The Gemara (Nazir 4b) states that Avshalom was a Nezir Olam, an eternal Nazir (this specific type of Nazir can cut his hair once every year). The Gemara (Sotah 9b) teaches us that Avshalom was impressed with his hair and that in truth (Sotah 10a) his hair was the root cause of his rebellion against his father.
Five people were created with an “aspect of similarity to the One Above,” and they all were punished with those very characteristics. The original failure by Avshalom was caused through his hair. To understand this Gemara we look to the Pirkei D’Rabi Eliezer, which seems to be exactly the same as the Gemara, but adds on the words “were created similar to Adam HaRishon.”
The Radal explains that the words of the Gemara, “aspect of similarity to the One Above,” are in unison with the words of the Pirkei D’Rabi Eliezer, for Adam HaRishon before the sin was perfect, similar to HaShem. Every one of these five people had a quality that they received from Adam when he was on the highest level of spirituality, before the sin.
In Shmuel 2 chapter 18, we learn the story of how Avshalom rebelled against his father, and as he was riding his hair became entangled in a branch and the animal he was riding continued on, and Avshalom was left there hanging from the tree until Yoav, the general of Dovid, found him and killed him:
The Gemara (Sotah 10a) tells us that after the death of Avshalom, Dovid cried and called him “בני, my son” eight times – seven to take him out of the seven levels of Gehinnom, and the eighth to reattach his body to his head. Others explain the eighth time he called him “בני- my son” was to enable Avshalom to enter into Heaven.
How could the grave crimes committed by Avshalom be appeased by his father’s uttering of the word בני? Avshalom tried to murder his father and rebelled against him; how could a simple cry possibly erase that?
AVSHALOM, DOVID AND ADAM HARISHON
The Midrash (Bamidbar 14:2) teaches us that that Adam HaRishon gave years of his life to Dovid. For this gift, Dovid spent his life trying to rectify the sin of Adam HaRishon. The Arizal says that the Gemara (Sukkah 26a) says that Dovid never slept more than a minimum because he did not want to taste death, and that was also to rectify the sin of Adam HaRishon, which caused death to descend upon mankind.
Many sefarim use this wonderful foundation to explain the Gemara (Sanhedrin 107:a): "Dovid was supposed to be with Batsheva, but his timing was too early".
They point out that the Gemara implies from the wording used by the Gemara that the marriage between Dovid and Batsheva was not an ordinary “match,” but was really the reincarnation of their own previous marriage, Dovid being reincarnated from Adam HaRishon and Batshevah being reincarnated from Chava. There is a reason that their marriage produced Shlomo Hamelech, who built the first Beis Hamikdash, and could have completely wiped out the affects of the sin of Adam and Chava. It was destined for perfection and greatness. But because their timing was slightly off, they could not bring forth the complete forgiveness needed to usher in the final, everlasting Beis Hamikdash.
The punishment for the marriage was as Nathan Hanavi warned them, “You will have a bad uprising from within your home.” (Shmuel 2 12,11) Avshalom, as we have learned, was born and had the hair of Adam HaRishon.
Dovid, who was the gilgul of Adam HaRishon, produced a child, Avshalom, who had received the hair of Adam HaRishon. This was done in order for Avshalom to help Dovid attain forgiveness for the sin of the Eitz Hadaas. Since Dovid took Batsheva, who was the gilgul of Chava, before the proper time, and Avshalom, who had the opportunity but failed to rectify Adam HaRishon’s sin due to the haughtiness caused by his hair, they were both led to suffer together. The punishment of having a child like Avshalom, who rebelled against his father, was fitting. Dovid was greatly pained over Avshalom, who died by being hung from a tree by his hair. As we shall see, together in their pain, Dovid and Avshalom brought about the proper forgiveness.
Although HaShem said that Avshalom was the punishment for Dovid, we still have to understand how Avshalom himself failed; what was his thought process to rebel against his father?
The Shelah explains in the name of the Rikanti that “the hair gains its strength from the brain.” Avshalom felt that since Dovid sinned when he took Batsheva, he therefore failed in his mission to attain forgiveness for Adam HaRishon and was not qualified to be king.
Avshalom felt that since he had the hair of Adam HaRishon, it was up to him to continue this great mission. He himself was going to have the crown of Nezirus, as well as the crown of kingship, in order to finish the job at which Dovid had failed.
As Dovid was crying bitterly, he was forgiven for the sin of Batsheva. At the moment Avshalom was hanging from the tree, he came to recognize that he had been unable to accomplish his mission with his hair. The manner of his death showed him how his “hair” was still intertwined with the tree, meaning the Eitz Hadaas. His rebellion was supposed to help Dovid be forgiven, because it was Dovid’s responsibility to rectify the sin of Adam HaRishon – Avshalom was not meant to complete the mission, but rather to help Dovid complete it!
The Gemara (Sotah 10a) teaches us that Avshalom did not cut off his hair and free himself from the tree because when he took the sword to do so, he saw Gehinnom open before him and said that “it is better that I hang with my hair than enter Gehinnom.”
What was he thinking as he was hanging between Heaven and Earth by his hair from a tree? He was holding a sword, and the only thing between his escape and certain death was to simply cut his hair off. Still, he didn’t do it, because Gehinnom loomed before him.
In spiritual terms, he was “hanging between Heaven and Earth by his hair,” for he had the choice to accept the Judgment from above and gain eternal life, or cut his hair and save his physical life.
When he recognized the connection between his hair and the tree and the history behind both, he accepted the Judgment and repented in the true form. He saw the ways of the world and where he had erred, as well as where he now had the chance to fix up his mistake.
As we stated above, when Dovid heard of his son’s death, he cried and called him “my son” eight times, to take him out of Gehinnom and bring him into Heaven. Dovid felt that he was the cause of Avshalom’s sin; he created the environment that led to Avshalom losing his direction. Dovid, who came from Adam HaRishon, felt that the history of the sin of the Eitz Hadaas is what started this entire spiraling of events leading to his son’s demise, including his wrongdoing in approaching Batsheva before the proper time. Avshalom inherited the hair and lost his way, but it all began with Dovid. Every action a father takes directly affects his children too. Dovid said “my son” to imply that he himself was the cause of Avshalom’s sin. Therefore, he prayed to release his son from Gehinnom.
This again shows us how wonderful and mystical are the ways of HaShem and how little we humans understand. But nevertheless we must thrive and never tire to dig into the Torah to taste the sweetness and endless depths of Torah.
(based on Shebili Pinchas Parshas Naso by Rabbi Pinches Friedman)