Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saul & David

If David lived a life of complete agony, Saul's well defined endless pain. Chosen as King when he did not wish it, compelled to fight battle after battle against God's enemies, having been willing to sacrifice his son for breaking the command he gave that they must fast that day (does this show how much he valued God?) while nonetheless angrily shouting at that son because he defied his father and weakened his claim to the monarchy, and what is worst, knowing that he walked to his death, entering that battle doomed and knowing his sons, too, were doomed...having lied to them that they would live (as Samuel only appeared to him, and no one else), having had the spirit of God depart from him and the spirit of darkness settle on him...his life was in many ways cursed. The dark depression caused by this spirit of madness and unhappiness that haunted him creates one of the most fascinating, complex, and intriguing characters in Tanakh. Ecclesiastes and Samuel have always been my favorite sefarim for this reason.

There's a television show I watch that is a modern-day version of the Book of Shmuel (with obvious twists, tweaks and departures from the biblical story) that is nonetheless brilliantly done. It helped me understand better Saul's character and his descent into madness. The episode entitled 'The Sabbath Queen' was brilliantly moving in that way; Saul never seemed as real to me as he does now. (Warning: This TV show is by no means for everybody, especially not those who have not spent time studying the actual book of Shmuel and could easily be confused between what happens and does not happen in Shmuel's account. It is also not for those who cannot bear with scholarly conjecture, and thus, departures from the Judaic approach.)

Perhaps one of the (many fascinating) ideas presented within this episode was the Angel of Death's depiction as a woman. I have never thought of the Angel of Death as posessing the sadistic, cruel grace of a woman in manipulating, torturing and otherwise killing her prey. The Jewish approach has him as being more of a straightforward character; he comes and collects souls as that is his job- but does not take pleasure in the pain of others. Also interesting, they equated the Angel of Death with the dark spirit that rested upon Saul. Now I am curious to see whether any traditional commentary defines the ruach ra'ah that afflicts him as synonymous with Satan.

1 comment:

fear from love. said...

Satan has three roles, one being the yetzer harah, one being the prosecutor in heaven when we do something wrong, and the final being the malach hamavet.

the Satsn being a malach, a messenger if you will, has a job, and once given the job will carry it out as directed by G-d. But to suggest the Satan/Malach HaMavet has a personality, has any choice of its own would be a pretty big assumption. An angel does as it is told, no more. However we do see episodes in the gemarah and tanach, where the Angel of Death has debates with G-d about bringing catastrophe on people such a Job or on the entire nation, for exmaple when destroying Jerusalem, but these are not to be taken literally, as in reality it is G-d, Ein Od Milvado, having the debate but it is presented as a G-d vs. Satan argument.

I do not have a Sefer Shmuel nearby but i would recommend looking at the artscroll Rubin Edition of the Early Prophets for insight into the nature of Sauls Ruach Ra'ah (and by the way we do view the ruach Ra'ah as a remnant of our "death" overnight whilst sleeping, so that could be a connection to the Satan) but perhaps the ruach ra'ah is just a name given to his depressed state of mind, which is not ideal, mitzvah gedolah lihiyot besimcha, and all!

finally in realtion to the female personification of the Angel of Death, i would suggest reading about Lilith, a Demon, but be careful where you look as Lilith is found in many other cultures and religions.

Hope that helps.