I Kings 3:15-4:1
In this week’s Haftorah, G-d bestows King Solomon his wisdom though a dream. We’re then told the story of two women living in the same household who each had a baby within a few days of each other. One of the babies died, and the women came before the king to arbitrate their dispute—each claimed the surviving baby was her own and that the other had swapped that babies.
King Solomon asked one of his courtiers to fetch a sword, cut the baby in half and give each woman one half. While one woman was fine with this, “let it be neither mine nor yours!” the other pleaded for the king to let the other woman have the baby so that he may live. Of course it was the willingness to sacrifice to preserve her child’s life which told Solomon who the rightful mother was, which was, in fact, the whole point of the ruse (lest we think King Solomon had really been inclined to go chopping up babies to settle arguments.)
Solomon was granted his wish for divine wisdom because he chose the “right wish.” He didn’t ask for longevity, riches, power or to smite his enemies—but “discernment in dispensing justice.” Think about that for a moment—here’s a king, who is asking something from G-d. Instead of all those things that kings might be inclined to want, money, power, good ol’ fashioned enemy smiting, and Solomon’s main concern was how to render justice with equity. He was so worried about making the wrong decisions in meting out his subjects’ fate, that this is for what he requests divine intervention. And because that was such a humble request for the greater good of his people, his wish was granted.
I’ve always been fascinated by what once used to be the fairly common practice of praying before football or other sports games, for G-d to help your team win. It seemed ridiculous that any heavenly power would be remotely interested in whether the Sidney High Yellow Jackets were victorious. But it is kind of a parallel to a litany of other petty requests. So this narrative of King Solomon simply asking to for help being a good guy, really makes me think twice about what I ask for.
Casey (Kefira) McCarty is a published author living in Ohio. She is the Assistant Director of the Columbus Idea Foundry, a community workshop space, and is an artisan who crafts jewelry, Judaica and fine art available online and in Central Ohio galleries and boutiques. You can find her online shop at www.sinemetudesigns.etsy.com