David (with help from the Philistine enemy) succeeded in creating a united kingdom of all the tribes, and withstanding a number of challenges to his sovereignty. His successor Solomon continued the work of consolidation and institutionalization, the crown of this effort being of course the Temple. Clearly, Solomon’s Temple continues to serve as a crucial symbol in Jewish consciousness and belief, and a key factor in the traditional connection to Eretz Yisrael.
The glory was short-lived: already with Solomon’s death centrifugal forces dominated, and the kingdom was re-divided with the ten northern tribes splitting off from Judah and Simeon. 200 years later, the northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians, who apparently adopted a policy of destroying the national identities of subject peoples by forced migrations – and thus the ten tribes disappeared from history and moved into legend. Our sovereignty over the land was restricted to the area of Judah – until it too was lost just over a century later. (see next lesson)
The question that is relevant for us to consider as we examine these events is: what is the ideal relationship among Jewish religion, a Jewish state, and the land of Israel? How do we feel about “the good old days” of Solomon? How do we respond to the traditional idealization of that period? (more…)