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Shabbat Parashat Chukat 5773

Ein Ayah: The Contribution of Each Nation

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:290)

Gemara: One who sees a king of Israel, recites: “Blessed is He who shared His honor with those who fear Him.” One who sees a king of another nation recites: “Blessed is He who gave from His honor to flesh and blood.” [If he sees] wise men of Israel, he recites: “Blessed is He who shared His wisdom with those who fear Him.” [If he sees] wise men of other nations, he recites: “Blessed is he who gives from His wisdom to flesh and blood.”


Ein Ayah: The national goal of Israel is unique, like its standing in the world – the ultimate purpose of its spiritual aspirations is not for itself. Rather, it is for the betterment of the general intellectual/spiritual welfare of the world, based on ethics and true straightness, which can be achieved only when mankind will submit to the Kingdom of Hashem.

The concept of knowledge of Hashem in the world is a result of first having a clear recognition of truth, which brings with it all the good deeds that mankind is capable of, illuminating the world with the light of truth and peace. So too, the purpose of the kingdom in Israel is to advance that same agenda of world acceptance of the Divine Kingdom and the seeking of truth. The specific national agenda is minor compared to the pursuit of universal good. Israel’s goal is not as an “individual limb” within the framework of the nations of the world but relates to the community of nations as a whole into which all the parts join to be elevated together, each impacting on the other, hopefully in a positive manner.

This is why the honor due to the king, as a means to maximize the positive impact of the kingdom, is related to the honor of Hashem. The honor of the king is a by-product of the honor of Hashem, and this honor is capable of magnifying the ethical standing of the nation more than any other national institution. This is because our greatest national asset is connected to our greatest ethical goals. For that reason, the blessing for the king is “that He shared his honor with those who fear Him.”

Regarding other nations, each one has a goal that connects to a specific need for the improvement of the world, for which each nation is uniquely capable due to its characteristics, race, knowledge, and historical legacy. In that way it can give to mankind from its attainments and its people’s ingenuity. This power is certainly a gift from Hashem, but it is not an overarching contribution that directly makes Hashem’s glory recognizable but a specific one that emanates from characteristics that are imbedded in their flesh and blood. Therefore the corresponding blessing for their leader is “who gave from His honor to flesh and blood.”

Just as there is a goal of kingdom so there is a goal of wisdom. Each nation has the special power to increase its intellectual and spiritual acumen. There are many paths and many disciplines, so that mankind needs a lot of joint work, with each focusing on a specific area of strength. That which is special in Israel is the wisdom of the Torah, which shows how all the different areas of wisdom are linked by the purpose of knowledge of Hashem and attaining justice. When everyone seeks the broadest truth, it will bring peace to the world. In this way the wisdom of Israel shares a goal with divine wisdom, as it improves the whole world. That is why the blessing for the wise in Israel is that “he shared of His wisdom with those who fear Him.” The wisdom of the nations is more localized for each nation, and therefore the appropriate blessing is that “He gave of His wisdom to flesh and blood.”
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