Sunday, October 10, 2004

A follow-up thought to the anti-king screed that appears at the end of this post:

It is difficult--no, impossible--for a twenty-first century man to think about the messiah without noting, like the filthy anarcho-syndicalist peasants in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, that the world no longer stands in need of sacred kingship. "I am Arthur, your king," intones Arthur in that excellent film, to which the peasants cackle: "I thought we were an autonomous collective!"

Does anyone else find it difficult to read our Jewish prayers, with their call for the resotration of the Davidic line, without remembering that some two and a half centuries ago the French decided to consign the divine right of kings to the guillotine?

(Our king will be different you say? Ok, so the messiah's first task is to convice mankind of this fact. It won't be easy: mankind's track record with kings and princes does not inspire trust. And anyway, why are you so certain that our king will be so much better? Haven't you read the Book of Kings? After Solomon, it was all downhill, wasn't it?)


Some thoughts on Simchas Torah later in the week. I hope you're still with me.


Having just given a shiur juxtaposing the parsha of the king in the Torah, where appointing a king is a mitzvah, with the passage in Shmuel, where the prophet seems to be completely against the idea. The major differences between the Torah and Shmuel are that the people asked for a king to *judge* them like the nations (contrary to the beginning of Parshat Mishpatim), not just a king like the nations, and afterwards they expressed the desire to *be* like the nations, which is immeasurably worse. The root of melech is the same as to take advice. The king is not a dictator or an absolute ruler with no bounds. He must lead, but he must also express the will of the people. He also is limited by the Sanhedrin and the word of Hashem as expressed by a prophet. It is true that in the Tanach the wicked kings are not so impressed by these limitations, to say the least. But the Netziv in the Haamek Davar takes the position that the mitzvah of appointing a king is contingent on the people wanting one. There are peoples who need a strong ruler and those who will not accept an iron hand and will rebel. Also Rav Kook in Mishpat Cohen gives the rationale for a form of government by the people in the absence of a king. If we put the two together, perhaps we could come up with a rationale for a constitutional monarchy. In fact the Founding Fathers of America drew their inspiration for the American Republic from the Bible. So if a great leader should come along, it could work. Believe me, if the Lubavitcher Rebbe had made aliya and they had put him up for king, I certainly would have voted for him. I trust that Hashem will eventually bring the right person around when we are ready to accept him.  

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I've written about two problems with the popular idea of Messiah; your comment, GR, addresses neither of them.

First, if the Netziv believes "mitzvah of appointing a king is contingent on the people wanting one" does this mean the Messiah will never come? The first problem I've attempted to identify is this: At this late date, mankind has no use and no desire for kings. Throughout history, kings have done too much damage, and the people, largely, know this. Who is going to change their mind? How can this bell be unrung?

Second, though you would welcome a Lubovitch king, others would not. Rac Shach's talmidim and the Satmar hasidim, for example, would sooner gnaw off their arms then submit to a king from Lubovitch, and herein lies the second problem: How will the messiah remove the divisions in klal yisroel, and reconcile the different minhagim and theological positions? If my friend L won't pray in a shul that has no tables, or where the nusach isn't sefard, how can I expect him to accept a king that isn't his own mirror image? And if the king Moshiach does arrive in L's mirror image, L might rush to the coronation, but the Litvaks, and the Kooknicks and the Kachniks, and others will stay home, and publish polemics- or worse.

Seriously, GR, can you envision a scenario that erases our deep-rooted differences?

These are not small problems.  

Why are you protesting against the idea of a moshiach? dont jews beleive in this?  
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