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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Devarim: Parashat Shofitim: The King

Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi

"When you enter the land that Hashem is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us," be sure to appoint over you the king Hashem chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite." (Devarim 17: 14-15)

Many ask about this passage in the Torah. If it is a misvah to appoint a king when they enter into the land of Israel, why did Shemuel the prophet complain when the nation actually did request for a king? After all, the nation was only following the passage in our parasha of Shofetim?

Some say that the problem was the way Bnei Yisrael requested a king. They wanted to be like other nations, and this is why Shemuel was upset. Some say that this passage is not even a misvah, but rather only a description of what will happen when Bnei Yisrael enters Israel.

Indeed, we should look deeper into this passage and understand a function of the king in the Jewish society. Though there are many reasons for a king, the rabbis teach us of a unique reason for having a king for our nation.

With a king installed as the supreme ruler of all matters of halacha and judgment, yielding unrelenting power and fear, conditions the people to receive the ultimate judgment of Hashem. In a sense, having a king prepares the people to accept the authority of one entity; ultimately helping them to accept the authority of Hashem.

Similarly, my dear friends in New York. We are approaching the time of Selihot. Our proud Sephardic tradition dictates we wake early all month of Eloul to prepare and condition ourselves for the days ahead. We must undergo mini daily internal rejuvenation to prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom HaKippourim. Selihot help condition us to be ready for the ultimate judgment on Yom HaKippourim. May Hashem judge us for life always. Amen.
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