As the Jewish people in Israel came together on Sunday, the 9th of the month of Av in the Hebrew calendar, to search our national soul, President Reuven Rivlin pointed to his weekly Bible study as a crucial, even prophetic message for the future of our nation and family.
As we try to find meaning, or even redemption in the tragedies that have befallen our people beginning with the destruction of the two Holy Temples in Jerusalem, the resulting thousands of years of exile, the Spanish Inquisition and other major catastrophes that occurred on this date (see my recent article on Tisha B’Av), President Rivlin gives us a refreshingly self-aware reading from his weekly Bible portion that can shine some meaning, consolation and a way forward through our ongoing national anguish.
Translated here from the Hebrew:
“This year, the beginning of August comes together with the month of Av, in which we refrain from excessive rejoicing in order to take time to reflect and search our souls as a nation in light of our many tragedies. And yet, August is also the height of summer, the time of our children’s school vacations and family holidays.
Both of these coming together convey an important message to us – the responsibility we must embrace for our shared destiny as a people – and the responsibility we have as parents towards our children, those who are away in summer camps and those who are away because they can already manage without us.
Both of these dimensions (nation and family) come together in the Bible study we held this day on “David – King and Father.” Reading the Bible can be complex and personally challenging for all of us, but it must never be abandoned or avoided, no matter how difficult we might find its conclusions. There is nothing like the Bible in its directness, power and the influence it has over us when we read it and meet in it ourselves and our God.
King David is one of the most fascinating and complex characters in the Bible. David’s greatness as a king is never doubted, though his behavior is often painful and raw, his character complicated.
The Bible considers the sordid rape by Amnon of his half-sister Tamar (both David’s children), as well as the death of his son Absalom, as punishment for David’s sin with Bat-Sheva. David’s crisis is profound, reflecting the convolutions of his own complex personality.
When David remains silent, unwilling to get involved in the tragedy of his children Amnon and Tamar, when their father is absent, though present, David has failed as a father, and as a leader. Failures that continue to fester.
David’s negligence surrounding his children Amnon and Tamar opens the door for his son Absalom’s rebellion and the eventual undermining and tearing down of David’s Kingdom.
It can be said that being brought up in “a good family” does not discharge parents from their parental responsibilities but rather is an obligation that requires an ongoing commitment. Likewise, to become a “good son or daughter” must be proven out in the lives of our children, but no less in the actions of their fathers and mothers.
It is precisely during these days of soul-searching that this message must be addressed both within our nation and within our families.”