Talmud this Shabbat: Managing Our Multiple Selves


“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, Part 51

Tomorrow morning we consider the problem of our multiple selves. Our point of departure will be two snapshots of David.

The first snapshot: David is being hunted, literally, by King Saul. King Saul is mad with envy and jealousy. He takes a huge fighting force to hunt and kill David. David is on the run, hiding out with his men in a cave in En-gedi. Just then Saul goes into the cave to go to the bathroom. David cannot believe his eyes. There is Saul, the man who is tormenting and chasing him, relieving himself. David is right there and can easily kill him, thereby defending his own life. David’s men urge him to go for it. What are the odds that Saul is vulnerable in this moment? Of all the caves in En-Gedi, Saul chooses this one to use just now. It must be a gift from God. God must want you to do this. Kill Saul. It is legitimate self-defense. You become the King. We can all go home.

But this David exercises restraint. He sneaks up behind King Saul and cuts off a corner of his garment but spares his life. Something in him just knows it would be wrong.

The second snapshot: David is King. He sees and wants Bat Sheba, summons her, has relations with her, gets her pregnant, sends her husband Uriah to the front lines to be killed in battle. When the prophet Nathan tells a parable about a rich man taking a poor man’s sheep, which is obviously about David stealing Bat Sheba from Uriah, David is outraged at this rich man—and cannot even see the parable is about him.

What happened to David’s restraint? To his core?

How do we manage the multitudes that we contain?

See you tomorrow at 8:30.

Shabbat shalom,
Wes