Tag Archives: Davidic Dynasty

David and Batsheva: A Mystical Love Story

What really happened with David and Batsheva? Did David sin, or were the couple true soulmates destined to be together since Creation? And what does it all have to do with Adam and Eve, the Forbidden Fruit, and the forthcoming Messianic Age? Find out in this class, where we also explore the mechanics of soulmates, the origins of Lilith, the battle with Goliath, and conclude with a fascinating Zohar passage where the angel Dumah, the “warden” of Gehinnom, argues with God and attempts to incriminate King David.

For the class on Tu b’Av, see here.
For the class on the Star of Jacob prophecy, see here.
For more on the mechanics of soulmates, see here.

Esau, David, and Mashiach

“Esau and Jacob” by Adolf Hulf (1919)

In this week’s parasha, Toldot, we are introduced to Jacob and Esau. The latter is born hairy and admoni, “red” (Genesis 25:25). There is only one other person in the entire Tanakh who is described the same way: King David (I Samuel 16:12). In fact, the Ba’al haTurim (Rabbi Yakov ben Asher, 1269-1343) comments that when the prophet Samuel came to anoint David and first saw him, he was surprised by his redness and immediately thought “this one is murderous like Esau!” However, Samuel then saw David’s soft and compassionate eyes and understood he is not like Esau. Nonetheless, it is certainly not a coincidence that Esau and David are described the same way, and that Samuel’s first impression of David was Esau. On a mystical level, their souls are deeply linked, and David served as the spiritual rectification of Esau.

When reading about the life of David in the Tanakh, we find that he was indeed quite similar to Esau. Both were physically strong and great warriors, with a long list of victims. Not longer after defeating the dreaded giant Goliath, David single-handedly struck down 200 Philistines. David’s hands were so bloody that God didn’t let him build the Jerusalem Temple! (I Chronicles 28:3) David would go on to raise an initial fighting force of 400 men (I Samuel 22:2), just as we read that Esau led an army of 400 warriors (Genesis 32:7). Even their armed forces were similar!

Another parallel is that both were voluntarily polygamous. I say voluntarily because Abraham and Jacob were polygamous, too, but not of their own choice. It was Sarah who orchestrated Abraham’s union with Hagar, while Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah when all he wanted was Rachel. All the other patriarchs and tribal fathers—including Isaac, Joseph, and Judah—were monogamous. (One tradition does suggest Benjamin had two wives. For more on that, see ‘The Names of the Torah’s Hidden Women’ in Garments of Light, Volume Two). David took on multiple wives by choice, as Esau had done long before him. And while she was truly his soulmate, we mustn’t forget the infamous incident with Batsheva. We therefore find that, like Esau, David had a strong physical desire. Unlike Esau, though, David was ultimately able to channel that energy in the right direction. He repented wholeheartedly—so much so that the Sages said he completely destroyed his yetzer hara—and was a godly man who spent much of his time in prayer, meditation, Torah study, and the composition of psalms praising God. This is who Esau was supposed to be.

Recall that in God’s original plan, Jacob and Esau were born as twins to fulfil twin roles: Jacob would be the one to bring goodness and light into the world, while Esau would combat evil and defeat darkness. This is why Jacob’s predisposition was to be “innocent, sitting in tents”, a scholar and teacher of the highest calibre, while Esau’s was to be “a skilled hunter, a man of the field” (Genesis 25:27). Each was given the abilities and talents needed to fulfil their task in rectifying the world and making it a dwelling place for the divine. Unfortunately, Esau was unable to use those blessings in the right way, and descended into a life of sin. This is where David came in, given the same “red” spark that Esau once carried. David was able to channel those blessings in the right way, and rectified the spark of Esau.

In the past, we already explored how David also carried the soul of Jacob. Within David was the embodiment of the twin roles. And because he was successful in both, he merited to establish the eternal Davidic dynasty, and become the progenitor of Mashiach. Mashiach, too, must fulfil both: to bring in the light and to defeat the darkness, restoring peace and unity to the globe. This involves not just teaching depths of Torah and punctiliously fulfilling mitzvot, but also confronting evil and fighting wars, which was originally the task of Esau:

In the same comment cited above, the Ba’al haTurim points out that the gematria of “Esau” (עשו) is 376, the same as shalom (שלום). He adds that “Esau” is ayin-shav (ע׳ שו), meaning he is equal to all 70 root nations of the world combined. We can learn from this that Esau had the strength to either destroy the entire world, or to establish peace upon it. He was unable to bring peace, and the task remains for Mashiach to complete. This might explain why Mashiach is described as “coming from Edom” (Isaiah 63:1). It doesn’t necessarily mean Mashiach will literally come from the ancient region of Edom (or Idumea) in southern Israel, or that he will come from the wider Western world which is referred to as “Edom” in rabbinic texts. It may really mean that Mashiach has a spiritual root coming from Edom, from Esau himself.

Now, we typically speak of two messiahs: a Mashiach ben Yosef that comes first, followed by a Mashiach ben David. Each of the two embodies one of the two tasks that date back to Esau and Jacob. Mashiach ben Yosef is called “the warrior messiah” who fights great wars and defeats evil. Mashiach ben David is the king who then establishes a better world and reigns in an era of peace and understanding. Ben Yosef and Ben David neatly parallel Esau and Jacob. Whether they are two distinct people or one person in two phases is subject to some debate and remains to be seen. Whatever the case, we continue to inch ever close to that time, and pray we witness it very soon.

Secrets of the Priestly Blessing

This week’s parasha (in the diaspora) is Nasso, the longest in the Torah. In it, we read how God commanded Moses to instruct Aaron and his priestly descendants to bless the people with the following formula:

יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ. יָאֵר יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ. יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם

Loosely translated: “God bless you and protect you; God shine His Face upon you, and be gracious to you; God lift His Face upon you, and place peace upon you.” (Numbers 6:25-27) This unique, enigmatic phrase carries tremendous meaning, and an interesting history, too. In fact, the oldest Hebrew inscription of a Torah verse ever found is this blessing!

In 1979, archaeologists in Ketef Hinnom near the Old City of Jerusalem discovered two small silver scrolls. After painstakingly unravelling the fragile scrolls (a feat that took three years), they discovered that they were inscribed with Birkat Kohanim, the priestly blessing, along with a few introductory lines. The scrolls have been dated back to the 7th century BCE, and are considered among the greatest finds in the history of Biblical archaeology.

What secrets are buried within the words of Birkat Kohanim?

Silver scroll with priestly blessing, discovered near Jerusalem in 1979

Restoring Divine Light

In introducing the Priestly Blessing, the Torah commands koh tevarkhu, (כֹּ֥ה תְבָרְכ֖וּ), “thus shall you bless…” The Zohar (III, 146a) reminds us that koh is an allusion to the divine light of Creation. The value of koh (כה) is 25, hinting to the 25th word of the Torah, “light”. When Adam and Eve consumed the Fruit, that original divine light of Creation was concealed. This is the secret behind God calling to Adam: ayekah (איכה), usually translated simply as “where are you?” but really meaning ayeh koh, “where is the divine light?” Indeed, the very purpose of the kohen is to help restore some of that hidden divine light. This is why he is called a kohen!

It is also why it is customary not to look directly at the kohanim when they relay the blessing. The hidden light may be far too intense, and might cause the observer’s eyes to dim (Chagigah 16a). The ancient mystical text Sefer haBahir (#124) adds that the kohanim put together their ten fingers in that unique arrangement in order to channel the energy of all Ten Sefirot. Elsewhere, we learn that the hands of the kohanim come together to roughly form an inner samekh, the only circular letter in the Hebrew alphabet, representing infinite cycles and endless blessings. Sefer haTemunah teaches that the proper shape of a samekh is a combination of a kaf and a vav. (The sum of the values of kaf and vav is 26, equal to the Tetragrammaton, God’s Ineffable Name.) Kaf literally means the “palm” of the hand, and the linear vav represents a shining ray of light.  These are the hidden rays of light, the light of koh, emerging through the hands of the kohanim as they bless.

In his commentary on the Torah, the Ba’al haTurim (Rabbi Yakov ben Asher, 1269-1340) states that koh reminds us also of the Akedah, when Abraham told his attendants that he and Isaac would go ‘ad koh, “until there”. The deeper meaning is that Abraham saw the divine light emanating from the top of Mt. Moriah, the future site of the Holy of Holies. This is how he knew exactly where to bind Isaac. Previously, God had already blessed Abraham with the words כה יהיה זרעך, that his offspring would be luminous (and numerous) like the stars (Genesis 15:5). The Ba’al haTurim adds that the Shema has 25 letters for the same reasons and, amazingly, the term “blessing” is mentioned 25 times in the Torah, as is the word “peace”!

The first line of Birkat Kohanim has three words and fifteen letters, the Ba’al haTurim points out, alluding to the three Patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—whose lives overlapped for 15 years. Recall that Abraham had Isaac when he was 100 years old, and Isaac had Jacob at 60 years old, ie. when Abraham was 160. Since we know Abraham passed away at the age of 175, there were 15 years when all three Avot lived together.

More specifically, the first line of the blessing is for Abraham, the second is for Isaac, and the third is for Jacob. This is why the second line speaks of illumination since, as is well-known, Isaac saw the intensely bright divine light unfiltered at the Akedah, and this is the reason he later became (physically) blind. The Sforno (Rabbi Ovadia ben Yakov Sforno, 1475-1550) adds that within the second line of the blessing is a request for God to give light to our eyes so that we could see God within all things, in all the wonders of the world, and in all the wealth (material and otherwise) that God has blessed us with.

The Ba’al haTurim continues that the third line of Birkat Kohanim is for Jacob, which is why it begins with the word yisa (יִשָּׂ֨א), reminding us of Genesis 29:1 when Jacob fled (וישא יעקב רגליו). It has seven words to indicate the subsequent births of the Twelve Tribes, who were (except for Benjamin) born to Jacob over a span of 7 years. The last line again has 25 letters to remind us of koh, and further alludes to the Sinai Revelation—another burst of divine light—when God said (Exodus 19:3) “thus [koh] you shall speak to the House of Jacob” (כה תאמר לבית יעקב). The Ba’al haTurim concludes that the final word of the blessing, shalom, has the same numerical value as Esau (376) to teach us that one should spread peace among all people, gentiles included, and even Esau!

Ibn Ezra (Rabbi Abraham ben Meir ibn Ezra, 1089-1167) says that “peace” means complete peace, with not even a little stone or a wild animal to bother a person. Meanwhile, the Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, 1194-1270) says that “peace” here refers to shalom malkhut beit David, peace upon the kingdom of David and his dynasty. We may infer from this that it refers as well to geopolitical peace in Israel, and a request to hasten the coming of Mashiach. This is related to the Sforno’s interpretation, as he says the verse refers specifically to the World to Come in which, as described in the Talmud (Berakhot 17a), the righteous will bask peacefully in God’s glory.

May we merit to see it soon!