The Time for Monarchy in Israel
STUDENT SUMMARIES OF SICHOT BY THE ROSHEI YESHIVA
The Time for Monarchy in Israel
Our parasha tells us about Yaakovs dream:
And he dreamed, and behold a ladder stood upon the ground and the top of it reached to the heaven, and behold angels of God were ascending and descending on it. (Bereishit 28:12)
The Midrash Tanchuma explains:
Berakhia said in the name of Rabbi Chelbo and
The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Yaakov: Yaakov, why do you not ascend?
At that moment Yaakov was afraid. He said, Just as these (angels) experience descent, so I too shall experience descent!
The Holy One, blessed be He, told him: If you ascend, you will not descend. But he did not believe and did not ascend.
Yaakov said to Him: Will this go on forever?
said to him, Do not fear, My servant Yaakov; do not be afraid, O
This midrash seems very strange. Is it possible that Yaakov doubted that he would be safe and all would be well with him if he obeyed Gods command and ascended the ladder? It was Yaakov himself who instituted the evening prayer, bequeathing the lesson that we must speak not only Your praises in the morning, when all is brightly illuminated, but also Your faith at night: we must have faith and pray to God even when the reality around us is dusky and full of shadows.
Actually, this is not the only time that we encounter the doubts and fears that dwell in Yaakovs heart. Further on God promises him, Behold, I am with you and I shall protect you wherever you go, and I shall bring you back to this land, for I shall not forsake you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you (28:15). Nevertheless, immediately after this, Yaakov vows: If God will be with me and protect me on this path that I take, and grant me bread to eat and a garment to wear, and I return safely to my fathers house, and [or then] the Lord will be my God (28:20-21). Why does Yaakov make such a vow right after God makes His explicit promise? Does he not believe that things will turn out as God has spoken?
The midrash, in attempting to resolve the difficulty represented by Yaakovs vow, cites an opinion maintaining that Yaakov utters these words prior to Gods promise (based on the assumption that the Torah does not necessarily follow chronological order):
Rabbi Abahu and Rabbi Yonatan [disagreed]. One maintained that the parasha is disjointed; the other insisted that it follows chronological order.
The one who believes that the parasha is disjointed maintains this position because God had already promised him, Behold, I am with you, and here Yaakov says, If God will be with me how could this be?! (Bereishit Rabba, 70)
However, even if we accept that the order of the parasha is disjointed, we still have a problem with Yaakovs promise. In parashat Vayishlach we read that Yaakov feared greatly and he was distressed (32:8) prior to his encounter with Esav, despite the fact that this encounter unquestionably took place after Gods promise to protect him, in his dream of the ladder. Armed with a divine promise, why did he fear?
The Gemara (Berakhot 4a) wonders at Yaakovs anxiety prior to his meeting with Esav, and explains that he feared lest sin cause [the promise to be revoked]. According to the Gemara, Yaakov had full and complete faith in God and His promises; what concerned him was his knowledge of his own failings. Familiar as he was with mans failings and inclinations, he feared that his sins would cause God to retract His promises.
Perhaps the same explanation may be applied to the difficulties that we raised above. After the encounter with Esav, Yaakov tells him:
Let my master proceed before his servant, and I shall continue slowly, at the pace of the cattle that are before me and at the pace of the children, until I come to my master at Seir. (33:14)
teach that Yaakov here relinquished his own honor and allowed Esav to occupy the
monarchy until the kings of
although Esav is quick to establish his monarchy, its days are numbered. Yaakov
recognizes the importance of kingship, but he understands that mortal kingship
can meet with obstacles and difficulties, and can ultimately collapse: this is
what could be caused by sin. Therefore, he resists establishing his monarchy
too early, before the conditions are ripe. Yaakov accepts that Am Yisrael
will go down to
It is for this reason that Yaakov refrains from ascending the ladder, despite Divine encouragement. He is fearful lest future sins cause the monarchy that will arise to be unworthy. In other words, he fears that if he ascends too early, he will fall just like the other ascending powers which he saw in his dream.
The midrash nevertheless concludes on a positive note. As we have seen, God promises Yaakov that the Israelite monarchy will take time to arise, but when it does, it will not suffer any descent.
Rav Kook also spoke about the fear of an Israelite monarchy that was not worthy, and he stresses the need to avoid hastening the redemption:
We have taken our leave of world politics out of necessity that includes inner desire, until such happy time when it will be possible to maintain a kingdom without evil and barbarism. This is the time that we hope for but the delay is a necessary one. Our souls are sickened by the frightful sins of a governments during evil times I pray you, let my master proceed before his servant it is not good for Yaakov to involve himself in governing so long as it has to be full of bloodshed, and demands an aptitude for evil. We received only the foundation [of the aptitude for government], as necessary for founding the nation, and when the sapling grew, we were ousted from ruling; we were scattered amongst the nations, sown in the depths of the earth, until the coming of the time of the nightingale, and the sound of the turtle-dove will be heard in our land. (Orot Ha-Milchama, 3)
A Jewish state can be a wonderful development, but we must not forget that human government can also be evil and corrupt if it is established before the proper time. Let us ensure that our renewed State of Israel be worthy of its name.
(This sicha was delivered on Shabbat Parashat Vayetze 5752 .)