We all rose at dawn and went outside to say the Morning Prayer. The whole of Absalom’s household joined us as he led the prayer: “Elohai neshama… the soul You have given me, She is pure. You create her, You form her, and You breathe her into me and You guard it while it is within me. One day You will take it from me, and restore it to me in the time to come. As long as the soul is within me, I will thank You, HaShem my G_D and G_D of my ancestors, Master of all works, L_RD of all souls. Blessed are You, HaShem, who restores souls to lifeless bodies.”
The morning meal was warm porridge, fresh fruit and honeyed dates and after we finished, Absalom, Adonijah and I walked into the orchards. Absalom came straight to the point, “What, if anything, can I do to move the King to free me from this ridiculous exile?”
Adonijah replied, “Brother I have tried to speak to our father on your behalf but he will not hear your name. Your absence is felt at every meeting of the Council, but your name remains unspoken. The King will not hear it.”
Absalom turned to me and asked, “Sidon, is there no hope for me? Am I to become a phantom to my father while I live? Can you think of anything that can be done to bring us back together?”
“We spoke with Joab, before we came here,” I said, “and he said that you were disobedient and can not be trusted…impatient with too much ambition. He said that you would be King before your time. That your friends spread rumors among the tribal leadership about the counting of the people and taxes and how we counsel the King to wage war. He said these things in frustration because the King forbids him to take any action against your friends. He said he washes his hands of your conflict with your father and yet he sent us here and asked us to return and tell him what you want. He then said that he would speak with the King if he chose to listen.”
Absalom stared across the orchard at a field of wheat and snorted, “That old wolf, he sees enemies everywhere and he is forever setting his spies upon me and any other man of influence. He’s done it for years and he knows how to do nothing else. Tell Joab that I still have my own voice and that my friends do not speak for me. They are their own men and whatever they say about the counting of the people, taxes or his counsel to the King comes not from my mouth but from their words,” then his voice took on a note of regret that built into rage, “Yes I disobeyed my father, but I did so, so that no man, whatever his status, should ever abuse my sister, ever again!”
Absalom picked up a stone, cast it between the trees, watched it fly into the field and then grew calm and cold, “Ask Joab to remember who taught me all that I know of the art of war and spy craft. Tell him that my impatience has always been with myself and that my ambition has always been to serve my father the King and the people of the Nation. Tell him that I regret my disobedience and to trust in the fact that I had no other choice but to set right the dishonor inflicted upon my sister.”
Then he placed his hands on my shoulders and his voice trembled as tears came from his eyes, “Ask Joab to remember the bestial crime of my half-brother and then ask if he could have done anything less than I did and remain a man with honor. Tell him that I killed Amnon just as I would have slaughtered any other beast. His death was quick and without pain which was better than he deserved. Tell him this and then tell him that I regret being forced to be executioner of that vile man. Tell him that I pray to G_D every day ask HIS forgiveness. Tell Joab, that if he chooses to speak to my father on my behalf and tell him these things, I will forever be in his debt.”
It took most of the morning for Absalom to recover his composure. To speak the truth, I was so moved by his passion and regret that I felt a sense of duty to do what I could to bring about reconciliation between King David and this man, his oldest remaining son. Adonijah was moved by his brother’s plea as well and we all spent the rest of that day and most of the following day in search of what we might do to persuade Joab to intercede with King David.
When we embraced at the gate of his estate before we returned to Jerusalem, as “Messenger of the King” I carried a scroll, written in Absalom’s own hand, his personal plea to his father asking for forgiveness. I mounted Bilhah and as the sun and shadow played on Absalom’s handsome face and glorious mane of curled hair, for an instant I saw a reflection of light and shadow in his eyes that struck me in a strange way. It was an expression of satisfaction that I’d seen in his face before. It was the look he had when he’d bested his brothers and won some playful competition. Absalom looked like he’d just won a game.
That expression stayed in the back of my mind as we rode back to the City of David and I carried Absalom’s message to Joab for the King and by the time we enter the gate of Jerusalem, it haunted me. It was the same expression that Absalom wore in my dreams when he drove his chariot at the head of a multitude across the plain of Gilgal.
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