Monday, August 15, 2011

Who was Chuldah? Mystery Resolved

[7] Otzar Hamedrashim (Eizenstein)

Chuldah, one of seven prophetesses listed in the Scriptures,[1]  lived in the Mishneh quarter of Jerusalem.  She would sit in prophesy between the Temple’s two busiest gates, at the southern side of the mount. 
Chuldah sat in the area between the double gate and the triple gate, near the large platform

But Childah's connection with King Josiah goes back to his childhood.  When Josiah came to the throne as an orphan of eight years old, Chuldah and her husband Shalum took care of him, with Shalum acting as one of the king’s advisors, along with Chuldah’s kinsman, the prophet Jeremiah.[2]  And it was in Shalum’s merit that Chuldah began to prophesy.[3]
Shalum would sit at the entrance to Jerusalem, laden with bags of water, serving all who passed by.  In response to this outpouring of care for others, G-d rested His Divine Spirit upon Shalum's wife Chuldah, a woman of great faith, moral character, and Torah knowledge.[4] 


Why did Josiah choose to consult Chuldah instead of the main prophet of the time, Jeremiah?  One of the reasons the Talmud[6] offers for Josiah's preference of Chuldah is that “women are more compassionate than men.”   Seeking some note of comfort from the harsh verses, Josiah turned to the woman who raised him.  As a prophet, Chuldah had no choice but to tell him the truth – there would be destruction.  But she also told Josiah that his devotion to G-d had not gone unnoticed, and that he would not have to witness the fulfillment of this tragic prophesy.
 
More importantly, Chuldah encouraged Josiah to continue his efforts to eradicate idolatry from his kingdom.  Inspired, the king called together his entire nation to the Holy Temple.  He read for them the words of Divine warning, and they renewed their commitment to serve G-d with their whole heart and soul.


While as a rule, no one is buried in Jerusalem, Chuldah (along with King David) is the exception.  There is a Midrash that gives us an inkling of Chuldah’s greatness, stating that her soul dwells in the fourth of seven levels of Paradise, crowned with diadem of light.[7]


 

[1] The others were Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Chana, Avigail, and Esther.
[2] Other teachers included Hilkiyah the High Priest, the Prophet Jeremiah, and Shafan the Scribe.  Shalum later served as Keeper of the Robes.
[3] Chuldah’s great-grandmother is another interesting woman, Rachav.  This Canaanite inn-keeper helped the Jews conquer the Land of Israel, converted to Judaism, and married Joshua.  Among their descendents are Chuldah, Shalum, and King Josiah. 
[4] These are qualities Maimonides says are prerequisites for receiving prophecy.
[5] He might have gone home to Anatoth.  Another opinion has him traveling to Assyria to bring hope and encouragement to the Ten Tribes held captive there.
[6] Megilah 14b

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