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As described in Ⅰ M'lachim 12 and Ⅱ Divre Hayamim 10, after Sh'lomo's passing, his son, R'chav'am, took the throne. The people immediately demanded a reprieve from Sh'lomo's extremely high taxes. R'chav'am sought the counsel of his elder advisors, who told him to lower taxes. He then sought the counsel of his young advisors, who told him to be strict with the people and threaten them with even higher taxes. R'chav'am followed the younger men's advice, and the people rebelled, splitting off the northern kingdom under Yarov'am.

The G'mara (M'gila 31 amud 2) speaks harshly of R'chav'am for this:

Rabbi Shim'on, son of El'azar, says: If elders tell you "Destroy!" and young men "Build!" — destroy and do not build, for the destruction of elders is building and the building of young men is destruction. And a marker for this is R'chav'am, son of Sh'lomo.

But Sh'lomo's high taxes led to this rebellion too. And they don't seem to have been necessary: M'lachim and Divre Hayamim describe his numerous employees and animals, his lavish home, even the streets of Jerusalem paved literally with silver (according to some commentaries to Ⅱ DH 9:27). Do Chazal speak harshly of Sh'lomo for his high taxes, especially with the hindsight that includes knowing they led to the kingdom division? If so, where and how? If not, why not?

  • Isn't there also some medrish criticizing taking all the men away from their families for the public-works draft? (At least if it wasn't for a good cause?) – Shalom Feb 2 '15 at 18:22
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Sanhedrin 101b appears to address this, to some degree.

אמר רבי יוחנן מפני מה זכה ירבעם למלכות מפני שהוכיח את שלמה ומפני מה נענש מפני שהוכיחו ברבים שנאמר (מלכים א יא) וזה הדבר אשר הרים יד במלך שלמה בנה את המלוא סגר את פרץ עיר דוד אביו אמר לו דוד אביך פרץ פרצות בחומה כדי שיעלו ישראל לרגל ואתה גדרת אותם כדי לעשות אנגריא לבת פרעה

Said Rabbi Yochanan: why did Yeravam merit the throne? For rebuking Shlomo. Then why was [Yeravam] punished? For doing that rebuke in public [when that wasn't necessary]. As it says, This is the way in which he struck out against King Shlomo: "he built the melo, and shut the break-through in the city of his father David!" [Meaning, Yeravam] told [Shlomo]: "Your father David broke holes in the wall to make it easier for the Jews to make the pilgrimage. And you? You walled them up, for a tax [angaria] for Pharaoh's daughter.

Rashi has two interpretations: fewer, better-controlled entryways into the city made it easier to tax people (and use the money in turn for stuff like the Egyptian princess' house); or the wall was a feature of the princess' house and helped those who were drafted into the labor force for her.

At least in the context that it interfered with people's religious experience, it seems the criticism was warranted.

My general impression is that Shlomo taxed a lot, but he also had a lot to show for it. His son wasn't as great and his government didn't produce as much, so it was supposed to ease up on the taxes in response.

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