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Shabbat Parashat Vayishlach| 5765
The System of Appointing KingsHarav Yosef Carmel
Our parasha dedicates an entire perek to the genealogy of Eisav’s family, the Kingdom of Edom. It would seem that the descendants of the gentle, tent-dwelling brother should have little interest in the kings of the descendants of the hunter and man of the field. Yet throughout our history, it has proven impossible to ignore the entanglement between the two nations of Yisrael and Edom. Shem already prophesied that “one nation will strengthen itself from the other nation” (Bereishit 25:23) and Yechezkel (26:2) foresaw that “I will fill in the destroyed,” as Chazal understood that one would be built from the destruction of the other (see Pesachim 42b and other sources).
When we take a good look at the list of kings of Edom, we see that in addition to the different names, there is also a varied list as to the origin of these kings. One came from Dinhava, while another came from Batzra. One came from Avit, and the next came from Masreika. Chazal took the opportunity to highlight this unceasing changing of dynasties, a phenomenon which is different from that of the kings of Israel. Indeed, which is better, to keep the monarchy in a given blood line or to appoint new kings from different places and backgrounds, according to their qualifications?
From one perspective, a dynasty helps provide stability, yet it can also encourage corruption within the ruling family and enables the ascent to the crown of unfit inheritors. On the other hand, are those who rise to leadership through their own efforts necessarily more moral or fit than their dynastic counterparts?
Yechezkel 27 describes at length a ship made up of parts that came from around the globe. The midrash (Bereishit Rabba 83) says that this is actually a metaphor for the leadership of ancient Edom. The midrash concludes with a prophecy that this kingdom would not flourish forever. The truth is that throughout history, both systems have had their successes and failures. But in our tradition, it is not enough that a king exist, even one who possesses qualities of leadership which would seem to make him likely to succeed at his difficult task. In our tradition, there is value in the selection of a line that has proven itself to possess certain innate qualities that make it fit. The selection of the Land of Israel, the Nation of Israel, the city of Yerushalayim and the place of the Beit Hamikdash are permanent facts based on inherent qualities. Similar is the selection of the dynasty of the House of David.
We pray for the time that the proper inheritor from the House of David will rule over Israel and will replace the dominant role of the sons of Eisav in the chosen city of Yerushalayim.
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