The Righteous and the Scoffers – Bava Metzia 59

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By: Reb Binyomin Adler

Rava expounded: What is the meaning of that which is written: But when I limped they rejoiced and gathered … they tore [at me] and would not be silenced? Dovid said before The Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe! It is revealed and known to You that if my enemies were to tear my flesh, my blood would not flow out (for it has drained from the surface of my body because of their taunts about my sin). And not only that, but when they were engrossed in the studying the tractates of Negaim and Oholos (difficult tractates in the order of Taharos), they interrupt their studies and say to me (tauntingly): Dovid! If one cohabits with another man’s wife, what is his prescribed form of execution? I said to them: If one cohabits with another man’s wife, his execution is by strangulation, but he has a share in the World to Come. However, one who makes his fellow’s face turn white from shame in public (as you are doing to me), has no share in the World to Come.

This dialogue appears somewhat strange. Were Dovid’s tormentors really serious in their accusations against him regarding his taking Bathsheva? If they were, should they have not summoned him to trial? Although the Gemora states that a king cannot be judged, certainly the Sages of the time would have at least incriminated Dovid. How can we understand their accusations?

There is a constant struggle in the world between the righteous and the wicked. Thus struggle has manifested itself throughout history, as evidenced in the incident where Avraham and Sara miraculously conceived a child, yet there were still those who scoffed and said that Avimelech impregnated Sara. Hashem always allows room for the wicked to interpret events in their own way. When Dovid committed the act with Bathsheva, Hashem allowed for the wicked to lose their share in the World to Come by scoffing at Dovid. They were not seeking justice at all. Rather, they were looking for someone to mock, and scoffers will mock anyone, even the great Dovid, King of Israel.

The Maharsha notes that one who speaks evil slander incurs tzaraas, and even still their study of those laws did not prevent them from slandering Dovid. One has to guard his speech, but equally important, one must inspect his actions to ensure that he is not from the scoffers, but from those who defend and respect the righteous.