Often, when David and Michal would fight, he would bring up the foreskins. Her father, Saul, had required 100 Philistine foreskins as a dowry, and David couldn’t let it go. Michal learned to expect it. To be fair, he didn’t reach for them right away. But he did find a surprising number of ways to connect them to the issue at hand. They might be an example of the ways he’d sacrificed for her.
“I was shedding blood for you even before we were together,” he’d say. “Two hundred Philistines killed. It took me nearly all day. And at the end of things, I was really picking through the dregs. I didn’t kill anyone who wasn’t able-bodied, mind you, but some were on the line. It was a hassle. I did it for you.”
They might support his industriousness, his identity as an overachiever.
“I go above and beyond, every day,” he’d say, “just like with the foreskins. Your father asked for one hundred, I brought him two hundred. So don’t tell me I try to skate by with the bare-minimum, ahuv.”
His perfectionist streak.
“I do care about the details,” he’d say. “I killed every last Philistine myself, and harvested every last foreskin myself. I didn’t leave it to Ahithophel, or anyone. I counted them several times, myself. I knew I’d gone above and beyond, but I didn’t want to end up with 182 or 199 foreskins. I wanted the impact of an exact double of the requirement. It mattered to me, that detail. I know that you’ve never counted a significant number of foreskins, but, oy—I don’t want to go in to it too much, but a bundle of foreskins in a bag, in the hot sun . . . it’s not easy.”
And then sometimes he’d speak of them wistfully, an example of how things used to be.
“I remember your face, motek, when I brought in the bag, threw it on the floor in front of your father, and a dozen foreskins spilled out of the bag and scattered there. You were so happy to see those foreskins. Your face shone like Moshe’s. Now I doubt if 400 Philistine foreskins could produce the same effect. I can’t impress you like that anymore.”
Michal stood there and looked at him. She felt hopeless. David couldn’t understand that it was never about the foreskins.