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Leadership for Israel: A Tzaddik? Or a King?

How do we imagine the leader of the Jewish People? The Tikunei Zohar writes that the Children of Israel were called by ten different names: Wise men, prophets, masters of Torah, and more, which parallel the order of the sefirot. The Jewish People is comprised of ten different archetypical types. Moreover, this is a living description of the history of the Nation of Israel: In our history, we have an era of prophets, an era of sages, and so forth. Let us focus on two of these types: the tzaddikim (pious people) and kings.

Clearly, the “era of the tzaddikim” was in the past three hundred years, since the appearance of the Ba’al Shem Tov, founder of the chasidic movement. It is no coincidence that the spiritual name for those people who led Chasidut is “tzaddikim.” In the teachings of Chasidut, the tzaddik does not cut himself off from the world. He is almost always the persona of a leader and spiritual guide, a tzaddik with royal characteristics. Parallel to the tzaddikim in chasidic teaching, there are other prominent figures, such as “masters of Torah.” These figures have also been notable over the past three hundred years. It is Chasidut, however, that characterizes the spirit of this era in the history of the Nation of Israel.

We are now approaching our final destination, the era of Mashiach. Hence, the next era is going to be the era of kings. This also fits with the Kabbalistic order: The tzaddikim parallel the sefirah of yesod (foundation – “And the tzaddik is the foundation of the world”) and the king parallels the sefirah of kingdom.

Where exactly are we on the timeline?  Admittedly, it is difficult to revitalize the special greatness of the tzaddikim of Chasidut of the previous generations. It is time for a new era, the era of the kingdom of Israel. Right now, we are in a transition stage between the tzaddikim and the kings, which may give us the feeling that we are lacking on both ends.

In our distant history, some of the kings were not exactly righteous. Does this mean that we are going to return to unrighteous leadership?  Not at all. The King Mashiach is a great tzaddik. He is also a chasid and a prophet, as the Rambam writes. The Mashiach includes all the different figures. But ultimately, he is a king, and the other figures are reflected in his manner of leadership.

We aspire to find the connection between the figures of the tzaddik and the king, so that the transition between these two eras will be smooth and as consistent as possible. There is no doubt that the figure of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in our generation was a living example of the connection between a chasidic tzaddik and a kingly leader.

The month of Shevat alludes to a consummate connection between the tzaddik and the king. The letter of this month is tzaddik. The numerical value of tzaddik is melech (king)! Moreover, if we change the vowel dots on the word Shevat, it will read “shevet,” which means “ruler” or “king” as in the verses: “The shevet (scepter) shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet…[1]  “A star shall step forth from Jacob and a shevet (scepter) shall arise from Israel…”[2]

These verses refer to the King Mashiach, may he come speedily in our days, amen.

[1]  Genesis 49:10.

[2] Numbers 24:17.

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