Congregation Ohave Shalom - Young Israel of Pawtucket

On-line Tanach Class


This week we began to look at Michal, the daughter of Shaul. This woman was both the daughter of King Shaul and the wife of King David, and so she was a key figure in both monarchies.

Today we went through the events in Tanach which involved Michal, with a straightforward reading of sections from Shemuel I and Shemuel II.

Michal's First Mention
Michal is first mentioned, along with her older sister Merav, in Shemuel I 14. This mention occurs immediately after Shaul conquered certain local enemies, strengthening his position and that of the Jewish people in the region. The verses there enumerate Shaul's children, and Merav and Michal are included. This, itself, is interesting - the Torah and Prophets rarely enumerate daughters, opting instead to mentions the [predominantly male] names of households. However, Merav and Michal played significant historical roles, and this may be why they are mentioned in Shemuel I 14.

Michal's Marriage to David
In Shemuel I 15, Shaul was ordered by Shemuel to wage war against Amalek, and to wipe them out. Shaul failed to do so, leaving King Agag alive. [Agag was then able to impregnate a woman before Shemuel killed him, and that woman's child was the ancestor of Haman, who tried to destroy the Jewish people in the Purim story.]
Shemuel rebuked Shaul for this misstep, and ultimately stripped his monarchy from him. HaShem sent Shemuel to annoint David, although David wouldn't officially take the throne for some time. Shaul fell into a deep depression, and his servants recommended that David be brought to play for him and gladden him.
David became famous when he defeated Goliath in war, and this fame led Shaul to become jealous of David. Shaul offered his elder daughter, Merav, to David. Shaul also wanted to make David into a general, and Tanach informs us that Shaul hoped that the Philistines would kill David in war. [As Phyllis pointed out, King David himself would use this strategy later, to have a rival killed.]

When Shaul offered Merav, David demurred; he said he was unfit to be a king's son-in-law. Merav married someone else, but Michal fell in love with David. Shaul then attempted to marry her to David, only to meet with the same refusal. King Shaul told David that there would be no need for payment from David; he would only have to prove his valor by battling the Philistines. Specifically, David was told to bring 100 foreskins of Philistines to Shaul. David and his men returned with 200 foreskins, and David married Michal.

David Flees
As David's fame grew, so did Shaul's enmity. Finally, Shaul ordered a squadron of men to come to David's house in the morning, and kill him. Michal learned of the plot, and lowered David out the window. She set up a dummy in his bed, to stall for time. Finally, when Shaul's men tried to take "David" from his bed, they discovered that they had been tricked. David got away, and went on the run.

King Shaul gave Michal to another man, Palti ben Layish, as a wife. We will have to look at the legal state of her marriage to David next week, to ascertain what happened here. It is clear within Midrash that Palti did not actually live with her as a spouse, though.

Michal is Reunited with King David
King Shaul died in battle with the Plishtim. After his death, a group followed his son, Ishboshes. This group included one of Shaul's generals, a man named Avner. Avner ultimately had a falling-out with Ishboshes (Shemuel II 3), and sent a message to King David that he would serve King David. King David agreed to a truce, on condition that Avner would turn over Michal. King David then sent a message to Ishboshes, officially requesting that Michal be returned to him; Ishboshes did so.

Michal's Rebuke
Further along (Shemuel II 5), King David battled the Philistines and was victorious. After this, he sought to bring the Ark, which contained the Two Tablets from Sinai, back to the heart of the Jewish people. Fifty years earlier, the Philistines had taken the Ark from the Jews in war. They had returned it shortly thereafter, to the people of Kiryat Yearim, where it had remained until now. King David wanted to bring it to Yerushalayim.

On bringing the Ark back, King David brought offerings and danced wildly before the Ark (Shemuel II 6), wearing a skirt-like tunic. Michal saw this, and was ashamed of him. When King David returned to their home, she said sarcastically, "How honored is the king of Israel today! He was revealed before the maids of slaves today, like some vagrant!" King David responded, "I danced before Gd, Who chose me over your father and over your father's whole household, making me the leader of all of the Jews!" King David continued to tell her that this was appropriate behavior, for the occasion.

Tanach tells us that Michal would not have children from that day on, until her death.

Clearly, there is a lot to learn about here. Over the next couple of weeks (we'll be learning about this between Minchah and Maariv on the first day of Shavuos), hopefully, we'll see what our sages have seen in the life of Michal.

Have a good week and a good Yom Tov,
Mordechai Torczyner



This week we learned about some of the events which made Michal the fulcrum in the see-saw of power between King Shaul and King David.

Michal: Personal Information
We began by mentioning a few personal facts regarding Michal.

The name, "Michal," appears once in Tanach as a noun (Shemuel II 17:20). In that verse, it refers to a stream of water. Michal also had another name, "Eglah," which refers to a female calf. The sages have given a few reasons for this name. One reason (Rashi Shemuel II 3:5) is that this actually referred to her status as King David's most beloved wife; "Eglah" was an expression of affection. Later we'll see some more reasons given for this name.

The Gemara in Megillah (15a) mentions that Michal was extraordinarily beautiful; even looking at her face would make a man want to leave his own wife, for her.

Michal in the Middle
Our introduction to the relationship between the future King David and Michal also introduces the problematic involvement of King Saul. We are told (Shemuel I 18:28-29), "And Saul saw, and he knew that Gd was with David, and Michal, his daughter, loved David. Saul's fear of David increased, etc." Literally, this is a reference to Saul perceiving David's military success, and becoming concerned over that success. The Midrash and the commentators noted, though, that the verse added an apparently unnecessary reference to Michal's love in the same verse.

Radak explains that Saul grew afraid because he knew that his daughter would learn of any plot he were to plan against David, and attempt to block it (as she actually did, in the end). Ralbag adds that Saul didn't want to harm his daughter's beloved. Ralbag also notes that King Saul took Michal's love as an omen; if David's charm could turn Saul's own family against him, then what chance did Saul have?

The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 37:4) actually perceives an element of punishment for King Saul in his daughter's love for David. King Saul vowed (Shemuel I 17:25) that he would give his daughter in marriage to the warrior who would defeat Goliath. The Midrash says that this was an improper vow - and Gd fixed Saul for it, by having King Saul's hated rival, David, be the one to defeat Goliath.

Marriage to Merav
Last week, we mentioned that Michal had an older sister, Merav. As we learned then, King Saul offered Merav to David, but David said he was not fit to marry her. As Radak (Shemuel I 18:22) points out, though, there are many commentators who believe that David actually did marry Merav.

This presents us with two problems:
1. How could David then marry Michal, who was Merav's sister?
2. Merav is listed as marrying a man named Edriel, and having kids by him!

The Midrash (Sanhedrin 19b, Tosefta Sotah 11:17-19) presents two possible answers:
A. King David married Merav, and then King Saul illegally gave Merav to another man, Edriel. King David only married Michal after Merav died.
B. The marriage to Merav was actually "Kiddushei Taus," marriage based on an error. The error is an interesting one:
In order to create marriage, a man must present a woman with an item of unambiguous value, such as the wedding ring we traditionally use. A man may not loan a woman money or an item, and call that "marriage."
King Saul made a promise (Shemuel I 17:25) that he would give great wealth to the warrior who would defeat Goliath. As such, King Saul and his family owed David great wealth. In that case, whatever he could do for Merav would be irrelevant, compared to the great debt owed to him by her and her father. It was considered Kiddushei Taus, marriage based on an error.
The Gemara notes that this - that David was not actually married to Merav - may be seen later (Shemuel II 3:14) when David specifies that Michal is the wife he has married, as if to say, "She is my wife - not Merav."

Michal saves David from King Saul
We then turned to the story of Michal saving David from King Saul's planned ambush. As we mentioned last week, she learned of the plot and lowered David from the window, and then filled his bed with a mannequin in order to pretend he was there. She stalled the soldiers with a ruse that David was ill, and by the time they found out he wasn't there, he was long gone.

The Midrash notes that Tehillim 59 was written for this occasion, commemorating Michal's act. The Midrash (Midrash Tehillim 59:3) also mentions that the famous verse, "Matza Ishah Matza Tov (Mishlei 18:22)," "One who finds a woman has found goodness," is a reference to Michal's valor.

The Midrash (Midrash Shemuel 22:4) records that when King Saul discovered Michal's deed, he asked her how she could betray him thus. She responded by trembling and saying that David had threatened her life, so that her father would not suspect her true loyalties. The Midrash suggests that this is one possible meaning of Michal's "Eglah" pseudonym, as she trembled like a calf before Saul. Alternatively, another Midrash (Midrah Tehillim 59:4) says she was compared to a (wild) calf because she wouldn't accept her father's yoke.

As we have seen before, Ralbag presents practical lessons we can learn from each story recorded in Navi (the Prophets). There are two lessons of special note which he mentions here:

1. We see that Michal went above and beyond what she had to do. Not only did she lower David from the window, but she also carried out a complicated trick to stall for time, with the mannequin in the bed. We learn that a person should not be satisfied with the minimum; he should always strive to do everything possible toward a goal.
2. We see that Gd protects those who trust Him. King Saul planned to have David die in battle, and so he married David to Michal and made him a front-line general. The result, though, was that the marriage to Michal saved David's life.

We have much more to see regarding Michal; come back next week for Michal's marriage to Palti ben Layish, and much more!

Have a good week,
Mordechai Torczyner



This week we dealt with two issues in the relationship between Michal and King David: Michal's marriage to Palti ben Layish, and Michal's rebuke of King David.

Michal's Marriage to Palti ben Layish
We are told, in Shemuel I (25:44), that King Shaul married off his daughter to Palti ben Layish. Later (Shemuel II 3), after King Shaul's death, King David sent a message to Shaul's son, Ishboshes, asking that Michal be sent back to him. She came back to him, and they lived together as husband and wife.

This presents two problems:

1. How could King Shaul marry off his daughter to Palti, if she was already married to David?

Indeed, the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 32:1) points out the seriousness of the problem, saying that Doeg, King Shaul's trusted advisor, permitted adultery by telling Shaul it was okay to marry her off to Palti. The Midrash says that Doeg told Shaul that since David was a rebel against the king, he was liable for the death penalty. Therefore, it was as though David were dead. [This argument is, of course, Halachically untenable even if David had been a true "rebel against the king."]

2. Under Jewish law, if a man's wife lives with another man willingly, she and her husband are now prohibited to each other. In that case, how did King David and Michal get back together?

Our sages attempted to deal with these problems in five ways. The multiplicity of approaches tells us that each view has a flaw; were it not so, there would be no need for five approaches.

A. David and Michal were not married at the time when she was given to Palti ben Layish.

According to this explanation, David and Michal were never married, although Tanach tells us that Michal loved David and that there had been some sort of betrothal.
The Radak mentions this potential answer, and seeks to buttress it from a verse listing King David's wives (Shemuel I 25:43). The verse mentions two women, and says, "The two of them were his wives." The implication is that no other women were David's wives.

There are two major flaws in this approach:
1. In the story we mentioned last week, about King Shaul's attempted ambush to kill David, it seems as though Michal and David were alone together in the house. At that time there was no prohibition against a man being alone with a single woman, but the arrangement seems to have been a marriage arrangement.
2. In Shemuel I 19:11, Michal is referred to as "Michal Ishto," which usually would translate as "Michal, his wife." It takes an extreme stretch to translate these words as anything else.

B. Michal and Palti ben Layish weren't truly married

According to this approach, which is advocated in the Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 23:10) and Gemara (Sanhedrin 19b), Palti and Michal never lived together as husband and wife.
The Midrash bolsters this by pointing to the fact that Palti was named "Paltiel" when he returned Michal to David. The addition of the name, "El," which is sometimes a reference to Gd, indicated that Gd had helped Palti keep from sinning with Michal.
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 19b) says that when Palti cried on returning Michal, it was actually over having lost the chance to have the Mitzvah of bearing children with Michal.

Radak (Shemuel I 25:43) rejects this idea, saying that it calls for a non-literal reading of the text.

C. David did marry Michal, but the marriage was not valid.

This goes back to an idea we mentioned last week, regarding Michal's sister, Merav. I'll quote the idea here, from last week's email:

In order to create marriage, a man must present a woman with an item of unambiguous value, such as the wedding ring we traditionally use. A man may not loan a woman money or an item, and call that "marriage."
King Saul made a promise (Shemuel I 17:25) that he would give great wealth to the warrior who would defeat Goliath.

As such, King Saul and his family owed David great wealth. In that case, whatever David could do for Michal would be irrelevant, compared to the great debt owed to him by her and her father. It was considered Kiddushei Taus, marriage based on an error.

Radak (Shemuel I 25:43) rejects this idea, too, saying that it is not in the text.

D. Michal married Palti ben Layish illegally.

While this may appear the most obvious answer by William of Ockham's standards, the Radak (Shemuel I 25:43) points out that it leaves a major question unanswered - how could King David have returned to Michal?

E. David gave an invalid Get to Michal.

Radak (Shemuel I 25:43) suggests this very interesting answer. There was a fair span of time between David's escape from the ambush, and Michal's marriage to Palti. Radak suggests that King Shaul forced David to give Michal a Get, a bill of divorce.

Of course, a "Get Me'useh," a forced Get, is invalid. As such, David and Michal remained married to each other. Michal, though, was unaware that the Get was forced. She married Palti in good faith. When David disclosed that the Get had been invalid, she returned to him. There was no penalty for her time with Palti, as she had not known she was still married to David.

Michal's Rebuke of King David
This brings us to the next major story in Michal's life, her rebuke of King David.

Some time after Michal and King David were reunited, King David bought property in Yerushalayim from the Yevusi nation. He then sought to bring the Aron, the Ark containing the Tablets from Sinai, to Yerushalayim. When the Ark was brought, there were offerings and there was dancing. As mentioned two weeks ago, King David danced with great fervor, to the point were his tunic lifted from the ground in an immodest fashion. Michal witnessed this from the window.

When King David returned to their home, Michal said sarcastically, "How honored is the king of Israel today! He was revealed before the maids of slaves today, like some vagrant!" King David responded, "I danced before Gd, Who chose me over your father and over your father's whole household, making me the leader of all of the Jews!" King David continued to tell her that this was appropriate behavior, for the occasion. "Were I shamed more than this, and I were low in my eyes, with the maids you mentioned I would be honored!"

The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 4:20) points out, explaining King David's biting response, that Michal actually came out and rebuked David in public. We see this in the verse - she actually came out and delivered her rebuke before the nation.

The Gemara (Jerusalem Talmud Succah 5:4 and Sanhedrin 6:7) suggests that there was something more here than a personal disagreement.

The house of King Shaul was known for its Tznius, its modesty. Tznius reflects more than a desire to keep a low profile; Tznius is an element of dignity and honor. A person who takes himself/herself seriously, and is upholding a standard of behavior, does not act in an undignified manner. We are told that the house of King Shaul took this to an extreme; they never raised their feet high in walking, lest an ankle be visible.

As a matter of fact, the Gemara there tells us that King David knew that King Shaul's Tznius was his hallmark. At one point during King Shaul's pursuit of David, Shaul went to use the bathroom in a cave, not knowing that David was hiding there. David cut off a piece of King Shaul's cloak, as if to say, "I could have killed you, had I wanted to." More, though, the Gemara says that David opted not to kill King Shaul when he observed the dignity and Tznius with which King Shaul behaved at the toilet.

Michal was rebuking King David by telling him that her father's household had been dignified and proper; his sort of dancing was improper.

King David's reply is to be taken in the same light. King David's response is that the house of King Shaul was concerned for their own honor, but that his own house is, indeed, not as concerned for its own honor. HaShem chose the house of King David for their humility, and their concern for the honor of Heaven. This was what led him to dance this way.

Gd-willing, next week we will wrap up our look at Michal by studying two more topics: 1. Her childlessness, and 2. The Midrash which mentions that Michal wore Tefillin.

Have a good week,
Mordechai Torczyner



This week we looked at two more issues in the life of Michal, the daughter of Shaul:
1. Did Michal have children?
2. Michal and the Mitzvah of Tefillin

Did Michal have children?
As we saw last week, Michal received a punishment for having publicly shamed her husband, King David. We are taught (Shemuel II 6:23), "And Michal, the daughter of Shaul, did not have a child until the day she died." This would seem to indicate that she bore no children, but there are a couple of dissident views within our tradition:

A. Michal had children before this story involving the rebuke of David

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 21a) indicates that Michal may have had children earlier in life.

This idea is boosted by a problematic passage in Shemuel II (3:2-5). In this passage, the wives of King David are listed. We know that King David had 6 wives, and 12 concubines. This passage lists 6 wives, but it does not count Michal among them! Where is Michal?
As we have mentioned before, the Midrashim suggest that the 6th wife, named Eglah, was actually Michal. Eglah is listed as having borne a son to King David - and so it appears that Michal did have a child, after all.
Radak amplifies this possibility by suggesting that this is why Eglah has the words, "Eishes Dovid," "Wife of David," appended to her name - Michal was the "special" wife of King David, in that she was his first wife and she was beloved to him.

B. Michal died in childbirth

This view, expressed in Sanhedrin 21a and other sources in Midrash and in Jerusalem Talmud, picks up on the words, "Ad Yom Mosah," "Until the day she died." They suggest that she died in giving birth.

Michal and the children of Merav
There is one other interesting point related to Michal and children. Shemuel II 21:8 lists, "And the five sons who Michal, the daughter of Shaul, birthed to Edriel, the son of Barzilai, the Mecholati."

The mention of five sons of Michal is interesting enough; what makes it more interesting is the father's name! Edriel was none other than the husband of Merav, Michal's older sister (Shemuel I 18:19)!

Sanhedrin 19b resolves this by suggesting that Michal raised the children after Merav died young. Ralbag (Shemuel I 25:44) augments this by pointing out that if Michal actually was childless, she might have been given the children to raise in the absence of any children of her own.

Michal and Tefillin
The Gemara (Eruvin 96a) mentions, in the course of a discussion about the nature of the Mitzvah of Tefillin, that Michal, the daughter of Shaul, wore Tefillin. The Gemara does not trace this to a verse; it appears to be a verbally-transmitted tradition.

It seems clear to the commentators that when we say Michal wore Tefillin, we mean that she wore Tefillin and recited a blessing on them - including the words, "Asher Kidishanu beMitzvosav veTzivanu…" "Who sanctified us with his Mitzvos, and commanded us…" However, it is equally clear that women are not included in the Mitzvah to wear Tefillin, as it is an action-based, time-bound commandment!

Tosafot (Eruvin 96a, Rosh haShanah 33a) conclude that women who wish to perform Mitzvos from which they are exempt may do so, and may even recite the associated blessing. Rashba, in a responsum (1:123), came to the same conclusion. This decision is widely followed among Ashkenazim. The fact that we say, "Who commanded us," in the blessing, is not considered an issue because there is a general commandment for the Mitzvah, even if it doesn't apply to the specific person performing the Mitzvah.

All of this is based on the edition of this Midrash which is recorded in Eruvin 96a - that the sages did not protest. The Midrash, however (see Pesikta Rabsi 23, Jerusalem Talmud Berachos 2:4 and Eruvin 10:1), has an alternate edition in which a view states that the sages did protest. Why would they have protested?

There are two rationales which may explain why the sages would have protested:

1. Rashi (Eruvin 96a) mentions that performing a Mitzvah in which one is not commanded is akin to adding on to the Torah. (cf. Rashi's comments to Sanhedrin 76b on "Lo Yoveh HaShem Seloach Lo")

2. Tefillin may have special status. Tefillin require a clean body and a clean mind. The issue of a clean body refers to making sure that no fluids discharged from inside the body are on the skin. As Tosafot explains (Eruvin 96a), women have greater difficulty with continual discharges than men do. (This is not a reference to menstrual blood, in particular; it is a problem with general discharge.) As such, even an opinion permitting the practice of "voluntary Mitzvos" might protest against Tefillin, specifically.

This wraps up our look at Michal, the daughter of Shaul. Next time, Gd-willing, we will begin to learn about Zerubavel.

Have a good week,

Mordechai Torczyner

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