David ben Ishai (c. 907-837 BCE) Better known as King David, he unified the twelve tribes of Israel, prepared Jerusalem for its status as our eternal capital and defeated all of our enemies, namely the Philistines and their champion Goliath. [*Sidenote: he didn’t kill Goliath with a slingshot. He chopped his head off with the giant’s own sword.] Perhaps most famously, he is the author of the Book of Psalms – beloved by peoples worldwide, including Jews, Christians, and Gangsta Rappers (see below). David was a harpist and poet, shepherd and the youngest of 8 brothers. He ruled Israel for 40 years, and lived exactly 70, having been born and passed away on Shavuot.
Words of the Week
“Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” – King David, Psalm 23
“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I take a look at my life, and realize there’s nothin’ left.” – Coolio, Gangster’s Paradise
“I shall fear no man, but God; Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” – 2Pac, So Many Tears
Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) is perhaps the most famous member of the illustrious Abravanel (or Abarbanel) Sephardic dynasty, which traces its lineage back to King David. He served as Royal Treasurer for both King Afonso V of Portugal, and later, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, helping the new Spanish kingdom rise to greatness. Nonetheless, the Spanish decided to expel all the Jews from their domain in 1492. Incredibly, Ferdinand and Isabella gave Don Isaac an exemption, and begged him to stay in Spain as their treasurer. Don Isaac refused, and chose to go with his people. A man of vast wealth, he offered 600,000 crowns to the Spanish monarchy to rescind the expulsion of the Jews. The offer would have been accepted were it not for Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor (murder of thousands of Jews, who, ironically, had Jewish ancestry himself). Don Isaac was a huge philanthropist, supporting the Jewish community in Spain financially, and guiding them spiritually. He is most famous for writing dozens of treatises on Judaism and the Torah (the first of which he wrote before age 20), including a profound commentary on the Tanakh.
Words of the Week
Character is a person’s only real possession. – Rabbi Israel Salanter