The haftarah for Parshat Shemini tells of how King David had the Aron (the Holy Ark) brought to Jerusalem. On the way, Uzza, who was walking alongside the wagon that was carrying the Aron, noticed that the oxen pulling it had slipped. Worried that it would fall off the wagon, he reached for the Aron, and G‑d took his life because he should have trusted that G‑d’s Ark wouldn’t fall.

David stopped the procession, continuing it three months later. This time the Aron was carried; David realized that putting the Aron on a wagon was a mistake and not allowed.1 As the Aron proceeded, David danced and leaped before G‑d. His wife Michal, daughter of King Saul, saw what he was doing and was displeased, thinking that it would cause him to lose the respect of the people.

Chabad and Sephardic communities conclude with the Aron being settled in Jerusalem, followed by a celebration. Ashkenazic communities continue with Michal’s disparaging remarks to David, his response to her and how David wanted to build the Holy Temple. But G‑d refused this request.2

The connection to the parshah is that Shemini speaks of the two sons of AaronNadav and Avihu—who died during the inauguration of the Mishkan. Like Uzza, they had made an error in judgement and had overstepped appropriate boundaries.

Aprons and Prophets

The haftarah tells us that when the Aron was being carried to the City of David (another name for Jerusalem), “David danced joyfully with all his strength before G‑d, and David was dressed in a linen apron.”3 When he entered the City of David, it says: “King David leaped and danced joyfully before G‑d.”4 Outside the City of David, it says that he danced joyfully, and that he wore a linen apron. Inside the City of David, it says that he leaped as well and doesn’t make mention of his apron. Why the differences? And what is the meaning of the linen apron?

Later, when Michal rebuked him for his actions, he responded: “Before G‑d, Who chose me over your father . . . I would lower myself even further . . . ”5 Why did he have to mention that G‑d chose him over her father?

The Rambam6 tells us that this apron was different than the apron (ephod) of the High Priest, which was made out of six different threads: gold, turquoise wool, purple wool, red wool, linen and goat hair. This one was made out of just linen. He continues to explain that the linen apron was worn by the benei haneviim, the “junior prophets,” and by those who were worthy to have the Divine Presence shine on them. It showed that they reached a level akin to that of a High Priest.

(The Jerusalem Talmud7 tells us that Nob, a city of priests, had 85 priests who wore the linen apron. They weren’t High Priests, as there can only be one High Priest, but they were worthy of being one.)

One of the ways a prophet readied himself for prophecy was by sitting alone in meditation, which was usually done outside the city. So it makes sense that when David was still outside the city, he would be wearing the linen apron.

It also makes sense now, why outside the city, “David danced joyfully with all his strength,” because the Divine Presence only rests on someone when he is joyful.

Leaping With Joy

This will also explain why outside the city, he only danced; inside the city, he leaped and danced. Outside the city, he danced for a reason: to receive prophecy. Whenever thinking is involved, it curbs the joy. However, when he entered the City of David, his joy was for G‑d—without any personal reason or personal gain in mind—and so his joy was unbridled, and he leaped as well.

This will help us understand David’s answer to Michal. According to the Talmud,8 Michal was a very holy woman, who even wore tefillin. We must conclude that she meant well, and of course, if you think about it, dancing and leaping may very well cause a king to lose some respect.

This is what David was telling Michal. The reason why G‑d took the rulership away from her father (Saul) is because he followed his reasoning, which although noble was not what G‑d wanted. This happened when he was told to wipe out Amakel, along with their property. Saul allowed the best of the cattle to live, to offer them as sacrifices to G‑d, which was fine logic, but it was not what G‑d had wanted.

David, on the other hand, did what Hashem wanted, accepting the Divine yoke, despite what he thought. That is why G‑d made him king. Humbling himself before G‑d was the key to his rulership. Therefore, he leaped and danced joyfully, beyond reason.9

The Rambam10 brings the verse, “King David leaped and danced joyfully,” as proof that every Jewish person should serve G‑d with great joy. This verse is a lesson to each of us—that the way of David is preferred over the way of Saul. For G‑d, we have to go beyond our understanding, and one of the ways to break out and get beyond ourselves is through joy.

David concludes, saying to Michal that because of his irrational dancing: “I will be [even more] honored.”11 The same is true for us. When we serve G‑d, going beyond our understanding and with joy, we gain the respect of those around us.

It is true that David was not able to build the Holy Temple—not because he wasn’t worthy, but because he fought many wars. Yet it bears his name because he was the one who made it possible.

He was also granted G‑d’s promise that “Your house and your sovereignty will remain before you forever; your throne will be firmly established forever.”12

May we merit to see the Third Temple, with the coming of Moshiach, heir to King David. May it happen soon!