heavens, as we read: In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth'. Bet Hillel said, The Earth, as we read: The generations of earth and heaven, in the day that G-d created them (B'reishit 2:1). Bet Shammai holding to their mida of din, taught that Man cannot achieve spirituality on his own but requires an outpouring of spirituality from heaven and only then can he achieve sanctity, so the Heavens came first. Bet Hillel arguing for midat hachesed, hold that Man can raise himself by his actions and then as a result spirituality pours down from the heavens on him; so the earth, the abode of Man was created first" (Shem Mi Shmuel, Bereishit). We find Avraham erecting a matzeiva as a sign of his part in the brit, each time that Hashem enunciates new parts of His promise, Yaakov anoints the pillar at his dream of the ladder, to signal his awareness of Hashem as his protector, and Yehoshua brings the people to enter a covenant with Hashem after they have conquered the Land and divided it into the tribal territorties. Now Yoshiyahu gathers the leaders of Israel from throughout Judah and from the remainder of the 10 tribes in Shomrom and the Galill, to renew the Brit with Hashem required by the ancient scroll that the priess had found in the Temple. "There (D'varim 29) it is written: 'You are standing today all of you, your children, your wives, that you shall pass into the covenant that Hashem enacts with you this day'. Yoshiyahu said, 'I shall also enact a covenant, I too am standing'; so he caused all those found in Yerushalayim to stand in the covenant" (Rashi, Divrei HaYamim Bet 34:30-32).
As part of this covenant, he removed any of the remaining objects of idolatry from the country and caused the people to serve G-d, which they continued to do all the years that he lived. It is noteworthy to realize that he was the only king after the Temple was built, who was able to remove the bamot, the localized altars to Hashem. Even though these were not idolatrous, nevertheless, they were forbidden by the Torah once there was a centralized Mikdash, since they militated against the national worship, as opposed to the individual worship, that is so intrinsic to Judaism.
The public observance of Pesach, in all its minutiae and according to all its halakhot is the most appropriate cementing of the Brit between Israel and Hashem, since it celebrates the birth of the nation via Divine Redemption. The punishment for its non- observance is karet, severance from the Jewish body politic. Indeed, together with Circumcision and Yom Kippur that both earn the same punishment, its non-observance marks the last station for those on those on their way out of Judaism. Many times in our history, we find the celebration of Pesach as re-affirmation of the covenant between Israel and Hashem. "The main purpose of Pesach, is to eliminate the idolatry that is in their hands; 'withdraw from idolatry and grasp onto mitzvot' (Mechilta)" (Malbim, Shmot 12:21). When Israel after their 40 years wandering in the wilderness, crossed the Jordan to the Promised Land, they circumcised their sons and then we read: "And Israel camped in Gilgal and they performed the Pesach on the 14th day of the month [Nissan]" (Yehoshua 5:10).
After he had removed all the idols and the abominations that Achaz his father had placed in the Mikdash and strengthened the building, Hizkiyahu: "sent messages to all of Israel and Judah and Efrayim [the 10 tribes] to come to G-d's House and perform the Pesach" (Divrei HaYamim Bet 30:1-21). It was in keeping with these traditions that Yoshiyahu, after he had cemented the covenant between Israel and Hashem after finding the scroll, called on Israel to come to Yerushalayim to partake in Zevach Pesach, the family sacrifice of the Pascal lamb; and they came!
The text describes Yoshiyahu's adherence to the exact demands of the halakha. The Kohanim were organized by him according to the order set down by David, as they had been disrupted by the idol worship during his father's long reign, but the king strengthened and hastened them in their holy tasks.
This Davidic organization, written in what Chazal (Yerushalmi Megila 1:1) called Megilat Beit haMikdash, had been applied to the Leviyim as well, so they too were organized accordingly and ready to assist the groups of Israelites that came to the Temple. Pesach was held on its correct date, unlike in the days of Hezkiyahu, who had observed Pesach in Iyar, the second month, because the people were ritually unclean due to idolatry. To mark the special significance of his Pesach, Yoshiyahu supplied from the royal purse, all the sheep, goats and cattle needed for the Korban Pesach and for the Chagiga [festive offering] by those people who could not afford to buy their own. The Aron Kodesh was placed in hiding in the special building that Shlomo had built for it; Yoshiyahu had been told that Churban HaBayit was definite even if it had been postponed, so he hid the Aron, the staff of Aharon, and the jar of Manna sample that were kept along- side it. "There was not a Pesach like that of Yoshiyahu since the days of the Prophet Samuel, nor did any of the kings of Judah or Israel celebrate anything like it (Divrei HaYamim Bet 35:18). Never before were the hearts of Israel so united in G-d's worship as in his days" (Radak, Melachim Bet 23:22).
This is the 67th installment in Dr. Tamariís series on ďTanach and its messages for our timesĒ