Tutoring a girl, I had the chance to relearn the story of Dovid and Goliath. There are many lessons embedded in that story. Yet, the one that we zeroed in on was the message about knowing your focus.
The story in recap:
King Shaul, the first Jewish king, is faced with a crisis. The Plishtim have gathered together, pitched their tents and are getting ready to battle the Jews. They stand perched on a hillside, arms at the ready. Appropriately, the Jews assemble themselves into army formation, too. Right across the dale, opposite that enemy campsite, on a hillside, the Jews begin to get their arms at ready. You can see the activity of the camps, the roar of artillery moving into place, the shouts of soldiers at drills.
Into the no-man’s land between the two camps comes a mammoth being, this huge giant of a man, standing head way above mere ordinary folks. He is sheathed in metal, copper visor-cap, a few thousand pounds of metal in links of armor, a tree-trunk sized bronze javelin in his hand. His name is Golias and he is the champion of the Plishtim. He strides into that land between the Jews and his army, mocking, jeering, taunting, insinuating that ‘there is no man among you who can beat me.’ Each time he walks about flexing those muscles and his armor-clad body, the Jews quake in fear. They are completely demoralized. For forty days the scenario repeats itself, morn and eve, the taunting, the giant of a man striding there and scaring the wits out of the Jews.
Enter onto the scene Dovid ben Yishai. Yishai was a blessed men, eight sons in total. Seven were important folks, acknowledge righteous men. The youngest, ah, therein was the rub. Yishai suspects he is a bastard, that youngest son, and so he treats him differently. Dovid is sent to tend sheep, away from his family. At this point in the story, Yishai’s three eldest sons volunteered to do time in the Jewish army and are to be found in that encampment, perched on that hill, hearing Golias’ taunts.
In an age before emails and cel phones parents found out of the welfare of their kids in slower fashion. Yishai became concerned about his sons on the front. He, therefore, sends for Dovid and requests he take food for the army boys and find out how they are faring.
Dovid is a very responsible young man. Before rushing off to comply, he first makes sure his primary job is not affected, that the sheep have someone to tend to them in his absence. Once that was arranged, Dovid takes food in hand and heads to the front. He arrives just as Golias strides again with arrogance into that no-man’s land to taunt the Jewish people.
By this point, the Jewish army is used to the shaming dished out by Golias, but Dovid, the newcomer, is shocked and angered. He asks about the giant man, and he is told all about his harangues against the Jews. He is also told that at this point in time King Shaul is promising untold wealth and the princess’ hand in marriage to any bloke who’d finish off this giant Golias.
Dovid goes about the army camp, asking person after person the same repetitious question, “What is the reward that is promised to the warrior who gets rid of Golias?”
His oldest brother happens upon this scenario and jumps to conclusion, losing his temper with his wrong assumptions. He lambastes Dovid: ‘You irresponsible young pup, running off from your job of tending sheep, leaving them wandering about untended, just to come and try to have adventure at a battlefield!’
He never finds out that Dovid is there on a mission of his father. He never finds out that Dovid has ensured someone is tending the sheep. He assumes the worst and lashes out invective based on his false premises. Yet Dovid doesn’t bother defending himself. Just mildly says, ‘What’s bothering you, if I speak a bit here to folks?’ And then, the verse says, that he turns his back and Dovid goes right back to what he was doing before that tirade, going person to person and asking the same question from every cluster of men, “What’s the reward for killing Golias?”
What was Dovid doing? Did he not hear the answer the first time around when he was told that the man to kill Golias would become wealthy and marry the king’s daughter? David had a purpose. He knew he had to, for the sake of G-d, go meet the challenge of Golias and do battle for the Jews. He wanted to do it totally for G-d, didn’t want to have the adulation of the crowds. He, therefore, wanted folks to think him a greedy boor who was risking his life merely for money. In order to cast that impression, he made sure every soldier in camp heard his questions about the reward so they would have the impression of an immature adventurer and not realize his spiritual depths.
With his focus, with a clarity of what he was doing and why he was doing it, he was able to “turn his back” on his brother’s abuse, let it roll off his back like water off a duck.
If only we can concentrate on our lives and our missions with such intensity, we would not let any mere words or insults ever stop our focus.
May G-d grant us the wisdom of Dovid to understand that which we must do, grant us the courage to go ahead and do it, and give us the confidence to ignore any abuse and invective which aims to thwart us.