QUESTION: The Gemara relates that David ha'Melech wanted to worship Avodah Zarah. Chushai ha'Arki stopped him and asked, "Will a king like you worship Avodah Zarah?"
David answered, "For a king like me whose son would kill him, it is better that he should worship Avodah Zarah and not have a public Chilul Hash-m."
Chushai asked him, "Why did you marry an Eshes Yefas To'ar?"
David answered, "The Torah permits an Eshes Yefas To'ar."
Chushai replied that David must not have understood the significance of the fact that the law of Eshes Yefas To'ar immediately precedes the law of Ben Sorer u'Moreh in the Torah. This proximity teaches that a man who marries an Eshes Yefas To'ar will have a son who is a Ben Sorer u'Moreh.
What is the meaning of this Gemara? Did David ha'Melech actually intent to worship Avodah Zarah?
(a) The MAHARSHA explains that David ha'Melech certainly had no intention to worship Avodah Zarah. Rather, the Gemara in Kesuvos (110b) teaches that one who goes from Eretz Yisrael to Chutz la'Aretz is considered as though he serves idols. David ha'Melech sought to flee to Chutz la'Aretz when his son wanted to kill him. Since going from Eretz Yisrael to Chutz la'Aretz is tantamount to idol-worship, Chushai stopped him by saying ,"Will a king like you worship Avodah Zarah?" Chushai meant that although David escaped to Chutz la'Aretz when he ran away from Shaul years earlier, he did so when he was not yet king and was in a genuine situation of Piku'ach Nefesh. Now, however, that he was king, he was not in the same degree of danger, and thus he was not justified in fleeing to Chutz la'Aretz. David ha'Melech replied that he thought it was appropriate to go to Chutz la'Aretz so that people would not say that it is unfair of Hash-m to allow a king like him to be in danger of having his son kill him. Chushai responded that everyone knows that this is what happens when one marries an Eshes Yefas To'ar, and no one will say that Hash-m is unfair.
(b) The YA'AROS DEVASH explains similarly that David ha'Melech's intention was to appease his son, Avshalom, by appointing him as a Dayan. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 52a) states that one who appoints an inappropriate Dayan is considered to have planted an Asheirah tree, a form of Avodah Zarah. This is the "Avodah Zarah" which David ha'Melech intended to do.
(c) The YAD RAMAH and the RIF in the EIN YAKOV maintain that David ha'Melech actually planned to bow down to Avodah Zarah. David ha'Melech did not intend to worship the idol; rather, he wanted people to think that he had committed a sin for which he deserved the tribulations that he was suffering as a result of his rebellious son. According to some opinions, the act of Avodah Zarah is a sin only when the person bowing down intends to worship Avodah Zarah (see 61b). Since David ha'Melech had no intention to worship the Avodah Zarah, he felt that his act was justified. (Y. MONTROSE)


OPINIONS: The Mishnah states that the people of the Dor ha'Mabul (the Generation of the Flood) and the Dor ha'Pelagah (the Generation of the Dispersion, which built the Tower of Bavel) "have no portion in Olam ha'Ba, and they do not stand in judgment." This phrase is used throughout the Mishnah. What is the meaning of having no portion in Olam ha'Ba, and not standing in judgment?
(a) The ME'IRI explains that there are four main stages of existence: Olam ha'Zeh (this world), Olam ha'Ba (the World To Come), Yemos ha'Mashi'ach (the days of Mashi'ach), and Techiyas ha'Mesim (the resurrection of the dead; see Insights to 90:3). These four stages are alluded to, in their proper order, in the beginning of Birkos Keri'as Shema on Shabbos morning: "Ein Kamocha Elokeinu ba'Olam ha'Zeh, v'Ein Zulascha Malkeinu l'Chayei ha'Olam ha'Ba...." The Me'iri understands that having no portion in Olam ha'Ba means that one's Neshamah does not go to Olam ha'Ba after death, but it goes directly to Gehinom. When the Mishnah says that they will not "stand in judgment," it refers to the fact that their bodies are not awakened and judged at the time of Techiyas ha'Mesim, when the bodies and Neshamos are judged together.
(b) The RAMBAN in SHA'AR HA'GEMUL (where he disagrees with the RAMBAM's understanding of life after this world) has a very different understanding of life after this world. He maintains that if a person is righteous, he goes to Gan Eden, which is a place on this earth. If he is not righteous, he goes to Gehinom. After Yemos ha'Mashi'ach and Techiyas ha'Mesim, there will be the Yom ha'Din ha'Gadol, the Day of Final Judgment, when every person is judged to determine whether he merits going to Olam ha'Ba. When the Mishnah says that they have no portion in Olam ha'Ba, it refers to that final world. They do not "stand in judgment" means that their punishment is not stopped to judge them for a harsher punishment.
(c) The YAD RAMAH's understanding of what happens after death is similar to that of the Ramban, but he differs in the explanation of the Mishnah's words, "they do not stand in judgment." He explains that those generations do not stand in judgment because they already received their punishment in this world and do not deserve further punishment. The generations that do stand in judgment are deserving of further punishment. (Y. MONTROSE)