We’ve spent a lot of time looking at David’s mindset as presented in ספר תהילים. Now we’re going to pull the camera back out of his head and return to the narrative. He is on the run from his son, and the כהנים have brought the ארון out of Jerusalem to him. He said (שמואל ב טו:כה-כו)
השב את ארון האלקים העיר; אם אמצא חן בעיני ה׳ והשבני והראני אתו ואת נוהו׃ ואם כה יאמר לא חפצתי בך; הנני יעשה לי כאשר טוב בעיניו׃
Then he continues:
ויאמר המלך אל צדוק הכהן הֲרוֹאֶה אַתָּה is a question to צדוק; the חטף-פתח under the הא is always a הא השאלה; as Cain asks ה׳ (בראשית ד:ט), הֲשֹׁמֵר אָחִי אָנֹכִי? What is he asking? Rashi understands that David is asking צדוק's advice:
But חז״ל saw something more subtle. There are two “כהנים גדולים” with David now, אביתר and צדוק. The “real” כהן גדול is אביתר; he is the one who escaped the destruction of Nov, who brought the אפוד to David when he was on the run from Saul. He is the descendant of Eli, the
כהן גדול who figured so prominently in the beginning of ספר שמואל. But there is a curse hanging over that family:
Now, this won’t actually be fulfilled until Shlomo’s reign:
But there was a hint here that אביתר has fallen out of favor, and that צדוק would be the כהן גדול in the בית המקדש. ויאמר המלך אל צדוק הכהן הֲרוֹאֶה אַתָּה is David asking, “You, צדוק, saw? Then you should go back with the ארון”.
Malbim reads the pasuk as: David said to Tzadok the Priest, “You are the one who sees that the Urim veTumim say, ‘Return to the city in peace’? Therefore, you are the one to bring the ark back, and arrange for your sons to keep me informed”.
And when the ארון is brought back to Jerusalem, David breaks down:
This is the first time David is crying. Before, the people were crying but David maintained his composure:
He’s crying here because he is on top of הר הזיתים, and can look back at the place of the בית המקדש that is now lost to him forever:
And then he realizes that no matter how awful things look, they can always get worse:
Rashi says there is a missing subject and a missing “to” in that sentence:
But Malbim takes the sentence literally:
This is David’s lowest point. He may have lost the מלכות and the בית המקדש, but with Avshalom leading this rebellion, he still had some hope.
But now he realizes that Achitophel has turned against him. David is putting everything together; everything for the past 25 years has been building to this point. Achitophel is seeking revenge for Bat Sheva, and he will only be satisfied with David’s death.
And that is the moment that Providence comes riding out of the west:
Who is חושי הארכי? We haven’t seen him before, but he is named (in the list of David’s administration) as parallel to Achitophel:
We’ve seen messengers with torn clothes and dirty faces before, and it doesn’t presage good news:
The text doesn’t tell us what Chushai tells David, but David responds with a plan:
David now has the pieces in place to create a counter-conspiracy. We get the sense that he does not want to fight, but to work surreptitiously to undermine Avshalom. חז״ל look at this and reconstruct Chushai’s conversation with David:
This civil war is a חילול ה׳. Better that I worship idols and deserve to die, than to let that happen. It is very hard to understand. The Maharal, uncharacteristically, takes this aggadah literally:
But the Maharsha looks at this differently, taking the aggadah seriously but not literally. בקש לעבוד ע״ז doesn’t mean worshipping idols. We’ve seen David explicitly “עובד ע״ז” before:
David says, better I should abandon ארץ ישראל rather than create the חילול ה׳ that a war would create. Chushai argues that running away would be an even worse חילול ה׳. You can’t give up on your people! Then the gemara brings up the סמיכות דברים and that somehow convinces David to not give up. I want to develop this, though I could not find any מפרשים who deal with this. This will have to be my analysis. What does דרישת סמוכין mean here?
There’s no חלול ה׳ in this civil war. Everyone knows what happened. Avshalom feels he’s the eldest and deserves to be crown prince, but you picked the child of Bat Sheva instead. And no one thinks you are a perfect צדיק. Everyone knows you took Avshalom’s mother as a יפת תואר, which the Torah permits only (קידושין כא,ב) כנגד יצר הרע. And everyone knows how you took Bat Sheva; (סנהדרין קז,א) ונתעלמה ממנו הלכה: אבר קטן יש באדם, משביעו רעב ומרעיבו שבע.
Effectively he’s saying the חלול ה׳ happened already. You weren’t דורש סמוכין because you missed the middle step. Running away will only make things worse.
But still, that doesn’t seem very encouraging. Chushai is saying: David, you were already מחלל שם שמים; there’s no point in making it worse! Thanks a lot. “Rashi” on דברי הימים cites an aggadah that Chushai was more positive than that:
Where does that come from? Let’s start with the whole idea of דרישת סמוכין, that we can learn something from the proximity of one text to another.
Chushai is aggadically telling David, don’t give up. Look at what you yourself have said. These are your words.
סְמוּכִים לָעַד לְעוֹלָם. Consequences follow; one thing leads to another, but ה׳ has a plan: עֲשׂוּיִם בֶּאֱמֶת וְיָשָׁר; there is truth and justice in the world.
פְּדוּת שָׁלַח לְעַמּוֹ—you don’t need to give up.
And more, to get a little chassidish, we can take the סמוכין further:
After the בן סורר ומורה comes the חטא משפט מות והומת and תלית אתו על עץ. Justice will be served and Avshalom will be hanged. And then the law of השבת אבדה. The Sfas Emes takes this metaphorically:
השבת אבדה means that we have a responsibility to bring others to תשובה. That is why חושי הארכי could tell David that יקבלנו הקדוש ברוך הוא בתשובה, לתת לו ארוכה. And more, the mitzvah of השבת אבדה applies as it were to הקב״ה Himself:
דרישת סמוכין teaches us that even as the consequences of our actions may lead to יסורין, תשובה is always possible and ה׳ is waiting עד דרש אחיך אתו.
The pieces are now in place. ואבשלום יבוא ירושלם with his own plans, and we will see how they work out.