The Road to Malchus
After you enter the land which God, your God gives to you, and possess it
and live there and say, "I will make a king over me, just like all the
surrounding nations," do so only with one from your brothers, a person whom
God chooses. Do not choose a non-Jew for over yourselves. (Devarim 17:14-15)
The Jewish people have been in exile for so long and without their own
homeland that the idea of a Jewish king seems so foreign. Indeed, the next
time the Jewish people will have a king he will be Melech Moshiach, and the
Jewish people will be united and living on their own land without any
further need for exile.
It is an interesting fact of history that there are almost no kings today.
Today, countries are headed by Presidents and Prime Ministers, most of whom
are elected officials, at least in the Western world, and they have to
answer to more elected officials, such as Congress, or the House of Commons,
etc. Royalty, today, might be entitled to an opinion, but it is not entitled
to determine national policy.
That seems to have been an improvement, not for the monarchy, but for the
people, since, unfortunately, most kings of the past often were dictators,
and often still are, where they remain. Their sense of entitlement resulted
in a general disregard for the people, who, according to the king or queen,
were at the throne's disposal-literally.
However, as the average individual became somewhat more intelligent, and a
little more aware of the freedoms that might exist around the political
corner, rebellion fermented. Eventually, it resulted in revolutions, the
great- est and most successful of all, perhaps, being the American Revolution in
1776, and government that is run by the people for the people.
"Absolute power corrupts absolutely," or so the expression goes. However, so
we have found, the expression is not absolutely correct. For, even within
the system of checks-and-balance, there has been considerable corruption.
Indeed, perhaps even more, because lacking the right-to-rule by bloodline
alone, many elected officials have greatly cheated to maintain their grip on
power, and some spend a considerable amount of time and effort conspiring
against their own governments and their own people.
In other words, Democracy can, and does tend to, make people desperate. And,
not just the elected officials, but the electorate as well. Ironically, many
of them end up acting the same way that the kings they sought to replace
acted in the past, in self-interest. Who votes for ideology anymore, if they
ever did in the first place?
Hence, it was never about replacing kings with elected officials, at least
not in essence. It has been about replacing the attitude of the leaders and
the people, so that both of them became more interested in the betterment of
mankind in general, rather than of the lot of the individual in particular.
It's not just about putting philosophical leaders into power, but about
making people more philosophical in general.
This is why the appointment of a king over the Jewish people took hundreds
of years, and even then it was premature. Hence, the name of the first king
was Shaul (pronounced, sha-ool), which means "borrowed." As a result, even
Dovid HaMelech's kingdom struggled, as he did as a king, and his own son,
the wisest man of history, was powerless to keep the kingdom unified after
his death. The development of a nation into one that is driven more by
philosophical ideals than by personal concerns, remains a work in progress.
The Torah predicted this when it added the words, "I will make a king over
me, just like all the surrounding nations," which mean, in a manner like the
nations of the world. Just as the appointment of judges and a police force
mentioned at the beginning of the parshah, was a warning that they would be
necessary, even after the giving of the Torah, likewise did the Torah
predict that, when the Jewish people finally made a king of their own, it
would not be in the ideal way.
This is why Shmuel the Prophet, when approached by the Jewish people to
place a king over them, became very angry. Seemingly, they did so exactly as
the Torah prescribed. "Prescribed? Warned," said Shmuel HaNavi. "The Torah
was telling you how not to do it, hoping, so-to-speak, that instead you
would say, `I will make a king over me, as according to the wishes of the
As the Talmud warns, "Anyone who pushes off the moment will be pushed off by
the moment" (Brochos 64a). As Shlomo HaMelech wrote, everything has its
time, and Malchus-kingship-is no different. For thousands of years now we
have been pushed off by the moment, because we first pushed off the moment,
as we wait for the one king who will be king for the right reasons, and in
the right way.
But, you may argue, we seem no closer to being the philosophical nation we
ought to be to merit a philosophical king, and you would be right. On the
contrary, at this late stage of history, we are, perhaps, the least
philosophical, and for that matter, the most selfish. In fact, never before
have so many people felt so entitled to so much, and have the means to go
after it, and politicians seem to sell everything but their souls, and in
some instances, even that, just to get elected.
Where could a true Jewish king fit into all of that?
He can't, and won't, which is why he hasn't until this very day. But, as
history runs out of time, he will have to at some point soon, which means
something has to give. Something, or someones will have to learn to change,
and you can be sure than it won't be Melech Moshiach! And, you might tell
me, it won't be us either .
And, you would be right, once again, if nothing significant happens to make
us change. But it will, because it has to, and it has, more than likely,
already begun. When it is finished, we will be exactly who we have to be to
live under a true king and servant of God. We call that "thing" the War of
Gog and Magog.
Most people, when they think of the War of Gog and Magog, think of the war
to end all wars, just one incredibly awesome and destructive world war that
will involve just about every fighting nation, and more than likely, against
tiny little Eretz Yisroel. It's purpose? Some kind of historical threshold
mankind will have to cross over on the way to the Messianic Era, because we
didn't go the Torah and mitzvos route. It's kind of like God saying, "Well,
if you're going to make a mess of the world, then you'll have to clean it up
after with a massive war."
Interestingly enough, there is a lot of discussion as to what will occur,
and why. But, few talk about it in terms of the rectification it will bring
about in the world and the Jewish people. The most important rectification
of all? It will prepare us for the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth,
visa- vis the kingdom that Moshiach will establish, just as Moshe Rabbeinu
did in his time.
However, unfortunately, Moshe was unable to complete his task, which is why
he died in the desert, and the Jewish people never fully set up a Jewish
Malchus on earth. Instead, the people contested Moshe Rabbeinu's authority,
Shaul rejected himself, and some of the people fought against Dovid HaMelech
all of his life. The synergy that Malchus is supposed to bring about never
occurred, like a car engine turning over several times, but never actually
Unfortunately, we experienced some of this in the Holocaust. The Holocaust
affected more than half of the Jewish people, and just about every European
Jew of that time. Before the Shoah occurred, Jews were scattered all over
Europe, and the differences between religious Jew and secular Jew were
great, as well as between one group of religious Jews and another.
Then came Amalek, y"s. He went out of his way to the point of sacrificing
victory in World War II to concentrate the Jews and to make them equal. All
external differences were removed, and the peril that each Jew faced in the
camps, for the most part, made everyone a brother or sister in suffering. A
kind of achdus-national unity-was imposed that previously had not existed.
Unity is the foundation of Malchus. The greater and more sublime the unity,
the greater and more sublime the Malchus. However, that's not going to
happen until something else occurs that will be so important that it will
become the foremost concern of every Jew, or at least every Jew who wishes
to remain part of the Jewish people, at least on some level. And, if we are
not careful, that thing will be the War of Gog and Magog.
What must we be careful of? The Talmud explains:
It has been taught: Rebi Yosi said, "Three commandments were given to
the Jewish people when they entered the land: to appoint a king, to cut off
the seed of Amalek, and to build the Temple. I do not know which of them has
priority, but when it says, `Because the hand is upon the Throne of God; it
is a war for God with Amalek in each generation.'
(Shemos 17:16), we infer that they had first to set up a king, since
`throne' implies a king, as it says, `Then Shlomo sat on the throne of God
as king' (Divrei HaYamim 1:29:23) ." (Sanhedrin 20b)
It seems from this that without a king we cannot go to war against Amalek.
Why is that? Because Amalek, more than any other enemy, represents Jewish
doubt. As the Torah points out, Amalek is the antithesis of the Jewish
people and everything they stand for. As the Zohar explains and that we
learn from Balak and Bilaam, whose Hebrew names combine to produce the name
Amalek, Amalek comes to principally to disrupt Jewish continuity, as the
Holocaust made perfectly clear.
If we are careful to learn this, and to take it to heart, and to act upon
it, then personal and petty self-interests will become secondary to the
national goals of the Jewish people, and unity will result. And, with such
unity will come Malchus, and therefore, the ability to overcome Amalek at
his own deadly game. Moshiach will come because we will have earned his
leadership, what the Talmud calls Achishenah-a hastened redemption (Sanhedrin
The alternative is spoken about in Tanach, the Talmud, and Midrashim, as the
After Moshiach comes a major war will be instigated against the Jewish
people, as mentioned in the Holy Zohar . This is the "War of Gog and Magog"
spoken about in Yechezkel (38, 39), and Zechariah (14), as well as in
Midrash Tehillim (Mizmor 118:9): Three times in the future Gog and Magog
will war with Israel and go up against Jerusalem; he will assemble and anger
the nations to go up to Jerusalem with him, as it explains there. Also see
Vayikra Rabbah (27:11), and many other places. (Sha'arei Leshem, p. 491)
This is what the Talmud calls B'ittah, which is the redemption at the last
possible moment. Moshiach will come, but his presence will instigate the
nations, not placate them, setting in motion the most terrible war of all
history. The Jewish people will not only survive this war, they will win it,
led by Moshiach himself. The only question will be, what will have to be
lost along the way to victory, along the way to becoming a Malchus in the
full sense of the term.
Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.