REMEMBER the story of Naboth in ancient Israel?
He possessed a lovely vineyard right next to the palace of King Ahab. Ahab coveted that vineyard because it was close and convenient, and offered Naboth to trade it for a better one, or to buy it.
Naboth told Ahab that he could not part with his ancestors’ heritage.
The arrogant king was angry that Naboth had even spoken up to him, let alone denied him the vineyard.
Ahab turned sullen, too angry to eat, and told his wife Jezebel, who said she’d take care of everything. The evil woman indeed did so.
She wrote scrolls in Ahab’s name, sealing them with the king’s signet, declaring a fast, apparently for the purpose of assembling the people to determine what sins had to be remedied.
“Seat Naboth at the head of the table,” she wrote, “then seat two unscrupulous people opposite him, to testify against him [to delineate his sin]. . . . Then take him out and stone him to death.”
And so it happened.
Whereupon Jezebel told Ahab to inherit the vineyard, and he did.
Elijah the Prophet rebuked Ahab sharply: “Will you murder and also inherit? . . . In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, the dogs will lick up your blood as well” (I Kings 21:1-19).
Ahab’s guilt is clear.
Jezebel’s guilt is clear.
But what about Naboth? What did he do deserve this fate?
The midrash comments:
G-D endowed Naboth with the most beautiful singing voice of his generation. Three times a year, when the Israelites would make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Naboth would sing on the Temple Mount, and all the pilgrims enjoyed the beauty of his song.
Then one day, pride went to his head; he was swayed by the admiration of the crowds. The next time he went to Jerusalem, he refused to sing until the people begged and pleaded with him. He agreed only after the entreaties of ministers and leaders, and finally he stopped singing altogether.
Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Naboth:
“You had a role in this world, and it was to bring joy to other living creatures. I gave you that talent. I placed this melodious bell in your throat, so that you would ring it and your voice would carry afar.
“But you are withholding from my creatures what they deserve to enjoy, not what you deserve to have. Do not withhold a good thing from its proper owner. I am bringing you back to me, because you have no more goal in life.
“You have not fulfilled the mission for which I designated you.”*
EVERY person has a unique mission; no one else can fulfill it. In the Diaspora, can we really do anything for Israel? Indeed we can.
This one by raising funds.
This one by political lobbying.
This one by organizing rallies.
This one by attending rallies.
This one by praying.
This one by studying Torah.
This one by sending toys to Sderot.
This one by sending gifts of food to the soldiers via countless companies and groups.
This one by writing articles.
This one by explaining the situation to his neighbor and co-worker.
This one by . . . the list is endless. Naboth did not really meet an untimely end; he timed it himself, so to speak, by withholding his unique talent that G-d had given him.
We can all do something for Israel right now via our own unique talent or capacity.
THIS week’s Torah portion reads, “When you beget children and grandchildren and will have been long in the Land, you will grow corrupt and make a carved image of anything, and you will do evil in the eyes of the L-rd” (Deut. 4:25).
Idolatry denies G-d.
Idolatry is evil.
Idolatry comes in many forms besides graven images, such as decadent lifestyles or corrupt ideas. Idolatry stems from being long in the Land — routinized, desensitized, taking things for granted, becoming cynical, empty of confidence in the Land’s opportunities to bring us close to G-d.
Self-confidence — in my power to grow closer to G-d and do His work — confidence in my power to make a difference.
Be not “long in the Land.”
If the Land remains fresh, if the magnitude of its gift from G-d remains awesome, each and every one of us can find a gift of our own to let the Land sing.
Each and every one of us can do something for Israel.
Can make a difference.
Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News