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Shabbat Parashat Pinchas 5773

Ein Ayah: Purposes and Stages of Kingdom

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:294)

Gemara: [Rav Sheshet, who was blind, went out to greet the entourage of the king. A heretic teased him about the futility of a blind man coming “to see” the king’s arrival. Rav Sheshet told him that he would be able to tell him when the king was coming.] The first group of the procession passed with great noise. The heretic asked if the king had come, and Rav Sheshet answered that he had not. The same happened with a second group. Next came a third group, which was quieter. Rav Sheshet said that the king had arrived. Answering the question of how he knew, Rav Sheshet said: “The kingdom of the land is like the Kingdom of the Heavens, as it says, “After the noise there was fire; Hashem was not in the fire. After the fire, the sound of a subtle whisper” (Melachim I: 19:11-12).

 

Ein Ayah: Hashem created the world so that all remedies in the world are results of necessity, e.g., He arranged that the peel (which protects fruit from various damages) comes before the fruit. The need created by a problem is that which brings one to find the solution.

Let us look at the needs of society that make a king [or another form of strong leadership] necessary. First there is social unrest within society, which makes the people realize that they need a strong king to restore internal tranquility. Thus, “the noise” is a first step before and leading to the kingdom.

“After the noise” – when things are calm and society has gotten up on its feet, there is a need to be strengthened as a nation. No nation will succeed without gaining at the expense of another nation, and thus rivalries and even enmities develop. This is the pasuk’s reference to the fire, of war, that is found in the beginning of nationhood and kingship.

The final stage, after the fire, is the respite and quiet that accompanies the smooth function of leadership for the betterment of the whole nation. This “sound of a subtle whisper” is the ultimate purpose of a kingdom, not the triumphs in internal struggles or external wars.

Just as on a national level all strive for a life of tranquility and peace fitting of the righteous, so too for the individual such serenity is most desirable, not a life of noise and wild activity. Therefore, when a completely righteous man goes out to greet the king, it is not to witness the noise and power of the sight, but to relate to the power of justice and the love of tranquility that he wishes for himself and for others. It is to support these goals that he goes to show respect and strengthen the king’s standing.

“The kingdom of the land is like the Kingdom of the Heavens” – [The next section is based on Sanhedrin 97a: “The period of the world is 6,000 years – 2,000 of void; 2,000 of Torah; and 2,000 of the days of Mashiach.”] There are different periods in the history of the world, over which Hashem has presided as King. First there were 2,000 years of void and lack of stability, in which in some ways mankind’s level was lower than that of the animals. Mankind had bad personal attributes and lack of sensitivity, which can be represented by tumult, because of a lack of divine light. In order to uproot these wild, dark tendencies, our Torah and mitzvot came to refine mankind as by a melting crucible. The Torah and its role for man can be described by fire (see Yirmiyahu 23:29). After man’s characteristics are refined, there is no longer a need for struggles. Then the purpose of mitzvot will not be to refine man but to elevate his spirit greatly through a tranquility of knowledge of things that are said in a whisper. Since this quiet will come with a true knowledge of Hashem (see Yeshaya 11:9), this will force mankind as a whole to know Hashem and love His Kingdom, just as the lack of order necessitates people to accept an organized kingdom.

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