The Shabbat of Kings

March 27, 2015

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, March 20, 2015.

The Shabbat of Kings

In ancient Israel, of course, even Kings were expected to observe the Sabbath. In fact, in the book of Deuteronomy, there is a whole section detailing the laws of kings:

When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee... and shalt say: “I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are round about me"... And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statues, to do them; that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left.

Deuteronomy 18:14-19

Amazing. The King himself is expected not only to write a Torah Scroll, but to study it and to live according to it. The commandment specifically adds that devotion to the Torah will equalize the King and his subjects – a remarkable notion. We are so aware today that the opposite is frequently true – in the light of dictatorships of family dynasties which give no rights to their subjects. And when is the best time to study the Torah? On Shabbat! The rabbis 2,000 years ago claimed that King David set that precedent: according to Rabbeinu Bachya’s commentary on the ten commandments (Spain, 14th Century), “On SHABBAT, King David would spend the entire day studying Torah.”

Shabbat Shalom