David's Lament and Yom HaZikaron

The story of David, Saul and Jonathan is told in the books of Samuel. King Saul and his son, Jonathan were killed during a battle with the Philistines which took place on Mt. Gilboa. When David is told of the losses, he mourns them in a famous poem, which is referred to as David's Lament.

David's Lament has become a central theme of the Israel Defense Force's (IDF) Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron) ceremonies .

The lamentation has two parts: National and personal. It contains a mix of heroism and glory along with sadness and bereavement.

David's Lament has found its way into modern Hebrew language phrases, has been used as an inspiration for names of villages and kibbutzim in Israel, and is the foundation for many literary works.

In this sheet we will uncover some of the influence that this lament has had on the design of Yom HaZikaron.

David's Lament

וַיְקֹנֵ֣ן דָּוִ֔ד אֶת־הַקִּינָ֖ה הַזֹּ֑את עַל־שָׁא֖וּל וְעַל־יְהוֹנָתָ֥ן בְּנֽוֹ׃

וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לְלַמֵּ֥ד בְּנֵֽי־יְהוּדָ֖ה קָ֑שֶׁת הִנֵּ֥ה כְתוּבָ֖ה עַל־סֵ֥פֶר הַיָּשָֽׁר׃

הַצְּבִי֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עַל־בָּמוֹתֶ֖יךָ חָלָ֑ל אֵ֖יךְ נָפְל֥וּ גִבּוֹרִֽים׃

אַל־תַּגִּ֣ידוּ בְגַ֔ת אַֽל־תְּבַשְּׂר֖וּ בְּחוּצֹ֣ת אַשְׁקְל֑וֹן

פֶּן־תִּשְׂמַ֙חְנָה֙ בְּנ֣וֹת פְּלִשְׁתִּ֔ים פֶּֽן־תַּעֲלֹ֖זְנָה בְּנ֥וֹת הָעֲרֵלִֽים׃

הָרֵ֣י בַגִּלְבֹּ֗עַ אַל־טַ֧ל וְאַל־מָטָ֛ר עֲלֵיכֶ֖ם וּשְׂדֵ֣י תְרוּמֹ֑ת

כִּ֣י שָׁ֤ם נִגְעַל֙ מָגֵ֣ן גִּבּוֹרִ֔ים מָגֵ֣ן שָׁא֔וּל בְּלִ֖י מָשִׁ֥יחַ בַּשָּֽׁמֶן׃

מִדַּ֣ם חֲלָלִ֗ים מֵחֵ֙לֶב֙ גִּבּוֹרִ֔ים

קֶ֚שֶׁת יְה֣וֹנָתָ֔ן לֹ֥א נָשׂ֖וֹג אָח֑וֹר וְחֶ֣רֶב שָׁא֔וּל לֹ֥א תָשׁ֖וּב רֵיקָֽם׃

שָׁא֣וּל וִיהוֹנָתָ֗ן הַנֶּאֱהָבִ֤ים וְהַנְּעִימִם֙ בְּחַיֵּיהֶ֔ם וּבְמוֹתָ֖ם לֹ֣א נִפְרָ֑דוּ

מִנְּשָׁרִ֣ים קַ֔לּוּ מֵאֲרָי֖וֹת גָּבֵֽרוּ׃

בְּנוֹת֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶל־שָׁא֖וּל בְּכֶ֑ינָה

הַמַּלְבִּֽשְׁכֶ֤ם שָׁנִי֙ עִם־עֲדָנִ֔ים הַֽמַּעֲלֶה֙ עֲדִ֣י זָהָ֔ב עַ֖ל לְבוּשְׁכֶֽן׃

אֵ֚יךְ נָפְל֣וּ גִבֹּרִ֔ים בְּת֖וֹךְ הַמִּלְחָמָ֑ה יְה֣וֹנָתָ֔ן עַל־בָּמוֹתֶ֖יךָ חָלָֽל׃

צַר־לִ֣י עָלֶ֗יךָ אָחִי֙ יְה֣וֹנָתָ֔ן נָעַ֥מְתָּ לִּ֖י מְאֹ֑ד נִפְלְאַ֤תָה אַהֲבָֽתְךָ֙ לִ֔י מֵאַהֲבַ֖ת נָשִֽׁים׃

אֵ֚יךְ נָפְל֣וּ גִבּוֹרִ֔ים וַיֹּאבְד֖וּ כְּלֵ֥י מִלְחָמָֽה׃

And David intoned this dirge over Saul and his son Jonathan— He ordered the Judites to be taught [The Song of the] Bow. It is recorded in the Book of Jashar. Your glory, O Israel, Lies slain on your heights; How have the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Gath, Do not proclaim it in the streets of Ashkelon, Lest the daughters of the Philistine rejoice, Lest the daughters of the uncircumcised exult. O hills of Gilboa— Let there be no dew or rain on you, Or bountiful fields, For there the shield of warriors lay rejected, The shield of Saul, Polished with oil no more. From the blood of slain, From the fat of warriors— The bow of Jonathan Never turned back; The sword of Saul Never withdrew empty. Saul and Jonathan, Beloved and cherished, Never parted In life or in death! They were swifter than eagles, They were stronger than lions! Daughters of Israel, Weep over Saul, Who clothed you in crimson and finery, Who decked your robes with jewels of gold. How have the mighty fallen In the thick of battle— Jonathan, slain on your heights! I grieve for you, My brother Jonathan, You were most dear to me. Your love was wonderful to me More than the love of women. How have the mighty fallen, The weapons of war perished!

The follow verse alone captures the essence of the Israeli Memorial Day ceremony:

(יט) הַצְּבִי֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עַל־בָּמוֹתֶ֖יךָ חָלָ֑ל אֵ֖יךְ נָפְל֥וּ גִבּוֹרִֽים׃

(19) Your glory, O Israel, Lies slain on your heights; How have the mighty fallen!

Within the verse are found three major concepts of Yom HaZikaron.

''הַצְּבִי֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל''

The glory of Israel

"בָּמוֹתֶ֖יךָ חָלָ֑ל"

Slain- A word that was used 3,000 years ago by King David, yet still has great meaning on this day.

"אֵ֖יךְ נָפְל֥וּ גִבּוֹרִֽים"

How have the mighty have fallen. These words appear at the beginning and the end of the lamentation, thus becoming the main phrase.

These three words have become the refrain of Yom Hazikaron.

In this song you can listen to the way the "glory of Israel" is used in a modern conext

David's lament as a paradigm of personal loss

אַל־טַ֧ל וְאַל־מָטָ֛ר עֲלֵיכֶ֖ם

O hills of Gilboa— Let there be no dew or rain on you

These words express the feeling of those who are in pain and cannot bear the continuation of life as as it was before the loss. The rain can't come down here anymore, so how can anything be expected to grow here?! These feelings appear in many Israeli memorial songs, two of which are described below.

"So Short Is This Spring" was written by David Grossman in memory of his son Uri, who was killed in the 2006 Lebanon War. The song is supposedly a song about nature but in fact is a metaphor for the spring of his son's life: the Israeli spring is so short and beautiful, and his sudden disappearance is painful and heartbreaking.

"Wheat is Growing Again" is a song written by Dorit Tzameret, a member of Kibbutz Beit Hashita after the fall of 11 kibbutz members during the Yom Kippur War. As in King Davids lament, the wheat grows even though "you will not come back".

(כג) שָׁא֣וּל וִיהוֹנָתָ֗ן הַנֶּאֱהָבִ֤ים וְהַנְּעִימִם֙ בְּחַיֵּיהֶ֔ם וּבְמוֹתָ֖ם לֹ֣א נִפְרָ֑דוּ מִנְּשָׁרִ֣ים קַ֔לּוּ מֵאֲרָי֖וֹת גָּבֵֽרוּ׃

(23) Saul and Jonathan, Beloved and cherished, Never parted In life or in death! They were swifter than eagles, They were stronger than lions!

The friendship between David and Jonathan was seen by the rabbis as the epitome of what we should strive for in our own friendships. Their's was a pure, non-transactional friendship, as described in the text from Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers.

כָּל אַהֲבָה שֶׁהִיא תְלוּיָה בְדָבָר, בָּטֵל דָּבָר, בְּטֵלָה אַהֲבָה. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ תְּלוּיָה בְדָבָר, אֵינָהּ בְּטֵלָה לְעוֹלָם. אֵיזוֹ הִיא אַהֲבָה הַתְּלוּיָה בְדָבָר, זוֹ אַהֲבַת אַמְנוֹן וְתָמָר. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ תְּלוּיָה בְדָבָר, זוֹ אַהֲבַת דָּוִד וִיהוֹנָתָן:

All love that depends on a something, [when the] thing ceases, [the] love ceases; and [all love] that does not depend on anything, will never cease. What is an example of love that depended on a something? Such was the love of Amnon for Tamar. And what is an example of love that did not depend on anything? Such was the love of David and Jonathan.

Friendship is one of the main values ​​of Israel's Memorial Day, a natural result of fighting together, of fellowship of warriors and of the sacrifice of one for the other.

As it is recited in this song:

"Because such a friendship will never

let our hearts forget

The love that is sacred with blood

You will flourish again amongst us "

David's Lament as an expression of national mourning

Just like in David's Lament, Yom Hazikaron shifts from personal to national. From the personal memory of a loved one, a beautiful moment of memorial, to the national and historical context and belonging to the common purpose and pain of the State of Israel. Between "heroes" and "lovers and pleasant", between "war tools" and "crimson and finery,", between "Your glory, O Israel, Lies slain on your heights;" to " Jonathan, slain on your heights! ".