Benayahu Bem Yehoyada was one of the greatest heroes of King David and King Solomon’s time. He not only served as a Kohen, but also as Av Beit Din (something akin to “leader of the supreme court”) and warrior. In fact, he was so powerful and trustworthy that King David appointed him also as one of his 3 special agents and confidents. These were, without a doubt, the greatest Tzaddikim of that time.
As one of the outstanding men of his time, he didn’t take part in the revolt of Avshalom against King David, and was appointed by King Solomon to kill 3 incredibly important figures: Yoav, Adonyah and Shim’i ben Gera. As a Kohen, he couldn’t touch a dead body, so he devised a way to kill them without touching them. He was later appointed general of King Solomon’s army in place of Yoav.
Kabbalistic Teachings from Benayahu
The Holy Zohar teaches us that that the First and Second Holy Temple stood in the merit of Benayahu. In Sha’ar HaGilgulim, Rav Chaim Vital writes that this is because he was a master of unifications and kept the flow of blessings coming down to our world, even after his death. This is an instance when a Tzadik is called alive even after his physical death. Their merits and spiritual work can sustain generations of people afterward.
The clue to that is in his name and many nicknames. He’s called Ben Ish Chail (son of [or someone who’s] a man of [wondrous] deeds), which denotes his outstanding valor in holiness and wisdom.Not only that, but he was the reincarnation of Eliezer, the servant of Avraham Avinu, and used to dip in ice cold lakes for purification. There’s another very deep Kabbalistic secret to Benayahu’s name. It’s written in Hebrew בניהו, which contains 2 divine names of Hashem. One is the name בן which has a numerical value of 52 alludes to the Holy Name יוד הה וו הה , and the other is יהו which alludes to the lights of the world of Atzilut as they descend to the 6 Emotional Sephirot of that world. The full name is Gematria 73, which is the numerical value of חכמה – Wisdom (72+1), and also contains inside the name בינה – Understanding.
Another nickname is “Rav Pe’alim”, which is hard to translate but means “master of many works”, alluding to his sagely wisdom in appointing “workers” for Torah.
Thanks to that he was aided in many battles he fought for both King David and King Solomon, and was incredibly successful.
Finding the Shamir
Very few people know that there’s a Midrash that narrates the great quest in which Benayahu embarked on King Solomon’s orders. Since it was forbidden to cut stones for the Temple using metal implements, a certain mystical worm called Shamir was necessary. No one was more befitting the task of finding the Shamir than Benayahu and he swiftly departed.
He went to a distant town and found out that the Shamir was under the domain of none less than the king of demons, Ash-Medai (NOT TO BE PRONOUNCED) in a certain desert. Benayahu went there and found a house with a sealed water well outside. Ingeniously, he took out the seal, put a special wine inside the well, sealed it back and hid until the king came back. When the king came back, he drank from the water and without realizing, fell asleep. Without batting an eye, Benayahu put a special necklace with Hashem’s name on his neck, and when the demon woke up, he felt weakened and was subjugated. He screamed and tried to break free, but to no avail. The Shamir was acquired and the demon king was brought to King Solomon for inquiring.
King Solomon saw that his wisdom was very impressive. Unfortunately, the demon king tempted him to be freed from his binds and was successful, after giving his word he wouldn’t try anything funny. When King Solomon acquiesced, he was hit and the force of the impact sent him flying from his castle tosome faraway land. This was the beginning of his fall and there’s a question in the Talmud whether he regained his reign, part of it, or not even ruled over his own staff afterward. This shows a little bit of the dangers of messing with these powerful negative forces. The less we talk about them (or to them), the better off we are.
Benayahu ben Yehoyada is buried in a small house on the town if Biryah, in the outskirts of Tzfat. His grave is a very powerful, although not so popular, place of prayer for pilgrims all over Israel.