Avraham ben Yaakov



Our chapter opens with the very surprising news that Solomon married the daughter of the king of the very nation that had ignominiously enslaved and been forced to release Israel hundreds of years earlier. Rashi (on v 3) notes that the verses in this chapter are not in historical sequence, for Solomon's dream in Giv'on (vv 5ff) took place at the very beginning of his reign, whereas it was not until three years afterwards that he made his marriage alliance with Pharoah. This was directly after the death of Solomon's teacher, Shimi ben Gera (narrated out of sequence at the end of the preceding chapter in order to complete the account of Solomon's settling David's outstanding scores). From the proximity of verse 1 of our present chapter to the last verses of the previous chapter, our rabbis taught that as long as his teacher was alive, Solomon did not make this questionable move of intermarriage, deducing that a person should always live close to his teacher in order to stay on the right track (Rashi on v 1).

Solomon's move was questionable because the Torah states that "you shall not intermarry with them [i.e. the other nations]" (Deut. 7:3). Some rabbis held that intermarriage would only be forbidden if the non-Israelite party to the marriage does not convert, but others held that converting them in order to marry is also forbidden. Another factor raising questions about Solomon's move is the tradition that no converts were accepted in the times of David and Solomon because the prestige of Israel was so great that potential converts would all have had ulterior motives. However the Talmud explicitly states that this did not apply to the daughter of Pharaoh, who had enough wealth not to need to marry Solomon for money (Talmud Yevamos 76a).

A further question is how Solomon could have converted and then married an Egyptian woman when the Torah states that an Egyptian convert may not enter the Assembly until the third generation (Deut. 23:9). However, this objection is countered by a tradition (not accepted halachically) that the referenced verse applies only to an Egyptian male but not to a female (which would make the law of the Egyptian parallel to the law forbidding a Moabite but not a Moabitess from ever entering the Assembly.

Despite the many questions that surround it, we do not find Solomon's marriage to Pharaoh's daughter criticized in our text as being intrinsically sinful: verse 3 does implicitly criticize Solomon for sacrificing at many high altars but does not criticize him for marrying Pharaoh's daughter. It was only in his old age, when Solomon took many wives, that he was criticized for allowing them to turn his heart aside from God.

It stands to reason that the exact intent of the supremely wise Solomon in marrying the daughter of Israel 's former persecutors would be beyond the ability of simple people like ourselves to grasp. Since PHARAOH represents the OREPH ("back of the neck", same Hebrew letters as Pharaoh) of creation as opposed to its inner face, the conversion of his daughter by Solomon and her integration into the holy edifice that he was building was a "coup" similar to the conversion of Batya, the daughter of Pharaoh who drew Moses out of the water. The "daughter of Pharaoh" represents the source of all the different kinds of worldly wisdom (which are her "handmaidens"). By "converting" and "marrying" her, Solomon was perhaps very daringly and ambitiously striving to deepen and enhance the revelation of God's unity on all levels of creation. If so, it was apparently still over-ambitious, because Solomon proved unable to hold his "catch" within the bounds of holiness, and indeed he himself strayed beyond them. In retribution, said the rabbis, at the very moment when Solomon married Pharaoh's daughter, the angel Gabriel (GEVURAH, "might", withholding and concealing) descended and drove the first stake into the sea in the very place where more and more sediment eventually collected to form the foundation of what was to become Israel's nemesis: the city of Rome (Talmud Shabbos 56b).


Prior to his heart-enticing marriages with foreign women, Solomon passionately followed the Torah of his father David. If he was criticized, it was only for "sacrificing in the high places". This was actually permitted as long as the Temple was not built in Jerusalem . Since the sacking of the Sanctuary of Shilo by the Philistines in the time of Ely and the slaughter of the priests of Nov by Saul, the Sanctuary with the vessels of Moses had been in Giv'on, except for the Ark of the Covenant, which David had taken to Jerusalem . Whereas David had sacrificed only at the "great" Altar in Giv'on (this was the copper Altar made by Moses) or at an altar that he erected before the Ark in Jerusalem, Solomon also sacrificed in other high places (until the building of the Temple), and while this was still permitted, it was seen as a deviation from David's path and as needlessly delaying the building of the Temple in Jerusalem (Rashi and RaDaK on v 3).


Whereas David's kingship was founded on the sword of prayer and faith - he had to fight throughout his life - Solomon's kingship was founded on the very WISDOM and UNDERSTANDING which he had the good sense to request when God offered him anything he wanted. At the tender age of 12 (Rashi and RaDaK on v 7) when many intelligent youngsters tend to be highly arrogant, the wise young King Solomon had the humility to understand he would need divine help in judging the busy, quarrelsome Israelites - for kingship (MALCHUS) is founded on Judgment (MISHPAT=TIFERES, the center column, balance) and the repair of Judgment depends upon BINAH, "understanding". Solomon thus asked God to "give Your servant a LISTENING heart" (v 9) in order to HEAR and UNDERSTAND, while God responded even more generously by giving him a heart that was WISE as well as UNDERSTANDING (v 12). CHOKHMAH, "wisdom", is the ability to GRASP, know and remember what one learns, while BINAH, "understanding", is the ability to ANALYZE what one knows in order to make new inferences, "understanding one thing from another" (RaDaK on v 12).

When Solomon awoke from his dream he knew that his request had been granted, because "he heard a bird chirping and understood its language, and he heard a dog barking and he understood what it was saying" (Rashi on v 15).


Solomon's first dramatic demonstration of his divinely-granted powers of judgment came with the arrival of the two "whores" who were quarreling about which of their two babies died and to whom the surviving child belonged.

The Talmudic teacher Rav held that these two "whores" were actually spirits. Rabbi Simon in the name of R. Yehoshua ben Levi said they were literally prostitutes. A third opinion, offered by unnamed sages, is that they were actually a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:10).

This third opinion immeasurably sharpens the dispute between them on the assumption that the aggrieved mother who started pleading before the king saying that she had been the first to give birth (vv 17-18) was the mother-in-law. If the second woman - her daughter-in-law, who gave birth three days later - lost her husband AFTER the birth of her mother-in-law's baby and subsequently lost her own baby (an only child), it would mean that according to the law of the levirate marriage she would have to marry her mother-in-law's baby, the brother of her dead husband, her YAVAM, since with the death of her own baby her dead husband left no living issue. In any event she would have to wait thirteen years until her mother-in-law's baby became a legal adult in order to either carry out the mitzvah of YIBUM by marrying his dead brother's widow or release her from their bond through HALITZAH, "removal of the brother-in-law's sandal" (see Deut. 25:5ff).

Having to wait for thirteen years as a stranded AGUNAH before she could regularize her status would give the daughter-in-law a very strong incentive to take her mother-in-law's baby as her own, because if she could make it appear that her dead husband did have surviving issue this would release her from the bond of YIBUM with any of his brothers. Likewise, it would not bother her in the least if the king sliced the living child in half, because if he was indeed the sole surviving brother of her dead husband, his death would automatically release her from any bond of YIBUM in the absence of any YAVAM, leaving her free to marry anyone she wanted.

Before Solomon delivered his judgment, he first made sure to repeat the claims of each woman in his own words (v 23) to make it clear that he had understood exactly what they were saying. In this he provided a model for every good DAYAN ("judge"), who must review the claims made by the rival claimants before delivering judgment.

Solomon's brilliant bluff ordering a sword to be brought immediately elicited the natural motherly compassion of the true mother and exposed the lying baby-thief for what she was. "And all Israel heard the judgment that the king decided and they were in awe before the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment" (v 28).

* * * The passage in I Kings 3:15-28 and 4:1 is read as the Haftara of Parshas Miketz, Genesis 41:1-44:17 unless this parshah is read on Shabbos Chanukah * * *



David had been king over Judah in Hebron before he was accepted as king over all Israel . It is a tribute to David's lifelong struggle that the entire nation was now able to unite in accepting one king. They did so because they saw Solomon's divinely-bestowed wisdom and everyone rejoiced in his kingship (Rashi on v 1).

Listed first and foremost among Solomon's officers is the Priest - because the entire national agenda was now focused on building a functioning Temple . Solomon had scribes to write down his governmental decisions and dispatch them for execution; he had a MAZKIR (lit. "one who makes you remember") i.e. a "secretary" to make records of events and archive them. Like Saul and David, Solomon had his commander-in-chief. Listed among his officers is also "the king's friend" - presumably one who was likewise very wise indeed and with whom Solomon doubtless loved to fathom the depths of wisdom.


Solomon's kingship is portrayed as a model of good order, in which twelve NETZIVIM, "appointed officers", were in charge of collecting all the provisions, materials and other needs of the royal household and army from twelve regions into which the Land of Israel was divided. These regions did NOT correspond to the territorial portions of the Twelve Tribes, which were uneven both in area and in the kind of land they comprised. Rather, these twelve regions represented a fair division of the entire land into portions each one of which could sustain the royal household for one of the twelve months of the year (Radak on v 8).

The twelve months of the year correspond to the twelve possible permutations of the holy "essential" name of God, "HaVaYaH" (YKVK). These are discussed at length in SEFER YETZIRA, the earliest kabbalistic text, attributed to our father Abraham. This was certainly known to Solomon (whose Proverbs contain certain allusions to the wisdom of Sefer Yetzirah).

Just as the "sun" of the Name of HaVaYaH (=Zeir Anpin) shines month by month with different permutations to the "moon" of MALCHUS, "kingship" (=Nukva), so King Solomon (MALCHUS, the receiving vessel of Zeir Anpin=Chochmah) received his PARNASSAH ("livelihood") from TWELVE different regions of Eretz Israel , which itself corresponds to the Partzuf of Malchus.

" Judah and Israel multiplied like the sand of the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and rejoicing" (v 20). "In the time of Solomon they were blessed with the fruit of the womb and they multiplied, as did the fruits of their animals and their land, and they ate and drank and rejoiced, for they had no fear of any enemy" (RaDaK on v 20).

May a new golden age even greater than that of Solomon speedily be inaugurated by the building of the Holy Temple that we now await!



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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