י״ב באלול ה׳תשע״ז (September 3, 2017)

Sanhedrin 49a-b: Joining the Revolt

One of the most complicated personalities in the Tanakh is Yoav, the Commander-in Chief of King David’s army. Although he served the king, he also refused to accept some of the king’s orders and, in fact, supported King David’s son, Adoniyahu, who tried to claim the throne prior to King David’s death. Ultimately, King David charged his son, King Solomon, to deal with him appropriately. The Gemara on today’s daf discusses how Yoav was tried before King Solomon. According to the Gemara, King Solomon accused Yoav of playing a role in the revolt led by King David’s son, Adoniyahu, even though he remained on King David’s side during Avshalom’s revolt.

The fact that the navi emphasizes that Yoav did not join Avshalom’s revolt, which seems to imply that he might have been punished for that, as well, leads Rav Yehuda to conclude that he wanted to join the revolt, but did not do so. One of the explanations offered by the Gemara to explain why he did not join that revolt is that at that time much of King David’s strength remained. Specifically, as Rav Yehuda quotes Rav as teaching, there were 400 soldiers in King David’s army who were the offspring of relations with neshei yefat to’ar (see Devarim 21:10) who behaved like non-Jews, cutting their hair, for example, in the fashion of non-Jews, and growing a blorit. These soldiers were the leaders of the garrisons, and Yoav feared this formidable army.

Many suggestions are offered to define the term blorit, but no word in Greek or Latin is a perfect match for it. The hairstyle involved allowing the hair to grow long particularly on the sides and in the back of the head, and the hair was tied and braided into different shapes. Later on, the braided hair was shaved off in a special pagan ritual ceremony.

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