Shmuel 1 11:14
by Rabbi Dovid Siegel
This week's haftorah shares with us a significant perspective about a Jewish government in Eretz Yisroel. The Jewish people had recently approached the prophet Shmuel requesting the appointment of a king. The prophet acquiesced in their request and transferred the mantle of leadership to the most worthy candidate in Israel, Shaul. Shmuel then proceeded to convey strong words of reprimand to the Jewish people for their request. He reviewed with them his personal service both as judge and prophet and challenged them to find any fault in his faithful service. After they attested to Shmuel's perfect record of leadership he reminded them of Hashem's constant favors securing them with perfect leadership at all times.
Shmuel then said "And now here is the king you requested; behold Hashem has given you a king. If you revere Hashem, serve Him and follow His voice without rebelling you and your king will merit the guidance of Hashem. And if you don't adhere...."(12:14). Malbim understands these passages to convey the following message. If the Jewish people follow closely the path of Torah, Hashem will, in effect, be their leader. But if they don't they will not merit His guidance and will ultimately be severely punished for their wrong doings.
The prophet continued and stated, "Is it not the harvest season today? I'll call upon Hashem and He will bring heavy rain. You will see and know the great offense you have committed by requesting a king for yourself."(12:17) Shmuel seems to have admonished the Jewish people merely for requesting a king. Why would a request of this nature be considered so wrong? After all, the Torah does allow for a monarch system and dedicates a full section in Parshas Shoftim to the regulations of a Jewish commonwealth? Malbim explains that at the appropriate moment the notion ofa Jewish king is certainly acceptable. However, during the lifetime of Shmuel Hanavi a request of this nature was considered a rejection of both himself and the Torah he represented. Shmuel had faithfully served and judged his people with all the perfect standards of the Torah. In Shmuel'seyes, therefore the Jewish people's request represented a rejection of the Torah's perfect judicial system. In addition it reflected a strong desire for the people to establish their own control over the land. Malbim deduces this intent from the marked words of their initial request. They asked,"Now bestow upon us a king to judge us like all the nations." (8:5) He explains that the Jewish people desired to establish their own judicial system whereby they could have total control over the development of their country. They yearned to be like all other nations whose control over their destiny was per se in their own hands. They no longer wished to subjugate themselves to the dictates of the Torah and be led by secret revelations of Hashem told to His prophets.
Malbim concludes that, in truth, timing was the key factor in this request. Had they waited until the passing of their faithful prophet and judge, Shmuel, their request would have been in line. With his passing a sincere need for direction and leadership would have arisen and the request for aking would have been forthcoming. However, while remaining under the devout leadership of Shmuel their request was sinful and completely unacceptable.It reflected a new direction for the Jewish people and a sincere interest to be released from the tight control of Hashem. Shmuel responded by asking Hashem to display fierce thunderstorms. It was customary during the summer months to spread the fruits of the land on the open fields to dry. During this process rain was certainly untimely and unfavorable Although rain, in general is definitely a blessing, during certain moments it can be a sign of Hashem's rejection and displeasure. In fact, Chazal teach us that rain during the Sukkos festival is viewed as a sign of rejection. (see Tractate Sukkah 28b) Through this untimely rain and its reflection of rejection, Shmuel informed them that their untimely request for a king was likewise a true sign of rejection.
However Shmuel's response didn't end there. He continued in admonition,"And if you don't adhere to the voice of Hashem but rebel against Him the hand of Hashem will be upon you and your ancestors." Chazal explain this peculiar notion of Hashem's plaguing our ancestors. They profoundly state,"Through the sin of the living the deceased are desecrated." (Yevomos 63b) This means that the sinfulness of an inappropriate government in Eretz Yisroel is so severe that it provokes the desecration of the deceased. Mahral (Chidushei Agados ad loc.) enlightens us about the association of the desecration of the deceased and an inappropriate government in Eretz Yisroel. He explains that from the Torah perspective the desecration of the deceased is regarded as total disorder. After one departs from this world he is entitled to a peaceful and undisturbed rest and the desecration of his remains violates his basic human rights. In this same vein the most basic and appropriate setting for government in Israel is to be governed by the principles of Hashem. After all shouldn't Hashem's will be the law of His land!? It follows that any violation of this and, more specifically,control of the land divorced from His principles is nothing other than total disorder. We now realize that desecration of the deceased, their total disorder is but a natural consequence of a secular, non-religious government in Israel, our total disorder.
At present, the governmental structure in Israel displays some level of respect for the principles of Torah. Let it be the will of Hashem that they be fully recognized in His land and that all disorders amongst the deceased and the living be corrected and perfected speedily in our days.
Rabbi Dovid Siegel
Text Copyright © 1998 Rabbi Dovid Siegel and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rosh Kollel of Kollel Toras Chaim of
Kiryat Sefer, Israel.