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Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim 5779

Parashat Hashavua: The Time of Kingdom Recognition part I

Harav Yosef Carmel

The opening of our parasha discusses how the whole nation stood behind Hashem and joined in a covenant with Him. We can sum up this relationship with a couple of biblical statements: “Hashem is the Lord (HaElokim)” (Devarim 4:35) and “Hashem is our King” (Yeshayahu 33:22).  

“Elohim” in Tanach can also refer to a human king or another powerful person, as we see in the pasuk, “Do not curse an “Elohim,” and a prince in your nation do not curse” (Shemot 22:27).

The recognition and acceptance of Hashem’s Kingdom over Israel and the entire world is one of the main themes of the day of Rosh Hashana, as we say in the davening, “His Kingdom rules over all.” We end the Ten Days of Repentance, which begin the year, with the words, “Hashem is the Lord,” right before we blow the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur.

While there is unquestionably a tremendous difference between the kingdom of a human and that of Hashem, we do find that this time of the year is also one in which human kingdom is explored. When Shmuel, who anointed Shaul, died and Shaul was significantly weakened, the question of who was then king arose. On the one hand, it was clear to David that since he was anointed king by Shmuel, it was his turn to become king. On the other hand, Naval, who was a descendant of Chetzron, son of Peretz, and of Kalev and Miriam (or as known by her other name, Efrat), reasoned that he had the most impressive lineage in all of Israel (see Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 2:3), and he should be king. As a result of these differing appraisals of the political situation, David asked for taxes from Naval for protecting him, and Naval referred to David as one who rebelled against his master (see Shmuel I, 25). Chazal teach us, based on key words in the narrative, that the encounter, which ended with Naval’s death of “natural” causes that Hashem brought upon him, took place between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (see Rosh Hashana 18a; the matter will be discussed in length in our upcoming sefer, Tzofnat Shmuel). The reason that David was worthy was his humility (see Tehillim 22:7) and his willingness to be a mere representative of the real King, Hashem.

While the hints in the p’sukim are not conclusive, Chazal are teaching us that the question of who merits being a human king is also one that applies during the special days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. In order to make it to Sukkot and live under the protection of the shadow of the Divine Presence, it is necessary to first call out: “Hashem is the Lord.”
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