Roy Moore, the prospect for the Senate from Alabama, who has a issue for pubescent girls, found my Shabbat morning school this past weekend.
Well, not really.
But, he was entirely there – at least, in spirit.
On Shabbat mornings at Temple Solel in Hollywood, Florida, we have been learning the haftarah portions of the week – the passages from the prophetic and historical literature of the Hebrew Bible.
The haftarah because of this past week tells the story of the ultimate days and nights of King David – Primary Kings, chapter 1:
King David was now old, advanced in years; and though they protected him with bedclothes, he hardly ever felt warm. His courtiers said to him, “Let a virgin be sought for my lord the king, to hold back upon Your Majesty and be his attendant; and permit her lie in your bosom, and my lord the king will be warm.” So they looked for a beautiful girl through the entire territory of Israel. They determined Abishag the Shunammite and brought her to the king. The lady was exceedingly gorgeous. She became the king’s attendanta and waited after him; but the king was not intimate with her.
Last but not least: David is currently dying, and it’s certainly not rather. The warrior-king is indeed feeble that he is now lying during intercourse, unable to get warm. The “ladies’ guy” who once possessed no difficulties finding his own females now needs for another person to get him a woman.
Except, it’s not really a woman. It is a young young lady – a hapless, innocent little girl, taken away from her friends and family to serve an ageing king.
Get it? Now, certainly, Roy Moore was but a fraction of David’s get older when he produced his flavour for underage girls. But if the text fits, use it.
Let’s start with the obvious, salacious question, about David and Abishag.
Why didn’t they, um, do it?
Was it because he couldn’t do it? (Poor pun alert: in David’s time, there could have been Vayikra, but there is no Viagra).
No, said the old sages. They didn’t carry out it, because Abishag required charge of the problem.
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 22a) says that Abishag did not want to be intimate with the king unless he married her.
David refused to marry her. Certainly he didn’t desire any longer children who would wind up demanding the throne.
In which particular case, Abishag did the Nancy Reagan thing.
She merely said “no.”
That is what Roy Moore’s victims said, or wished to say, and so are now saying.
Back to Abishag.
It is not just the Talmud that increases her tale.
The Yiddish poet, Itzik Manger, imagines her missing her family and mourning her fate:
Abishag sits in her place And writes a letter residence: Greetings to the calves and sheep- She writes, sighing deeply… King David is aged and pious And she herself is, “oh, good” – She’s the king’s warm water bottle Against the bed room chill… More often than once a nighttime She softly mourned her fate. True, wise persons say She’s being charitable. They even promise her A collection in the Bible.
“Oh, well,” she says. She is the king’s “warm water bottle.” And, as a reward, she gets a collection, or two, in the Bible.
The fantastic American poet, Robert Frost, imagines Abishag’s old age:
The witch that came (the withered hag) To clean the steps with pail and rag Was after the beauty Abishag.
Ouch. Is that all she deserves?
What I really like about Abishag is how the Talmud re-writes her report. It imagines that she refused to be passive, that she required charge of the problem, that she determined her voice. And that’s precisely what is happening now – with the women who are coming forth about Roy Moore.
That is the pattern, in recent days. Girls are screaming about powerful men who took benefit of their vulnerability.
But why is the circumstance of Roy Moore even worse is that some are defending him – by pointing to the brand new Testament “case in point” of Joseph and Mary – who, they surmise, might have been not very much older than some of Roy Moore’s victims.
Some seminary should give you a prize for the Worst Usage of a Biblical Text To Excuse Horrendous Behavior. Because those rationalizations would get – hands down.
What makes it even worse is that there are Christian pastors who are defending him – a whole list of them.
So, let us give a female poet, Delilah Riordan, the ultimate word about Abishag – in her poem, “Abishag”:
The previous of the King’s women, forgettable as bed-pillows… There is considerably more if you ask me than warming this cold King, but that’s what persons remember. It’s how my name got in the e book.
Yes, there was a lot more to Abishag than warming this chilly King.
Roy Moore and his supporters will probably read this report, and give the other person high fives. See – you will find a biblical precedent! Powerful guy, young girl, circumstance closed.
Wrong. Because, the Talmud supplies the required corrective to the report.
Abishag (no older than the girls in the Moore tales could have been) said “no.”
It is too much to imagine – even too much to expect – that those Alabama young ladies/now females who are approaching forth could have had the occurrence of mind of the Talmudic variation of Abishag, and investigated the eyes of an Alabama judge and mention: No (or, something far stronger).
Over the generations, and over the centuries of sacred text, Abishag is screaming.
Let’s just hope that the good residents of Alabama hear her.