Almost every year Parsha Mikeitz is host to Chanukah and we read the Haftorah connected to Chanukah themes. This overrides the Haftorah that is associated with the theme of Miketz which concerns dreams.
Last week, when Parshas Mikeitz was after Chanukah, the Haftorah for Miketz that deals with the famous and intriguing story of King Solomon’s wisdom taken from the Book of Kings was read. I was caught by surprise and I want to take the opportunity to discuss this Haftorah.
Two women were living in the same house and each one gave birth to a son. While one of them was sleeping she accidently smothered her child to death. When she awoke and realized what had happened, she switched her dead baby with the other woman’s live baby while the other woman was still sleeping.
When the other woman woke up she immediately noticed that the dead baby was not hers and she confronted the other woman and accused her of switching the babies. She denied it and they decided to go to the newly anointed King Solomon for him to rule on the matter.
There is an introduction that the Book of Kings gives before this incident. King Solomon was anointed as King over Israel assuming the position of his father, King David, when he was merely twelve years old. In a prophetic dream he was told by G-d that he would be granted anything that he wished. Solomon asked for a heart of wisdom to judge the people. G-d was very impressed by his choice, since he could have asked for wealth and long years. G-d graciously granted to Solomon all these blessings.
When Solomon woke up he understood the chirping of the birds and what the dogs were conveying through their barking. He realized that his request for wisdom was granted.
The dilemma of these two women, who argued to whom the living baby belonged, was the first case brought to King Solomon for a ruling.
Rava in the Talmud is of the opinion that these two women were spirits – for it is highly unlikely that a mother would smother her baby to death. The situation was presented through spirits so that Solomon’s wisdom should be recognized.
When the case was presented to Solomon, each of the women presented their case.
The verses relate that after Solomon heard the two sides – he repeated their claims – so that they would feel that he understood what they each were claiming.
Rabbi Chaim Kanievski points out that generally speaking when a person is holding an object and another person claims it is theirs, it is incumbent on the claimant to produce proof since the object is in the possession of the other.
In this case the living baby was being held by the woman whose baby died, and the burden of proof should have been upon the other woman. Yet, Solomon felt that since there was no one else around the house to have witnessed the event, it was impossible for the claimant to find valid proof.
He therefore came up with an ingenious and novel approach. He asked that a sword be brought and he would slice the living baby in half and give half to each one. The true mother had compassion and immediately told Solomon to keep the baby alive and give it to the other woman, while the other women said, no, we both won’t have the baby – go and slice him in half.
The King then ruled, “Give the living child to the woman who had compassion and said not to kill it – for this is his true mother.” The Talmud relates that a Heavenly voice proclaimed that indeed this was the true mother!
The verse states that the Jewish people heard about this judgement that Solomon gave, and they respected and feared him and realized that he had Heavenly wisdom to render judgement.
Obviously, Solomon’s wise tactic was to prove who the real mother was by evoking the real mother’s inborn compassion to keep baby alive no matter who would keep him. This test wasn’t foolproof, for had the false mother not insisted on killing the baby after the other one said not to kill, it would have gone to her as the other one said.
The Ridak explains that once the real mother displayed her compassion for the baby, the false mother realized she didn’t have a chance of getting the baby, and she opted to have the baby killed rather than admitting what she had done. All along Solomon had a feeling who the real mother was, and he ingeniously set things up so that the true mother would become apparent.
In each generation G-d provides us with great Sages who have an intuitive understanding how to rule and G-d gives them the wisdom to pick up on people’s deceptions. This is so that the Torah and its rulings will remain pure, unadulterated and true.