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Modern monarchy

Friday, 9 September, 2016 - 2:46 pm

Some parts of Judaism and Jewish observance and culture are easy to accept and incorporate into our lives. I mean, caring for the sick and respecting one’s parents are values that anyone could get behind and be proud to support.

But then there are the less convenient things; I mean let’s face it - living in Northern California is not the most convenient area to keep kosher or Shabbat. I think that boils down to conviction; if your conviction about the truth of Torah and G-d is strong, that will often translate into observance.

However, there is something which I think is an even more fundamental area of concern for a thinking Jew today: The ideas and ideals of the Torah that, to our Western mindset, seem archaic. You know what I’m referring to - slavery, eradicating entire nations and the like; things that are not exactly in vogue today, to say the least.

Each one is understood differently and there is much wisdom to be discovered, but they’re beyond the scope of this message. I wanted to highlight something from this week’s portion: appointing a king. Appointing a king? Yes, that’s one of the topics of this week’s Torah portion and it’s one that people find difficult to relate to. I mean, a king is the antithesis of our system of government; representation by the people for the people.

So how can I, a thinking Jew, understand this text so that I can be comfortable studying it today?

As with every part of the Torah, the more we study and the better we understand, all the more relevance is discovered. There are few radical ideas that distinguish the Jewish king from any other monarch:

·         A typical king obtained their power by virtue of force and heritage; a Jewish king obtained their power from the people. The people are the one’s who accept the king, the king doesn’t impose his will on them.

·         A typical king would do everything to flaunt their wealth and their power; the Jewish king is required to limit both.

·         And a typical king was the ultimate power in the kingdom and imposed himself and his rule everywhere he could; a Jewish king is commanded to keep in mind that there is a greater power than he, the Ultimate Power in the universe, G-d.

Take a look at these ideas - I have a feeling that you might find them relevant too. When we are cognizant of G-d Above, when we remember that it’s not about us, rather it’s about the purpose and role that we have to serve, life takes on a whole new look. Suddenly we can see more clearly the needs of others, and not only how they can serve us. Suddenly we feel confident enough to give and share from the blessings we have been granted. And suddenly our life is imbued with a sense of purpose and mission.

Perhaps the information about a king is actually not outdated at all? In fact, it seems precisely tailored for our modern era of narcissistic self-centeredness. Maybe the modern monarchy is all about being king over ourselves? 

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