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Entries in Prayer (2)


The leap out of comfort: two women in contrast

In the book of Samuel we are told about King David's behaviour when bringing up the ark to Jerusalem, and his wife's reaction to what she perceived as his undignified prancing:

15. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the shofar. 16. And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart...

19. And he distributed among all the people, among the whole multitude of Israel, as well to the women as men, to every one a cake of bread, and a good piece of meat, and a flagon of wine. So all the people departed every one to his house. 20. Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the maidservants of his servants, as one of the low fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!

21. And David said to Michal, It was before the Lord, who chose me before your father, and before all his house, to appoint me prince over the people of the Lord, over Israel; therefore will I play before the Lord. 22. And I will make myself more contemptible than this, and will be abased in my sight; and of the maidservants which you have spoken of, of them shall I be held in honor.

23. And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe speaks of "avodat ha-dilug", a way to serve God through skipping and leaping.

Here, King David physically skips and leaps before the ark, and pushes way beyond the comfort zone and norms expected of royalty by Michal. She shoots verbal barbs of sarcasm at him; but this type of conversation - sarcasm, criticism, inflexible conformism - is an infertile avenue, a dried-up way of being, as the book immediately informs us, juxtaposing this fact with her behaviour: "She had no child to the day of her death."

Contrast with Hannah, the barren wife of Elkana in Samuel I:I, who after years of fruitless pilgrimage to Shiloh, of weeping and upset, stands focused in prayer and makes a leap out of all norms and comfort, to make a bold offer: that should a son be granted to her, she would give him to God's service. Her womb is opened and she has Samuel, one of Israel's greatest prophets, followed by five other children.

When we don't cling to narrow, lifeless norms but instead allow ourselves to make uninhibited leaps - physical, emotional, spiritual - everything flows differently. New life can enter.

I feel sadness and compassion for Michael, and hope that at some point she did learn to let go and open up to joy, even if it was too late for her to have children.

* With thanks to Naama Menussi, in whose shiur this insight arose (January 2016 ).


Can I come to the King in the Inner Court?

This year I was reading the following verse from Esther 4:

11. All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, know, that whoever, whether man or woman, shall come to the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is a law; to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden scepter, that he may live; but I have not been called to come to the king these thirty days.

The woman sitting next to me at the megilla reading had what looked like a children's megilla full of midrashim, and it cited a midrash that Achashverosh was indeed furious to see Esther there unbeckoned, but then he suddenly saw her and remembered how much he loved her, and could not be angry any more.

It's a well-known idea that although G-d's name is not mentioned explicitly in Megillat Esther, we can take (some of?) the references to the king as referring not, or not only, to Achashverosh but also to the King of Kings.

On a daily basis, or perhaps more powerfully on Rosh Hashanah, we feel "How can I go into the King? I am not desired. I am not in relationship. We have not communicated for many days. I have not heard Him call me." So we hesitate to enter. But know - once you enter, G-d will not be able to help Him (Her) self, but instantly fall in love with our beautiful souls.