Last night, Rabbi Barry Schwartz of New Jersey’s Congregation Bais Emuno and director of Jewish Lights Publishing revealed a sympathetic portrayal of Batsheba or as he put the saga, “…far beyond House of Cards.” Using iconic Western artworks, literature, film and varied midrashim he reminded us just how deeply pervasive and far reaching the temptress archetype still holds.
Batsheba is vilified for supposedly provoking King David’s advances, but the very nature of his kingly power sheds doubts on Batsheba’s essential capacity to reject his advances. The way male dominated scholars have understood the text obviously strays from the basic account in the text itself. The result of David’s gaze is disastrous. Batsheba is never punished nor does she ask God’s forgiveness while David, guilty of a number of crimes, including capital murder, goes unpunished. To exonerate King David, we blame the victim, Batsheba.
Speaking to the scholarly rifts, Rabbi Schwartz even reminded students that traditional halachic studies forbid public reading of this story. And while decades pass before we meet Batsheba again in the text, she manages poetic justice and perhaps revenge when she engineers the succession of her son, Solomon, to found the House of David.