Haftarah of Machar Chodesh

Shmuel I 20:18-42


This Haftarah, "Machar Chodesh" ("Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh"), is read when Rosh Chodesh is on Sunday, and describes a very dark time in the life of King David.


After King Shaul sinned and let the people take spoils from the war with Amalek, the Prophet Shmuel told him that his kingdom will be taken away from him and given to "your friend who is better than you". From that point on, King Shaul lived in fear of his successor - in his eyes, his usurper.


When King Shaul first realized that David might be this "friend who is better than him", he tried various tactics to get rid of him. Getting wind of Shaul's ill will, Yonatan - Shaul's son and David's best friend - tried to reason with his father, and succeeded in getting him to agree that David was innocent. But soon after, while David was playing the harp for Shaul, the king threw his spear at him, missing him by a hair. Shaul sent his men to arrest David, but he escaped. Now, he has come back to the court of Shaul, so that he could try to find out from Yonatan what he had done to displease the king. Yonatan finds it impossible to believe that his father means to harm David. As the Haftarah begins, David and Yonatan devise a way to bring to light Shaul's true intentions.


The plan is made the day before a 2-day Rosh Chodesh. Yonatan tells David to absent himself on both days from the royal Rosh Chodesh feast. On the second day, David would go to their designated meeting place and hide. Yonatan will reveal his father's reaction to David's absence through a code: if he tells his page to bring back his arrows, David can come back; if he tells the page to keep going, David should run. Yonatan also reminds David of the pact that they had made earlier: when David does become king, he will show kindness and loyalty to Yonatan's family.


18) Yehonatan said to him, "Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh;

you will be missed,

when your seat is empty.

(יח) וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ יְהוֹנָתָן מָחָר חֹדֶשׁ


כִּי יִפָּקֵד מוֹשָׁבֶךָ:

19) The day after, go far down,

and come to the place

where you hid on a workday;

and stay there,

near the milestone.

(יט) וְשִׁלַּשְׁתָּ תֵּרֵד מְאֹד

וּבָאתָ אֶל הַמָּקוֹם

אֲשֶׁר נִסְתַּרְתָּ שָּׁם בְּיּוֹם הַמַּעֲשֶׂה


אֵצֶל הָאֶבֶן הָאָזֶל:

20) As for me, I will shoot three arrows off to the side,

sending them toward the target.

(כ) וַאֲנִי שְׁלֹשֶׁת הַחִצִּים צִדָּה אוֹרֶה

לְשַׁלַּח לִי לְמַטָּרָה:

21) Not then, I'll send the boy,

"Go find the arrows!"

If I say to the boy,

"Here are the arrows, between you and me, get them and come!"

then you are well, there is no problem I swear by Hashem.

(כא) וְהִנֵּה אֶשְׁלַח אֶת הַנַּעַר

לֵךְ מְצָא אֶת הַחִצִּים

אִם אָמֹר אֹמַר לַנַּעַר

הִנֵּה הַחִצִּים מִמְּךָ וָהֵנָּה קָחֶנּוּ וָבֹאָה

כִּי שָׁלוֹם לְךָ וְאֵין דָּבָר חַי ה':

22) But if I say this to the lad,

"There are the arrows, ahead of you."

Go, for Hashem has sent you away.

(כב) וְאִם כֹּה אֹמַר לָעֶלֶם

הִנֵּה הַחִצִּים מִמְּךָ וָהָלְאָה

לֵךְ כִּי שִׁלַּחֲךָ ה':

23) And concerning the matter

about which we spoke, you and I,

Hashem is between you and me forever.

(כג) וְהַדָּבָר

אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְנוּ אֲנִי וָאָתָּה

הִנֵּה ה' בֵּינִי וּבֵינְךָ עַד עוֹלָם: ס

David does not show up to the royal Rosh Chodesh feast. His absence is conspicuous and noted. At first, Shaul attempts to just him favorably. The next day, he runs out of excuses for him, and asks Yonatan. Yonatan tells him that he was the one who gave David permission to absent himself due to a family occasion.


24) David hid in the field.

Rosh Chodesh arrived;

the king sat down to eat the meal.

(כד) וַיִּסָּתֵר דָּוִד בַּשָּׂדֶה

וַיְהִי הַחֹדֶשׁ

וַיֵּשֶׁב הַמֶּלֶךְ אֶל הַלֶּחֶם לֶאֱכוֹל:

25) The king sat in his usual seat,

the seat by the wall;

Yehonatan got up;

Avner sat on the side of Shaul

David's place was empty.

(כה) וַיֵּשֶׁב הַמֶּלֶךְ עַל מוֹשָׁבוֹ כְּפַעַם בְּפַעַם

אֶל מוֹשַׁב הַקִּיר

וַיָּקָם יְהוֹנָתָן

וַיֵּשֶׁב אַבְנֵר מִצַּד שָׁאוּל

וַיִּפָּקֵד מְקוֹם דָּוִד:

26) Shaul did not say a thing on that day,

for he said, "It is a coincidence,

he's impure, that must be it, he's impure".

(כו) וְלֹא דִבֶּר שָׁאוּל מְאוּמָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא

כִּי אָמַר מִקְרֶה הוּא

בִּלְתִּי טָהוֹר הוּא כִּי לֹא טָהוֹר: ס

27) The next day, on the second day of Rosh Chodesh

David's place was empty.

(כז) וַיְהִי מִמָּחֳרַת הַחֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי

וַיִּפָּקֵד מְקוֹם דָּוִד ס

Shaul said to his son, Yehonatan:

"Why didn't ben-Yishai come,

neither yesterday, nor today, to the meal?"

וַיֹּאמֶר שָׁאוּל אֶל יְהוֹנָתָן בְּנוֹ

מַדּוּעַ לֹא בָא בֶן יִשַׁי

גַּם תְּמוֹל גַּם הַיּוֹם אֶל הַלָּחֶם:

28) Yehonatan answered Shaul,

"David asked leave of me to go to Beit-Lechem.

(כח) וַיַּעַן יְהוֹנָתָן אֶת שָׁאוּל

נִשְׁאֹל נִשְׁאַל דָּוִד מֵעִמָּדִי עַד בֵּית לָחֶם:

29) He said, 'Let me go,

because we are having a family feast in the city,

and my brother commanded me to come.

Now, if you please,

give me leave, please, and I will go see my brothers.'

That is why he did not come

to the king's table."

(כט) וַיֹּאמֶר שַׁלְּחֵנִי נָא

כִּי זֶבַח מִשְׁפָּחָה לָנוּ בָּעִיר

וְהוּא צִוָּה לִי אָחִי

וְעַתָּה אִם מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ

אִמָּלְטָה נָּא וְאֶרְאֶה אֶת אֶחָי

עַל כֵּן לֹא בָא

אֶל שֻׁלְחַן הַמֶּלֶךְ: ס


Shaul's reaction is way out of proportion. He is utterly furious, and calls Yonatan a traitor, and several other things that would not be fit to print. He reveals his fear that David is a threat to Yonatan, and declares his intention to execute David immediately. When Yonatan protests, Shaul threatens him, too. At that point, Yonatan understands clearly that Shaul cannot be reasoned with, and that David is in serious danger.


30) Shaul was furious with Yehonatan.

He said to him, "Traitor!

Don't I know that you chose ben-Yishai

to your shame,

and your mother's shame!

(ל) וַיִּחַר אַף שָׁאוּל בִּיהוֹנָתָן

וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ בֶּן נַעֲוַת הַמַּרְדּוּת

הֲלוֹא יָדַעְתִּי כִּי בֹחֵר אַתָּה לְבֶן יִשַׁי


וּלְבֹשֶׁת עֶרְוַת אִמֶּךָ:

31) For, all the years

that ben-Yishai is alive on this earth,

you and your kingdom will not be stable!

Now send for him and bring him to me,

for he is sentenced to death!"

(לא) כִּי כָל הַיָּמִים

אֲשֶׁר בֶּן יִשַׁי חַי עַל הָאֲדָמָה

לֹא תִכּוֹן אַתָּה וּמַלְכוּתֶךָ

וְעַתָּה שְׁלַח וְקַח אֹתוֹ אֵלַי

כִּי בֶן מָוֶת הוּא: ס

32) Yehonatan answered

his father Shaul.

He said to him, "Why should he be killed? What did he do?"

(לב) וַיַּעַן יְהוֹנָתָן

אֶת שָׁאוּל אָבִיו

וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו לָמָּה יוּמַת מֶה עָשָׂה:

33) Shaul drew his spear at him to strike him.

Yehonatan realized,

that his father was determined to kill David.

(לג) וַיָּטֶל שָׁאוּל אֶת הַחֲנִית עָלָיו לְהַכֹּתוֹ

וַיֵּדַע יְהוֹנָתָן

כִּי כָלָה הִיא מֵעִם אָבִיו לְהָמִית אֶת דָּוִד: ס

34) Yehonatan got up from the table in anger,

and did not eat on the second day of Rosh Chodesh,

for he was upset about David,

that his father had shamed him.

(לד) וַיָּקָם יְהוֹנָתָן מֵעִם הַשֻּׁלְחָן בָּחֳרִי אָף

וְלֹא אָכַל בְּיוֹם הַחֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי לֶחֶם

כִּי נֶעְצַב אֶל דָּוִד

כִּי הִכְלִמוֹ אָבִיו: ס


Yonatan carries out the plan that he had made with David, and appears with his page near David's hiding place. At first he sticks to the signals that they had arranged, and tells his page "Run, quickly, without delay!" signaling that David must do the same. Realizing that he cannot let David go without saying goodbye, he sends away the page, and David and Yonatan cry over their friendship and their shared future that can never be.


35) In the morning;

Yehonatan went out to the field at David's time,

and a little boy was with him.

(לה) וַיְהִי בַבֹּקֶר

וַיֵּצֵא יְהוֹנָתָן הַשָּׂדֶה לְמוֹעֵד דָּוִד

וְנַעַר קָטֹן עִמּוֹ:

36) He said to his boy,

"Run and find the arrows

that I will shoot."

The boy ran,

and he shot the arrow past him.

(לו) וַיֹּאמֶר לְנַעֲרוֹ

רֻץ מְצָא נָא אֶת הַחִצִּים

אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מוֹרֶה

הַנַּעַר רָץ

וְהוּא יָרָה הַחֵצִי לְהַעֲבִרוֹ:

37) The boy came to the place where the arrow

that Yehonatan shot was.

Yehonatan called after the boy and said,

"Hey, the arrow is ahead of you!"

(לז) וַיָּבֹא הַנַּעַר עַד מְקוֹם הַחֵצִי

אֲשֶׁר יָרָה יְהוֹנָתָן

וַיִּקְרָא יְהוֹנָתָן אַחֲרֵי הַנַּעַר וַיֹּאמֶר

הֲלוֹא הַחֵצִי מִמְּךָ וָהָלְאָה:

38) Yehonatan called after the boy,

"Hurry up, don't stand around!"

Yehonatan's boy gathered the arrows,

and brought them to his master.

(לח) וַיִּקְרָא יְהוֹנָתָן אַחֲרֵי הַנַּעַר

מְהֵרָה חוּשָׁה אַל תַּעֲמֹד

וַיְלַקֵּט נַעַר יְהוֹנָתָן אֶת הַחִצִּים

וַיָּבֹא אֶל אֲדֹנָיו:

39) And the boy knew nothing,

only Yehonatan and David

knew the matter.

(לט) וְהַנַּעַר לֹא יָדַע מְאוּמָה

אַךְ יְהוֹנָתָן וְדָוִד

יָדְעוּ אֶת הַדָּבָר:

40) Yehonatan gave his equipment

to his boy;

he said to him,

"Go, bring this to the city."

(מ) וַיִּתֵּן יְהוֹנָתָן אֶת כֵּלָיו

אֶל הַנַּעַר אֲשֶׁר לוֹ

וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ

לֵךְ הָבֵיא הָעִיר:

41) The boy went,

and David got up from the milestone;

he fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times.

They kissed each other,

they cried together,

until David overcame.

(מא) הַנַּעַר בָּא

וְדָוִד קָם מֵאֵצֶל הַנֶּגֶב

וַיִּפֹּל לְאַפָּיו אַרְצָה וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ שָׁלֹשׁ פְּעָמִים

וַיִּשְּׁקוּ אִישׁ אֶת רֵעֵהוּ

וַיִּבְכּוּ אִישׁ אֶת רֵעֵהוּ

עַד דָּוִד הִגְדִּיל:

42) Yehonatan said to David, "Go in peace!

We have sworn, the two of us together, in the name of Hashem,

Hashem shall be between you and me,

between my descendents and your descendents, forever."

(מב) וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוֹנָתָן לְדָוִד לֵךְ לְשָׁלוֹם

אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְנוּ שְׁנֵינוּ אֲנַחְנוּ בְּשֵׁם ה' לֵאמֹר

ה' יִהְיֶה בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ

וּבֵין זַרְעִי וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ עַד עוֹלָם: פ


"Haftarot Unrolled" Copyright Kira Sirote

In memory of my father, Peter Rozenberg, z"l

לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי פנחס בן נתן נטע ז''ל