The haftorah for this week’s parsha describes the efforts of the great
King Shlomo in the construction of the First Temple. King Shlomo himself
is a great and tragic figure. The attitude of the Talmud towards him is an
On one hand, he is the builder of the Temple, the expander of the kingdom,
the builder of great fortresses, and the administrator of twelve districts
of his country. He is also the wisest of all men who understands even the
sounds of animals and birds, the author of three of the great books of the
Bible and someone upon whom the Divine Spirit itself has rested.
And yet on the other hand, the Talmud questions his right to immortality,
criticizes his excesses and hubris, condemns his tolerance of the public
support of idolatry by his foreign wives and even attributes the rise of
Rome and the subsequent destruction of the Second Temple to his marrying
the daughter of the Egyptian Pharaoh.
Jewish legend actually has him driven off of his throne by a demon and
having to wander in exile for part of his life. All of this naturally dims
the luster of his great earlier accomplishment of building the Temple.
The haftorah parallels the parsha in the description of the work in
constructing the mishkan and its artifacts, with the same type of
artisanship in the creation of the Temple and its artifacts.
Shlomo, so to speak, becomes the second Moshe in supervising the building
of the house of God. But, in the case of Moshe, the building of the
mishkan was only one of his career’s accomplishments and was dwarfed by
his major accomplishment of teaching and instilling Torah within the
people of Israel. The building of the Temple by Shlomo was the highpoint
of his career and afterwards he slipped off of the mighty pedestal of
greatness that he had attained.
The Talmud teaches us that “happy are those whose later years do not shame
their earlier accomplishments.” My old law school professor taught us that
every lawyer makes a bad mistake at least once in his professional career.
He also stated that those who are fortunate enough to make that mistake
early in their career are truly blessed because they can recover and
Making it late in one’s professional life can be disastrous to one’s
reputation and life. The reverse trend may be true of accomplishments.
Early accomplishments can be very dangerous because they set a standard
and inspire a sense of self aggrandizement that will prevent any further
achievements. Only a gradual ascent and mature considerations, which
usually are part and parcel of advancing years, can guarantee that those
early achievements become lasting and untarnished by later behavior.
The comparison between the two great builders of God’s house – Moshe and
Shlomo - is illustrative of this truth.
Building God’s house is a great achievement in itself. Maintaining it and
using it for greater spiritual influence and instruction to the people of
Israel is an even greater achievement.
Rabbi Berel Wein