בניהו בן יהוידע זה סנהדרין ואביתר אלו אורים ותומים
Benayahu ben Yehoyada corresponds to the Sanhedrin, since he was the head of the Sanhedrin, and Evyatar corresponds to the Urim VeTummim, as Evyatar ben Ahimelekh the priest would oversee inquiries directed to the Urim VeTummim (see I Samuel 23:9).
וכן הוא אומר ובניהו בן יהוידע על הכרתי ועל הפלתי ולמה נקרא שמם כרתי ופלתי כרתי שכורתים דבריהם פלתי שמופלאים בדבריהם ואחר כך שר צבא למלך יואב
And so it says regarding Benayahu ben Yehoyada’s position as head of the Sanhedrin: “And Benayahu ben Yehoyada was over the Kereti and over the Peleti” (II Samuel 20:23). And why was the Sanhedrin called Kereti UPeleti? It was called Kereti because they were decisive [koretim] in their pronouncements. It was called Peleti because their pronouncements and wisdom were wondrous [mufla’im]. The head of the Kereti UPeleti was the head of the Sanhedrin. According to the order of the verse, upon being instructed by King David to go to war, the Sages first consulted with Ahitophel, then with the Sanhedrin, then they would ask the Urim VeTummim, and only thereafter was the general of the king’s army, Yoav, given the command to ready the military for battle.
אמר רב יצחק בר אדא ואמרי לה אמר רב יצחק בריה דרב אידי מאי קרא עורה כבודי עורה הנבל וכנור אעירה שחר
Rav Yitzḥak bar Adda, and some say Rav Yitzḥak, son of Rav Idi, said: From what verse is it derived that David’s lyre would wake him at midnight? “Awake, my glory; awake, harp and lyre; I will wake the dawn” (Psalms 57:9). This means that the playing lyre has already woken, and now I must engage in Torah study until dawn.
רבי זירא אמר משה לעולם הוה ידע ודוד נמי הוה ידע
Rabbi Zeira offered a different solution to the question of whether Moses and David knew exactly when it was midnight and said: Moses certainly knew when it was midnight, and David also knew.
וכיון דדוד הוה ידע כנור למה ליה לאתעורי משנתיה
The Gemara asks: If David knew, then why did he need the lyre? The Gemara answers: He needed the lyre to wake him from his sleep.
וכיון דמשה הוה ידע למה ליה למימר כחצות משה קסבר שמא יטעו אצטגניני פרעה ויאמרו משה בדאי הוא דאמר מר למד לשונך לומר איני יודע שמא תתבדה ותאחז
Similarly with regard to Moses, since Moses knew the precise moment of midnight, why did he say: About midnight, instead of: At midnight? Moses did so because he maintained: Lest Pharaoh’s astrologers err and believe midnight to be earlier. Since no disaster would have occurred, they would say: Moses is a liar. Moses spoke in accordance with the principle articulated by the Master: Accustom your tongue to say: I do not know, lest you become entangled in a web of deceit.
רב אשי אמר בפלגא אורתא דתליסר נגהי ארבסר הוה קאי והכי קאמר משה לישראל אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא למחר כחצות הלילה כי האידנא אני יוצא בתוך מצרים:
Rav Ashi said: This question is unfounded, as Moses was standing at midnight of the thirteenth, leading into the fourteenth, when he pronounced his prophecy, and Moses told Israel that the Holy One, Blessed be He, said that tomorrow, at the exact time like midnight tonight, I will go out into the midst of Egypt. This indicates that the passage should not be understood to mean about midnight, an approximation; but rather, like midnight, as a comparison, likening midnight tomorrow to midnight tonight.
לדוד שמרה נפשי כי חסיד אני לוי ורבי יצחק חד אמר כך אמר דוד לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא רבונו של עולם לא חסיד אני שכל מלכי מזרח ומערב ישנים עד שלש שעות ואני חצות לילה אקום להודות לך
The Gemara further explores King David’s character. It is said: “A prayer of David…Keep my soul, for I am pious” (Psalms 86:1–2). Levi and Rabbi Yitzḥak debated the meaning of this verse and how David’s piety is manifest in the fact that he went beyond his fundamental obligations. One said: David’s declaration of piety referred to his awakening during the night to pray, and so said David before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, am I not pious? As all of the kings of the East and the West sleep until the third hour of the day, but although I am a king like them, “At midnight I rise to give thanks” (Psalms 119:62).
ואידך כך אמר דוד לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא רבונו של עולם לא חסיד אני שכל מלכי מזרח ומערב יושבים אגודות אגודות בכבודם ואני ידי מלוכלכות בדם ובשפיר ובשליא כדי לטהר אשה לבעלה ולא עוד אלא כל מה שאני עושה אני נמלך במפיבשת רבי ואומר לו מפיבשת רבי יפה דנתי יפה חייבתי יפה זכיתי יפה טהרתי יפה טמאתי ולא בושתי
And the other Sage said: David said the following before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, am I not pious? For all of the kings of the East and the West sit in groups befitting their honored status, but I sit as a judge who issues rulings for the people. Women come with questions of ritual impurity and my hands become soiled with their blood as I labor to determine whether or not it is blood of impurity and she has menstruating woman status, and with a fetus that miscarried at a stage of development before it was clear whether or not it is considered a birth, and with placenta, which women sometimes discharge unrelated to the birth of a child (see Leviticus 15:19–30 with regard to blood, and 12:1–8 with regard to miscarriage and placenta). King David went to all this trouble in order to render a woman ritually pure and consequently permitted to her husband. If, after examination, a Sage declares the woman ritually pure, she is permitted to be with her husband, which leads to increased love and affection, and ultimately to procreation (Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto). And not only do I engage in activity considered to be beneath the station of a king, but I consult my teacher, Mefivoshet, son of King Saul’s son, Jonathan, with regard to everything that I do. I say to him: Mefivoshet, my teacher, did I decide properly? Did I convict properly? Did I acquit properly? Did I rule ritually pure properly? Did I rule ritually impure properly? And I was not embarrassed. Forgoing royal dignity should make me worthy to be called pious.
אמר רבי יהושע בריה דרב אידי מאי קרא ואדברה בעדתיך נגד מלכים ולא אבוש
Rav Yehoshua, son of Rav Idi, said: What verse alludes to this? “And I speak Your testimonies before kings and I will not be ashamed” (Psalms 119:46). This verse alludes both to David’s commitment to Torah, in contrast to the kings of the East and the West, as well as to the fact that he was not ashamed to discuss matters of Torah with Mefivoshet, a descendant of kings. David was not afraid to have his mistakes corrected by Mefivoshet.
תנא לא מפיבשת שמו אלא איש בשת שמו ולמה נקרא שמו מפיבשת שהיה מבייש פני דוד בהלכה לפיכך זכה דוד ויצא ממנו כלאב
It was taught in a Tosefta from a tannaitic tradition: His name was not Mefivoshet, but rather Ish Boshet was his name. Why was Ish Boshet referred to as Mefivoshet? Because he would embarrass [mevayesh] David in matters of halakha. According to this approach, Mefivoshet is an abbreviation of boshet panim, embarrassment. Because David was not embarrassed to admit his errors, he merited that Kilav, who, according to tradition, was exceedingly wise, would descend from him.
ואמר רבי יוחנן לא כלאב שמו אלא דניאל שמו ולמה נקרא שמו כלאב שהיה מכלים פני מפיבשת בהלכה
Rabbi Yoḥanan said: His name was not Kilav; rather, his name was Daniel, as it appears in a different list of David’s descendants. Why was he called Kilav? Because he would embarrass [makhlim] Mefivoshet, the teacher or authority figure [av] in matters of halakha.
ועליו אמר שלמה בחכמתו בני אם חכם לבך ישמח לבי גם אני ואומר חכם בני ושמח לבי ואשיבה חרפי דבר
In his book of wisdom, Solomon said about this wise son: “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart will be glad, even mine” (Proverbs 23:15), as David enjoyed witnessing his son Kilav develop into a Torah luminary to the extent that Kilav was able to respond to Mefivoshet. And Solomon says about Kilav: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad, that I may respond to those who taunt me” (Proverbs 27:11).
ודוד מי קרי לנפשיה חסיד והכתיב לולא האמנתי לראות בטוב ה׳ בארץ חיים ותנא משמיה דרבי יוסי למה נקוד על לולא אמר דוד לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא רבונו של עולם מובטח אני בך שאתה משלם שכר טוב לצדיקים לעתיד לבוא אבל איני יודע אם יש לי חלק ביניהם אם לאו
With regard to David’s statement, “Keep my soul, for I am pious,” the Gemara asks: Did David call himself pious? Isn’t it written: “If I had not [luleh] believed to look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalms 27:13). The dots that appear over the word luleh in the text indicate doubt and uncertainty of his piety, and whether he was deserving of a place in the land of the living (see Avot DeRabbi Natan 34). In the name of Rabbi Yosei, it was taught in a Tosefta: Why do dots appear over the word luleh, as if there are some reservations? Because David said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe. I have every confidence in You that You grant an excellent reward to the righteous in the World-to-Come since God’s ultimate goodness is manifest in the land of eternal life, but I still harbor uncertainty with regard to myself, and I do not know whether or not I definitely have a portion among them. In any case, apparently David was uncertain whether or not he deserved to receive a portion of God’s reward for the righteous; how, then, could he characterize himself as pious?
שמא יגרום החטא
The Gemara responds: His concern does not prove anything, as King David knew that he was pious. He was simply concerned lest a transgression that he might commit in the future will cause him to lose his opportunity to look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
כדרבי יעקב בר אידי דרבי יעקב בר אידי רמי כתיב והנה אנכי עמך ושמרתיך בכל אשר תלך וכתיב ויירא יעקב מאד אמר שמא יגרום החטא
The Gemara cites a proof that there is room for one to fear lest he commit a transgression in the future in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Ya’akov bar Idi, as Rabbi Ya’akov bar Idi raised a contradiction between two verses. It is written that God told Jacob in his vision of the ladder: “Behold, I am with you and I guard you wherever you go” (Genesis 28:15), yet when Jacob returned to Canaan and realized that Esau was coming to greet him, it is written: “And Jacob became very afraid, and he was pained” (Genesis 32:8). Why did Jacob not rely on God’s promise? Jacob had concerns and said to himself: Lest a transgression that I might have committed after God made His promise to me will cause God to revoke His promise of protection.
כדתניא עד יעבר עמך ה׳ עד יעבר עם זו קנית
Apparently, at times, transgression does cause God’s promise to go unfulfilled, as it was taught explicitly in a baraita with regard to the ostensibly redundant language in a verse in the Song of the Sea: “Until Your people will cross, Lord, until the people You have acquired will cross. You bring them in and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, the place, Lord, which You made for Your dwelling” (Exodus 15:16–17).
עד יעבר עמך ה׳ זו ביאה ראשונה עד יעבר עם זו קנית זו ביאה שניה מכאן אמרו חכמים ראוים היו ישראל ליעשות להם נס בימי עזרא כדרך שנעשה להם בימי יהושע בן נון אלא שגרם החטא:
The Gemara interprets homiletically that until Your people will cross refers to the first entry into Eretz Yisrael during the time of Joshua, while until the people You have acquired pass over refers to the second entry following the exile in Babylonia. Based on the juxtaposition of these two entries in this single verse, the Sages said: Israel was worthy of having a miracle performed on its behalf in the time of Ezra the scribe, just as one was performed on their behalf in the time of Joshua bin Nun. However, transgression caused the absence of a miracle.
וחכמים אומרים עד חצות: חכמים כמאן סבירא להו אי כרבי אליעזר סבירא להו לימרו כרבי אליעזר
The Gemara returns to explain what we learned in the mishna: And the Rabbis say: The time for the recitation of the evening Shema is until midnight. The Gemara asks: In accordance with whose opinion do they hold in explaining the verse: “When you lie down”? If they explain this verse in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer, who says that “when you lie down” is the time when people customarily go to sleep, then let the Rabbis also say that the time for the recitation of Shema extends, in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer, until the end of the first watch.