Modern Monarchy?

Friday, 13 August, 2021 - 2:14 pm

Crown.jpg Photo by Lians Jadan on Unsplash

Let’s face it, while some parts of Jewish observance are warm and fuzzy (think: caring for the sick and the needy, animal welfare and the like), there are other parts of Jewish practice that take more dedication, conviction and commitment (think: Shabbat, Kosher and the like). 

Then there are parts of the Torah which can truly present concern for the thinking Jew today: The ideas and ideals of the Torah that, to our Western mindset, seem outmoded and archaic (to say the least). 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.

In fact, each one is understood in a unique manner and there is much wisdom to be discovered, but they’re beyond the scope of this message. 

Instead I wanted to highlight something from this week’s Torah portion: The Mitzvah to appoint 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. And there is no difference in this instance. You see, there are a 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 ones 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 all that 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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