"King David was now old, advanced in years; and though they covered him with bedclothes, he never felt warm." (I Kings 1:1, JPS)
It sounds simple and reasonable enough. As people age, they sometimes do loose the ability to regulate body heat, and are more sensitive to the lack of external heat. Yes, we understand the mechanisms that allow our mammalian bodies to regulate heat. But what about that other kind of heat, that spiritual fire, that aish hakodesh that burns within us. And surely such passion burns within great people like David HaMelekh! It seems, however, that David had little left of passion - both spiritual and physical. For when Avishag the Shunamite was brought to "warm his bed" he was "not intimate with her."
David had a troubled life, no doubt. David was not a perfect ruler, nor a perfect servant of G"d. Now that he was old and infirm, those around him plotted and schemed to secure their own futures. David was perhaps so "out of it" he didn't even realize all that was happening. However, he has a lucid enough moment to act to insure that his promise to Bathsheva, that her son Solomon would rule after David, would be kept. It took a little goading from Nathan the prophet, but David gathered enough energy and passion to spoil Adonijah's hopes and declare Solomon his successor.
I am reminded of the scene near the end of "Man of LaMancha" when, spurred on by the words of Aldonza and his faithful squire Sancho Panza, the dying Don Quixote shows a sudden burst of strength and passion, and he is once again ready to challenge the wicked--only to die in these throws of passion. Our scene is set--we have Bathsheva to play Aldonza and Nathan to play Sancho (though Nathan is perhaps more like Dr. Carrasco, mirroring Alonso Quixanos erratic behavior right back at him.)
But I digress. David's failure to be warm can perhaps be explained by more than just old age. His internal fire had grown dim - through his own actions, and how he responded to the world around him. What about us? I know that I certainly experience periods of spiritual cold, when it seems no amount of prayer, supplication, fasting, celebrating, etc. seems to be able to keep me warm. It's easy to blame this on external factors. "The rabbi led a lousy service." "The Hazzan sounded awful." Or we blame distractions. "I just can't stand hearing the organ" or "It just doesn't work for me when instruments are played on Shabbat" or "All this new-fangled music just doesn't do it for me" or "all this old fuddy-duddy music doesn't do it for me."
Now, to some extent, I'll accept that it can be hard to get your internal flame stimulated all the time. And some things really might not work for some people. However, ultimately, only two things can regulate our internal flame. We can, and G"d can. (And even G"d, but giving us free will, has limited G"d's ability to do that for us.) When something's not working for us, maybe we need to try harder to kindle our own internal flame, or find something that will help us do so. Or find something in the thing that's "not working" that maybe we couldn't see, or didn't try hard enough to see.
If we're never warm, perhaps we have only ourselves to blame? Time to turn up the gas.
An ailing King David says to Bathsheva: "As the L"rd lives, who has rescued me from every trouble: The oath I swore to you by the L"rd, the G"d of Israel, that you son Solomon should succeed me as King and that he should sit upon my throne in my stead, I will fulfill this very day!" (1 Kings 1:29-30, JPS)
As a dying Alonso Quixanos says to those around him: "Not well? What is illness to the body of a knight-errant? What matter wounds? For each time he falls, he shall rise again, and woe to the wicked." (Man of LaMancha-Dale Wasserman, Mitch Leigh, Joe Darion.)
Not warm? Never seem to be able to get warm? Turn your own spiritual flame up high. Dream your impossible dream.
©2006 by Adrian A. Durlester
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