you come to the land that G-d gives you, and possess it, and settle it, and you
will say, ‘I will set a king over myself, like all the nations that are around
me’” (Deut. Ch.17 v.14).
is a mitsva incumbent on the Jewish people, that after they settle the land of
Israel, they must set up a king.
exactly is the role of a Jewish king? Furthermore, why were the Jews criticized
by Samuel the prophet for asking that a king be put in place after they had
settled the land (this occurred around 350 years after they had entered Israel)?
purpose of the Jewish king is to emphasize the leadership of G-d to the Jewish
people. He is to encourage them to study Torah and to keep the mitsvos. Imagine
an inspirational person, able to rouse, awaken, and inspire the hearts of the
Jewish people to be the best they could be. To love one another , G-d, and the
Torah with their full heart. This person was the ideal of a Jewish king.
Jewish king walks an extremely fine line. On the one hand he is a leader, and he
must receive the honor and respect due a leader. On the other hand he is a
leader only to inspire his subjects to
follow the one true leader—G-d.
things put the king and the Jewish people in a very difficult position: the
king, because how many kings are able to walk that fine line of being a leader,
but a leader only as a means for promoting the end, the acceptance of G-d as the
people were put in a difficult position for a totally different reason.
there is an inspirational leader the ideal way to act is to emulate that person.
There is also, though, the tremendous danger of allowing that person to “be in
your stead”, allowing your dreams and goals to be fulfilled vicariously
through that person, thus allowing yourself to slip into a mode of comfort, no
longer striving to grow. When Samuel criticized the Jewish people for requesting
a king this was precisely the reason. G-d did command us to appoint a king;
this, however, was at the wrong time and for the wrong reason.
that time in history, the Jewish people were on an extremely high level. The
most amazing thing about this was that they did not have a national leader. This
was known as the period of the Judges. The people in those generations were on
an extraordinary level of righteousness. For 400 years the idea of self rule
worked quite well with only two instances of wrongdoing, the concubine of Givah
and the images of Micah (and even those incidents were policed by the Jews
themselves, amazingly without a government
to instruct them to do so).
The king must be from the family of King David. The next Jewish king will be the messiah. According to Maimonides, he will be a live human being who can unite the Jewish people under G-d. Although he has not yet come, we await him every day with longing.