I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor. — 2 Samuel 6:22
The Torah portion for this week is Shemini, which means “eighth,” from Leviticus 9:1–11:47, and the Haftorah is from 2 Samuel 6:1–7:17.
In this week’s Torah portion we read about the joyous inauguration of the Tabernacle. In the Haftorah, we read about another celebration – the bringing of the Holy Ark to Jerusalem during the time of King David. However, for all the similarities between these two readings, we can learn a powerful lesson from where they differ. In the Torah reading we witnessed the tragedy of arrogance before God, while in the Haftorah we observe great humility in service to God.
In the Torah reading, Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, brought an unauthorized offering before God. While they might have had good intentions – wanting to serve the Lord – the Sages explain that their service was rooted in arrogance. God had not ordered the offering, and the leaders, Aaron and Moses, had not authorized it. Yet, Nadab and Abihu felt that they didn’t need any permission. In this spirit of haughtiness, they came too close to God, and as a result, they perished.
Many years later David, king of Israel, was serving the Lord with great joy. As the Ark made its way to Jerusalem, the procession was repeatedly stopped so that sacrifices could be offered to God. As the procession continued, David led the people with dancing and singing. His wife, Saul’s daughter Michal, thought David’s exuberant display was very unbecoming for a king. Her father had never behaved in such an undignified manner. When the ceremony was over, Michal scolded her husband and said: “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” (2 Samuel 6:20). How undignified, she said, where is your honor?
Listen to David’s reply: “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor” (6:22). David did not apologize for his behavior, but rather vowed to become even more undignified if necessary. Because, when it comes to serving the Lord, no one is king but the true King. We are all humble servants before Him. As King David explained, ultimately humility before the Lord translated into honor before others. However, before God there is no service too low or task too menial for a servant of God.
Consider how we can serve God with humility today. How can we put aside our ego for God’s glory? Serving God with humility leads to the greatest honor. As David wrote: “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity” (Psalm 37:11).
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President