The Tur (EHE 65) writes: “It is a great mitzva to bring joy to the bride and groom, and dance before her… And it says in the Midrash: “Why didn’t the dogs eat the feet of Izevel (Jezebel)? Because she used to dance with them before the bride and groom”.
The source for the Tur is in Pirkei d’Rebbe Eliezer (ch. 17). There it adds that her hands also merited burial because she used them to clap them in sorrow when a funeral procession passed by, and her head because she used to wail in mourning.
The story of Izevel’s burial is a topsy-turvy one. Of course one would expect that like anyone else she would be buried. However, Eliyahu prophesied that “Of Izevel Hashem spoke, saying, the dogs will eat Izevel in the stronghold of Yizreel” (Melakhim I 21:23). Izevel meets her death as she encounters the rebel Yehu, who has just assassinated her son, Yehoram. She prepared her- self for his arrival by dressing up and waiting at the window; yet her own guards listened to Yehu’s order and threw her out the window to her death (Melakhim bet 9:30-37). It seems that Yehu was also in no hurry to bury her, as he then went into the palace to eat and drink. Evidently he preferred she should be cast in disgrace. But on second thought he ordered to have her buried, “for she is a king’s daughter”.
This is now a reason she should be buried. However, Yehu’s men informed him that the dogs had eaten her; Yehu understood that this was a fulfillment of Eliyahu’s prophecy, for which he then gives a reason: “The corpse of Izevel should be like dung in the field in the portion of Yizreel, so that no one should say, This is Izevel”. A grave is also a monument, yet Izevel’s memory is not worthy of preservation.
Yet despite the prophecy, the feet, hands and head were brought to burial, in merit of Izevel’s acts of kindness.
There is a direct connection between the reason these limbs were buried and the prophecy of Eliahu as interpreted by Yehu. Izevel was eaten by dogs because her amazing cruelty effaced even her more basic human dignity; she was not worthy of any memorial that people should say “This is Izevel”.
Yet in her acts of kindness to newly- weds and mourners, she overcame this quality; she transcended herself, and was no longer the “Izevel” cursed by the prophecy.
The Kli Yakar explains that the prophecy that she should be like dung is related to her name, Izevel, which is like the Hebrew word “zevel”, meaning dung. This reinforces the idea that the limbs, which gains aid her character and her name, were not really her; they were not zevel. Thus, they were not subject to the prophecy that was meant to deny her a memorial.
There is another thematic connection in the story. The description of Izevel “glancing out the window” in this story echoes the description of Michal, the daughter of Shaul, “glancing out the window” at King David dancing before the ark (Shmuel bet 6:16).
Michal disapproved of David’s rejoicing, thinking it unbecoming for a king. However, Izevel used her palace window to await newlyweds to do them kindness. (The Midrash doesn’t say this explicitly, but mentions that she had her house next to the marketplace and awaited them; the image of her waiting at the window is thus appropriate.) She thus overcame her regal reserve to rejoice in God’s service. Thus those limbs which over- came Izevel’s cruelty and haughtiness were no longer the same “Izevel” referred to by the prophecy.
Rabbi Asher Meir is the author of the book Meaning in Mitzvot, distributed by Feldheim. The book provides insights into the inner meaning of our daily practices, following the order of the 221 chapters of the Kitzur Shulchan Arukh.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.