Do We See Who They Are?
Would King David Be Kicked Out of Yeshiva?
By Chana Klein

If Ruth, the mother of the kingship of the Jewish people, and her great-grandson King David, showed up in the world today, would we recognize them for who they are?
Would we see and respect the greatness in each?
Or … Would we question and disbelieve?
Would we let our children play with them?  
Would we let them attend our yeshivas?

How would we, today, judge David when he was a child? An adolescent?  A teenager? A youth tending the herd?

How would we have judged Ruth when she arrived in Beit Lechem from the land of Moav?

Ruth was a Moabite.  While other nations murdered us, plundered us and enslaved us, the Moav nation is considered to have done worse by what they did not do -- they refused to offer food to Moshe Rabbeinu and Bnei Yisroel when Bnei Yisroel passed Moav in the wilderness.  The Moabite men were, therefore, considered to be a people lacking lovingkindness -- a crime worse than the affliction, bondage or murder that other nations committed.

But Ruth, who was from Moav, became the mother of the kingship of the Jewish people, a people that stand for lovingkindness.  How can that happen?

We read about Ruth arriving in Beit Lechem with her mother-in-law, Naomi.  Ruth was shunned and continued to be shunned for the rest of her life.  But it never diminished her goodness.  Was such treatment called for?  Was it we, the Jewish people, who were lacking lovingkindness at that time?

The midrash teaches that Boaz, Ruth’s righteous husband, died the day after he married her.  Jewish law allows Moabite women to marry into the Jewish nation.  Only the men are not welcome.  But the people recalled that Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, had died when he settled in the land of Moav.  So, they assumed that Boaz died because he married Ruth, a Moabitess.

No one was aware of the plan of the Master of the Universe.  It was for Ruth to give birth to a child named Oved, who was the father of Yishai, who was the father of King David.

People were blind to God’s plan and to who Ruth really was.  They were blind to Ruth’s inner beauty and being.  They could not see past their own judging eyes.

For some of us, our goodness is obvious only to the Creator: “For God sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).
And so it was with Ruth, and with King David as a child.

The text tells us that David was a ruddy child. He was likely all over the place, which helped him guard and protect the animals in his care, with whom he spent most of his time. He was not tall and handsome like his older brother, Eliav.

Would we, today, understand that this child has a different calling and may not be like some of the other children? Or would we respond the way they did while David was growing up?

Can we, today, raise a child in a home or have him attend a classroom with the understanding that he may be different, even if we don’t understand those differences?

For generations, the Jewish community questioned David’s legitimacy.  His father had separated from his mother, questioning whether, as a Moabite, he was permitted to his wife. Wanting another child, Yishai’s wife did what Leah did with Rachel. She came to the bedroom posing as a servant with whom Yishai was about to cohabit.  When she became pregnant with David, she was ostracized.  David was believed to be illegitimate and so was discarded to the fields to care for the herd and, for the most part, was ignored.

During his youth, David was accused of every bad intention.  While he always gave lovingkindness to all, he wrote:  “More numerous than the hairs on my head are those who hate me groundlessly“ (Psalms 69:4).

In his goodness, he took the blame for all of the things he was accused of.  He admitted to robberies he did not commit. (“What I never stole, I must then restore.” Psalms 69:4).  David took the blame for things he did not do and did not take any credit for what he did do.  Why was he so hated?  How is it that we as a people were so blind?

In Beit Lechem, Shmuel, the prophet, told Yishai, David’s father, that the anointed is among his sons.  Yishai then brought seven sons to Shmuel, leaving David behind to tend the flock. When the prophet told Yishai that the anointed is not among those sons, Yishai did not mention or even think of David.  Neither did any of the seven sons mention David.  Only God has the understanding and vision to choose who the king is to be.  

While examining each of Yishai’s sons, God told Shmuel: “For God sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” God sees into man’s heart – something that a human being cannot do. Men can see only what is on the outside.

Eventually, Yishai did admit that there is “a little one and he is tending the sheep.”  David was as “little” as 29 years old at the time.  But Yishai still did not offer to bring David to Shmuel.  Shmuel had to inform Yishai that he did not call this meeting for them to eat.  He called them rather to anoint his son.  And, finally, Yishai sent for David.

David’s father and all of his brothers were witness to David’s anointment as king.  Yet, nothing changed.  David was still not recognized for who he was.  And nowhere does it say that Yishai or his sons apologized to Shmuel or that they asked forgiveness from God.  David continued to tend the family sheep and, in addition, based on the evil advice of Doeg, David took a second job as King Saul’s attendant.

No one saw or knew the goodness in David.  No one believed him.  No one loved him.  No one cared.  He was accused, discarded and ignored. That David was God’s anointed, for them, was out of the question.  Yet, that is who he was.  How many of us and of our loved ones have endured the same misunderstanding of who we really are?

Some believed that they could really see and judge the person who stood before them.  This belief prevented them from seeing their king and his own righteousness.  I wonder if it is those who are so sure that they see, who are really the most blind among us?

What if the true anointed showed up today? In the US.  Or in Israel.  Or someplace else. Would we see? Would we know?  Or would we also accuse, discard and ignore?

Who of our own children have goodness that is not yet recognized?  Who among them tries so hard, yet gets criticized in school and other places, or kicked out, or made fun of, or bullied?  Who among them might be a King David?

How many of our children have greatness that we cannot, or do not, see?  How many of them have greatness inside that the Creator does see?

My own story:

“You son has an attention span of Zero.”  The school psychologist sat across from me at the tiny table in the classroom set aside for our meeting.  She was in charge of the IEP meeting at the special education elementary school that my son was attending.

The child study team stared at me as if waiting for me to cry or yell.  I felt like apologizing for not getting upset.  As a matter of fact, I was thrilled.  You see, my 11-year-old son was alive after doctors had told me he would not make it to this age.  Compared to that, how could I be upset that he was not able to learn?  He was alive!

During those years, my son was also kicked out of two Boy Scout troops for not working hard enough on his badges. And then, he was the only kid in our town not to be allowed to play in Little League, until the mayor herself stepped in.  No one saw who he really was.

At a subsequent meeting with the special education high school personnel, I was informed that my son was not capable enough to be admitted into even the special education high school.  They explained to me that he would not be able to handle the changing classes or the subject matter. They suggested vocational training that consisted of learning to stuff envelopes.

I had to fight for a trial period in that school to show them he can do it. And he did do it.

You might ask what that incapable child is doing today. You might wonder if he ever got a job.  Yes, he got a job. At first, at the lowest level in a restaurant.

Today, he is a managing partner in a popular restaurant chain and is in charge of projections for the whole region.  He is often called upon to supervise the opening of new restaurants in various places throughout the Northeast.  He is highly successful by any standard.  He really knows his stuff and works with great dedication and expertise.  He cares deeply about each of his employees.  And he is a wonderful son.

Is this story unusual?

One day, I will describe the details of my own story – which begins when I was given the nickname “Simple” in high school and continues to the present day, when I am called “Genius” by my colleagues.

How many of my clients have I fought side-by-side with their parents to get the school to keep them, to get the teacher to understand, to get the school administration to allow for the differences?

We don’t all learn in the same way.  Each child learns at his own pace and his own way.  That is more than okay.  If only we could see the goodness in each person.  If only Yishai and his seven sons -- and the whole town -- could have known who David really was.  How he suffered.  How he received cruelty, giving back only lovingkindness.

It scares me to ask whether, today, if King David were to attend a yeshiva, as the child he was, he would have been expelled?  And might Ruth not even have been allowed into that yeshiva in the first place?

I pray that each of us -- each parent, each teacher, each administrator, each friend, each relative of each of our children -- open our eyes and see the goodness in these children, the gifts that they have and the gift that they are.

I pray that when the “anointed one” shows up again, that we have the openness to recognize him.

I pray that we have the hearts to welcome the King Davids, and their parents, and the Ruths, who show up in our lives and in our communities.

I pray that we make up for what our ancestors did to David and to Ruth.

I pray that our children achieve what we, ourselves, may not be able to.

That is, I pray that these children help us -- parents, teachers and others -- to achieve our better selves.


Copyright © 2010 COPYRIGHT CHANA KLEIN. All rights reserved.



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