As we saw last week at the beginning of our reading of the book of First Samuel, the kingdom of Israel was in disarray. This book is a meditation on the nature of leadership and its opening passages describe a time when the highest authorities were misguided or inept, nearly leading to the destruction of an entire people. In today's reading, we will see the death of the priest Eli and the naming of a donkey herder called Saul to the office of king (or more accurately, "leader").
Few figures in Jewish scripture are as interesting and well known as David. He is a central actor in the first book of Samuel from the readings of Nevi'im, Prophets. David is so intriguing not just because he begins as a heroic figure but because he is profoundly flawed. His arc is tragic but not without redemption and the symbols manifested in his story are some of the most enduring in all of Jewish thought. David's tale has many things in common with other great stories in history. It's part Lancelot and part Ziggy Stardust, an exciting drama of love, war, family and passion. To fully understand David, we need to start with the very first passages of Shmu'el Aleph, the book of First Samuel.
Though we have customs and rituals that give us some degree of a common experience during our holidays, our unique associations with festivals like Chanukah are what we remember most vividly. It's important to remember these traditions and moments from our pasts so we can contemplate why the holidays are important to us. These are some of my memories about Chanukah from when I was growing up. Some are common, some are particular to me.
In just a few days the holiday of Channukah is going to start, but that also means that we are in the thick of the Christmas season. In the modern world, Jews have the opportunity to experience Christmas as a time when people all across the shared culture of our national identities choose to hold the virtues of kindness and peacefulness in especially high regard. Though it is still a Christian religious holiday, there are ways observant Jews can appreciate many of the sentiments of the Christmas season.