Thursday, September 1, 2011

This week's parsha: Shoftim - The dynasty of David

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah;
שׂוֹם תָּשִׂים עָלֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר ה' אֱלֹקֶיךָ בּוֹ
“You shall surely place over yourselves a king whom Hashem will choose…”

In Hilchos Melachim (perek 1, halacha 7) the Rambam says;
ומאחר שמושחין המלך הרי זה זוכה לו ולבניו עד עולם שהמלכות ירושה שנאמר למען יאריך ימים על ממלכתו הוא ובניו בקרב ישראל ולא המלכות בלבד אלא כל השררות וכל המינויין שבישראל ירושה לבנו ולבן בנו עד עולם והוא שיהיה הבן ממלא מקום אבותיו בחכמה וביראה היה ממלא ביראה אף על פי שאינו ממלא בחכמה מעמידין אותו במקום אביו ומלמדין אותו וכל מי שאין בו יראת שמים אע"פ שחכמתו מרובה אין ממנין אותו למינוי מן המינויין שבישראל.

כיון שנמשח דוד זכה בכתר מלכות והרי המלכות לו ולבניו הזכרים עד עולם שנאמר כסאך יהיה נכון עד עולם ולא זכה אלא לכשרים שנאמר אם ישמרו בניך בריתי אף על פי שלא זכה אלא לכשרים לא תכרת המלוכה מזרע דוד לעולם הקדוש ברוך הוא הבטיחו בכך שנאמר אם יעזבו בניו תורתי ובמשפטי לא ילכון ופקדתי בשבט פשעם ובנגעים עונם וחסדי לא אפיר מעמו

“After the king has been anointed he acquires the monarchy for himself and his sons forever. This is because  the monarchy is an inheritance as the passuk says ’למען יאריך ימים על ממלכתו הוא ובניו בקרב ישראל – ‘In order that his rule should endure, he and his sons in the midst of the benei yisrael.’

Not only the monarchy but also all offices and all positions in klal yisrael are passed on as an inheritance to sons and grandsons forever. This only applies however where the son is fitting to take his father’s place and is equal to him in wisdom and in yiras shamayim. If he was equal to his father in yiras shamayim even if he is not equal to him in wisdom, we place him in his father’s position and teach him [how to fill the role]. Anyone who does not have yiras shamayim even if he has acquired much wisdom may not be appointed to any position in klal yisrael.

Once Dovid was anointed he merited the royal crown and subsequently the monarchy belongs to him and to his male sons forever as the passuk says ‘כסאך יהיה נכון עד עולם’ – ‘Your throne will be established forever’. He only merited this for his descendants who act correctly as the passuk says ‘אם ישמרו בניך בריתי’ – ‘If your sons guard My covenant’.

Even although Dovid only merited the monarchy for his descendants who act correctly, the monarchy will never be cut off from his descendants permanently. Hashem promised him concerning this as the passuk says ‘אם יעזבו בניו תורתי ובמשפטי לא ילכון ופקדתי בשבט פשעם ובנגעים עונם וחסדי לא אפיר מעמו’ – ‘If his children forsake my Torah and do not walk in My judgments. Then I will punish their sin with the rod and their iniquity with plagues but I will not remove My kindness from him.’”

  • Why does the Rambam need to bring the passuk from Shmuel of כסאך יהיה נכון עד עולם to prove that Dovid merited the throne forever? He has already brought a passuk from the Torah of למען יאריך ימים על ממלכתו הוא ובניו which says that the throne is hereditary?
The Rambam says in Hilchos Talmud Torah (perek 3, halacha 1):
בשלושה כתרים נכתרו ישראל - כתר תורה, וכתר כהונה, וכתר מלכות: כתר כהונה - זכה בו אהרון, שנאמר "והיתה לו ולזרעו אחריו, ברית כהונת עולם" (במדבר כה,יג). כתר מלכות - זכה בו דוד, שנאמר "זרעו, לעולם יהיה; וכיסאו כשמש, נגדי" (תהילים פט,לז)...
“Klal Yisroel were crowned with three crowns, with the crown of Torah, with the crown of Kehunah and with the crown of Royalty. Aharon merited the crown of Kehunah…Dovid merited the crown of Royalty…”

  • How can the Rambam say that Dovid merited the keser malchus to the exclusion of anyone else? Yeravam was appointed as a king by a navi after Dovid was appointed, so you see that it is still possible to have someone else become a melech even after Dovid was anointed?
Rabbi Shneur Kotler z”l (HaPardes, Year 56, Volume 6) explains as follows;
The Rambam compares Aharon meriting kehunah to Dovid meriting royalty. This implies that the nature of Dovid's malchus is similar to kehunah. Just as we understand that once Aharon merited the kehunah, it cannot be taken away from his family because they are now cohanim, so too once Dovid merited royalty it cannot be taken away from his family because his descendants are melachim.

In other words, just as Aharon achieved the madregah of kehunah, and therefore received a gift from Hashem that made this level permanent for himself and for all his generations, so too Dovid achieved the madregah of malchus and therefore was given the madrega of malchus as a permanent acquisition for himself and for all his descendants.

Although another king, such as Yeravam, may still be appointed, this does not mean that he becomes a true permanent melech. Rather it means that he has a role to fulfil in the position of melech. However with this appointment, just as with any other position of authority in klal yisrael, if the heir is not worthy of continuing the position then the family looses the position.
That is why the Rambam says that Dovid merited the crown of royalty. Even although other people can still be appointed as king. Dovid's lineage are essentially kings, whereas any other king who may be appointed simply fulfills a function for as long as they or their family merits to do so.

The Royal Lineage
The reason that the Rambam in Hilchos Melachim brings two different pessukim to prove that positions are hereditary is becuase he is describing two  different types of inheritance;
  •  למען יאריך ימים על ממלכתו הוא ובניוIn the first type of transmission of position, the role is handed from father to son, but only as long as the son is meritorious. If he is not, then the chain is broken and the family looses the position. The position is a right that the family possesses only as long as someone in the family is able to occupy it.
  • כסאך יהיה נכון עד עולם: In the case of the malchus beis david, this was not just a position that Dovid and his descendants occupied but rather Dovid merited that he and his family would be permanently elevated to the madregah of meluchah. Therefore the continuation of the meluchah does not depend on the position of melech being occupied, even if the reason that the throne is not occupied becuase the heir apparent is unworthy.
Therefore the Rambam introduces the discussion concerning Dovid by saying "כיון שנמשח דוד זכה בכתר מלכות". This is becuase the Rambam is not simply describing Dovid's receiving a position. Rather he is saying that Dovid reached the madrega of malchus yisrael and therefore merited that he and his descendants should always intrinsically be kings, just as Aharon attained the madrega of cohen gadol.

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