Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
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by Efraim Levine

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The Reisha Rav
HaGoan R' Aaron Levine zt"l
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Hadrash Ve-Haiyan

Rosh Hashanah

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One of the major themes of Rosh Hashanah is the concept of malchiyos. We blow the Shofer on Rosh Hashanah as a way to symbolically coronate Hashem as King of the Universe. In addition Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Judgment. It is on this day that our fate for the following year is determined. As we stand before Hashem for Judgment on this day, we seek mercy so that He should inscribe us for a year of life.

The Gemarah tells us that a king is not permitted to forgive a subject for a disgrace to his honor. Any sin we commit is surely considered a disgrace to the honor of Hashem. How then may we seek mercy from Hashem at the same time that we declare Hashem as King? Are these two concepts not contradictory?

Furthermore, throughout the year, through the recital of Shemah we declare Hashem’s Kingship over us. What then is unique about the coronation of Hashem on Rosh Hashanah?

In the Commentators’ Machzor Companion, Rav Yitzchak Sender notes that many sources in chazal indicate that Moshe Rabeinu had the status of a king (Midrash Rabah Shemos 2, 48:4, 52:1, Midrash Vayikra Rabah 31:4). This appears to be difficult in light of the fact that chazal record Shaul as the first king (Midrash Rabah Emor 26). Furthermore, in parshas Yisro we find Moshe serving his father-in-law Yisro (Shemos 18:7). The status of a king would not permit Moshe to serve anyone, even his own father-in-law. How then was Moshe permitted to waive the honor that is due a king?

In answer to these questions, Rav Sender suggests that there are two types of kings. There is a king that is appointed through the authorization of the people and there is a king that is appointed by Hashem. Shaul was appointed by Shmuel at the request of the Jewish people. Moshe on the other hand was appointed as king by Hashem. Chazal refer to Shaul as the first king because they were only counting kings that were appointed by the Jewish people not by Hashem.

Rav Sender further suggests that the reason why a king may not forgive an individual for lack of respect is so that his Kingship be firmly established. The ability to forgive would weaken the prestige and honor that a King needs to rule effectively. This however is only true with regard to a King that is appointed by man. In this case, the source of King’s authority is weak due to the fact that it stems from a mere collection of mortals. To compensate for this weakness the law demands that a King not be permitted to waive his honor. However, with regard to a King that was appointed by Hashem whose authority stems from the true source, there is no rule that a King may not waive his honor. In this case, the Kingship is by nature firm and strong. It requires no further strength. Here it is considered a quality of greatness for the king may forgive. Such a king may demonstrate his greatness through restraint and compassion.

We may thus suggest that these two forms of malchus correspond to the two declarations of Kingship that we express. Throughout the year, as we recite Shemah we focus on the fact that we willingly desire to accept Hashem as our King. During the year the nature of Hashem’s malchus stems from our awareness and will that He is our King. Indeed it is a well known saying idiom, “There is no King without a people.” To some degree this is true with regard to Hashem as well. It is noteworthy that in Kelm during the month of Elul, a sign was placed on the door of the study hall that read “There is no King without a people.” However, on Rosh Hashanah we recognize a more powerful form of malchus. On this day we recognize that Hashem’s Kingship is truly independent of our acceptance and will. The very fact that He created this world grants him Kingship. This focus it to our advantage for here we apply the rule that a King may forgive and show mercy to his subjects.


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