Good Shabbos!  This parsha-post is dedicated as a refuah sheleimah for Mubarka Hussein.


We are very fortunate to have leaders.  In fact, they are vital.  Quoting Hillel haZakein (Hillel the Elder) in Pirkei Avos:  “Uvim’kom she’ayn anashim hishtadel lihyot ish — And in a place where there are no leaders, strive to be a leader.”  This indicates the length we must go to find someone to lead us as a head, to the point of taking responsibility into our own hands, if no others are qualified.  Note, that leaders come in an array of shapes and colors, guiding others in numerous settings, from the widespread rule of kings and presidents, to smaller managements of school teachers and play directors.  Of course, we can’t forget our parents, and rabbis and rebbetzins (not to mention prophets– back in the day.)!  Leaders are here, to enforce a structure of responsibility and efficiency among their followers, and to instill in them inspiration and ethics.  They must be the best example they can be for us to emulate.  This Shabbos we will zone in on the first example:  Kingship, and a beautiful theme it delivers in this week’s sidra of Shoftim.


The Torah paints a picture for us, foreseeing that after we enter into the Aretz haKadosh and settle within it, we will murmur:

“Ki tavo el-ha’aretz… v’amarta ‘asima alai melech k’chal-hagoyim asher s’vivosai’ – When you come into the land…  shall say ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that surround me.’” {Devarim 17:14}

We are further instructed:

“Som tasim alecha melech asher yivchar Hashem Elokecha bo mikerev achecha tasim alecha melech lo tuchal laseis alecha nachri asher lo achicha hu — You shall surely set over yourself a king, whom Hashem your G-d will choose; one from among your brethren shall you set as king over you, you may not set a stranger over yourself who is not your brother.” {Devarim 17:15}

The two major rules highlighted in this verse, are that: 1.)We do not appoint royalty according to our personal selectivity, but rather it is G-d who declares the one fit to be our king.  2.)Our king must be a fellow Jew, not a usurper, not a foreigner, but a member of our people.

The precise rulings as to how we must act upon this event, seem to portray it as a mitzvah ta’aseh (a positive mitzvah).  But this affirmative attitude appears to be contradicted in Shmuel, Sefer Alef.  There we learn about how Shmuel haNavi admonished the Jewish People upon their requesting a king.  Even more curiously, they made their proposal in correlation to the above passage from the Chumash, saying “Now make us a king to judge us, like all the nations.

So why were they chastised, when they seemed to do only as the Torah commanded?

Chazal provide us with a few answers, one being that they made this request correctly, but with timing that wasn’t quite appropriate.  At the time, they had a strong and spiritual leader– the prophet Shmuel, and they were not lacking in a source of Torah guidance (that a king would provide as well).  R’ Eleazar ben Yosei elaborates that since they did not necessarily require royal ruler-ship, this appeal was so that they might reflect their neighbor-nations, over whom kings presided, and not out of obedience to a mitzvah from G-d.  The Talmud-scholar R’ Nissim adds to this concept, that had the Bnei Yisrael only asked for a king, it would have been an inherently holy endeavor, minus their motive to mirror their less-than-desirable neighbors’ customs.

Now we may ask, is appointing a king wise and good, or actually un-preferable?

In actuality, everything we do is truly good, if it’s done in sincere compliance with the word of Hashem.  This is why we have a number of regulations concerning anointment ‘n’ appointment of a royal head.  (On a side note, from the Abravanel:  This mitzvah, of making and declaring the king, is permissible, and perhaps practical at times, is not mandatory!  Even though it is not an obligation set in stone, the directives from the Torah are so that we may go about this matter in the proper way.)  All of the regulations unite and assist in creating the proper intention and mindset, rooting out any alternative motives that may deter us from finding the ultimate purpose of everything, and from sticking to the path of Hashem.

What is the force that be, that still exists, lurking in the shadow of the human psyche, waiting to attack the unvigilant lone individual, and even whole societies?  (Pause, for effect…  I’m sorry, but that is a pretty good line!)  Peer Pressure.  This just may have been, unwittingly, the captivating power that drove the Bnei Yisroel, to find ways to ‘fit  in’ (If you were ever new in town, did you maybe feel the same way?), in this case by way of anointing royalty.  Perhaps for the prestige?  Or for the military power “the  king’s army” would exude? To “be equal”?  We can’t really profess to know…   This is a pertinent message for us, “in the here and now”.  We must investigate ourselves, to discover why we feel compelled to do something.  Are we doing it because it is the right thing to do, because it will shape us into better people– because Hashem said so?  Or is another little voice pressuring us to match up in viewpoint, appearance, and action, with the person standing next to us?


When you remember that there is only One King Above, Who is the source of real truth, wisdom and blessing– and of course, hold fast to your convictions and faith…  each and every one of you will shine as children of Hashem, anointed royalty in your own right.

The Messenger Bird