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Drash on Mikeitz 2023

Perhaps prompted by Pharoah’s assessment of Joseph as “discerning and wise” (Gen 41:39), the rabbis decided on Kings I 3:15 – 4:1 as the haftarah reading. The thematic link of dreams (3:15) also connects the two passages, but it is King Solomon’s story of insightful judgment from that Haftarah story that has entered the lexicon.

The ‘Wisdom of Solomon’ is still a phrase that represents the capacity to get to the nub of a conundrum and offer a solution that is creative and correct. Without looking up that tale, many will be able to recite the details of the two mothers who appealed to Shlomoh over whose living baby belonged to which mother. Who recalls that the two women were identified as “zonot prostitutes” (3:16)? What is the significance of contrasting the King’s earlier appearance in Jerusalem for his offering of sacrifices before God, followed by a banquet for his retinue, against the appearance of supplicants who are social outcasts before him? We know that social rank privileges the rich in any civic justice process. Can these women expect a compassionate hearing and justice?

Solomon’s proposal to dissect the infant instantly brought the actual mother to relinquish her baby to save it. In doing so, the falsity of the bereaved woman was revealed. Much though we can sympathise with her loss and the desire to replace her unresponsive child with one that was alive, her crazed grief still did not entitle her to take the newborn of her housemate.

Disputed possession, entitlement and justice are themes that resonate for all as captives still remain in Gaza and as those crazed with grief on all sides of Israel’s borders desperately seek a solution that might disclose the clarity of motive prompted by Solomon’s original inspired solution. Bayamim ha’hem in those days, only the immediate players/kingdoms were involved. Baze’man hazeh in this day, the worldwide community has its own ideas of how to “Cut the living child in two” (3:25). Sadly, there may be many ‘midwives’ attempting to birth a peaceful solution, but not many ‘mothers’ whose true claims must be heard and resolved. May there yet be some “divine wisdom to do justice” (3:28) for all.

Find more Parashat Hashavua