In this week's Parsha, we read about the rise of Yehudah and Yosef as the two leaders of עם ישראל. At the start of the Parsha, Yosef is on top, with Yehudah subordinately begging him to free Binyamin. As the Parsha progresses, though, Yehudah is able to manipulate Yosef's emotions so that he temporarily gains control. Later in the Parsha, however, Yosef is again the leader, as Yehudah comes to Egypt, where he is known merely as Yosef's brother. Throughout the history of the Jews, the descendants of Yosef and Yehudah go back and forth as the leaders. At times, there is no argument as to which one has more control, like during the rule of Yehoshua, a descendant of Yosef, and during the reign of Shlomo, a descendant of Yehudah. At other times, however, there is tension and even civil war. Ultimately, though, Yechezkel promises in this week's Haftorah that Yehudah will prevail with the rule of Dovid in the Messianic Era, as "the tree of Yosef" and "the tree of Yehudah" are formed into one tree יחזקאל ל"ז:ט"ז-י"ז() .
There is a certain irony in Yechezkel's prophecy. When Yechezkel is instructed to put together two trees, one of Yosef and one of Yehudah, this clearly is symbolic of uniting everyone under the Moshiach, named Dovid (שם פסוק כ"ד). Hashem also promises Yechezkel that "ומלך אחד יהיה לכולם למלך," meaning that Dovid will be the only king in this era (שם פסוק כ"ב). Furthermore, He promises "וכרתי להם ברית שלום," meaning that He will, in that era, establish a covenant of peace (שם פסוק כ"ו). The reason that all this is ironic is that the original reign of Dovid HaMelech was anything but peaceful and anything but unified. Dovid fought so many wars that Hashem ultimately prohibited him from building the Beis HaMikdash, because his hands were "bloody" from warfare. In terms of unity, Dovid was anointed during another king's reign. After Shaul's death, Dovid didn't come to power until after fighting a civil war. Later, Dovid suppressed a rebellion from his own son, and hadn't even gotten back home before another rebellion broke out. Why then does Dovid end up being the name for the Melech HaMoshiach, if the king from whom he is descended and after whom he is named had a reign which represented the antithesis of the Messianic Era?
The answer is that although Dovid had a reign of discord, he was always trying to avoid this. It wasn't his idea to get anointed during Shaul's rule, and he did everything he could to avoid confronting Shaul, including running away to the territory of the Pelishtim. After Shaul's death, Dovid sent a message to the residents of Yavesh Gilad, a pro-Shaul city, asking for them to peacefully make him king. Dovid later tried to make a treaty with Avner, the enemy general, even though Avner had just personally killed Asael, Dovid's nephew and one of his greatest warriors. After Avshalom's rebellion, Dovid appointed Avshalom's general to be his own general, so that everyone would be united behind him. We thus see that national unity was in fact of the utmost importance to Dovid, even if he was unsuccessful in achieving it.
This all leaves us with a valuable lesson. Dovid spent his entire life working for national unity. Although he hardly achieved this in his lifetime, he was rewarded that the king who ultimately achieves complete national unity will bear his name. The same goes for us. If we work for good causes such as Torah and Ahavas Yisrael, we may feel like we have achieved nothing tangible, but ultimately Hashem knows what we do, and He will reward us accordingly. May we all work for causes that get us rewarded in the era of tranquility and unity between the "tree of Yosef" and the "tree of Yehudah".