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Pirkei Avot 3:2: Do We Need Government?

Rabbi Chanina, deputy to the Kohanim, would say: Pray for the integrity of the government; for were it not for the fear of its authority, a man would swallow his neighbor alive.

 Government is a very basic need of society. We are all partners. The very existence of humanity requires cooperation. (“Man is a political animal” – Aristotle).  We are all in the same boat, and if there was no fear of the government, the boat would quickly sink. The root of this concept is in the sefirah of binah (understanding – Imma -Mother) where we apprehend that existence requires responsibility and does not stand by itself. We understand one concept by means of a different concept and then we grasp the potential outcome. (Binah is called “omek acharit” – “the depth of the outcome”). Hence, the role of government is to safeguard existence and to organize all the partners, who all are equal and must be protected.

There is, however, a higher approach. “The kingdom of the earth is an image of the kingdom of Heaven.”[1] The human king reflects God’s kingdom and it is from Him that he secures his authority. According to this, the fear that the king arouses in his citizenry is their soul-talent to sense God’s majesty and nullify themselves before it. In this way, the kingdom fashions human culture as a hierarchal system that acknowledges the chasm between small and great, surrenders to the Great God, and identifies with His goodness and kindness to shower upon all. The root of this perception is in the sefirah of chochmah (wisdom – Abba, Father), in which the perception is that creation is enlivened by its openness to the wondrous and the lofty. There is a special emphasis here on the persona of the king and not on the system of the kingdom in general.

In the kingdoms of the nations of the world, the first approach – the need for government to avoid anarchy – is highlighted. For the God-fearing kings of Israel, however, the focus is on the special honor afforded to the king (personally), as a representative of God’s kingdom over Israel and the entire world.

Hence, we can say that the transition from the exile to the days of Mashiach is an ascent from the light of the sefirah of binah in malchut to the light of chochmah in malchut. Regarding binah (without the light of chochmah) it is said “He sat me in the darkness”[2] – the darkness of the exile, when the Nation of Israel is enslaved under the yoke of the nations of the world – from which severe judgments are aroused. Conversely, in the days of Mashiach there will be a revelation of the light of chochmah in malchut, in the image of a righteous king who nullifies himself to God.

In the second era of the days of Mashiach (which includes the resurrection of the dead) the King Mashiach will completely give the kingdom to the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed Be He. (As is written that the Mashiach is the ninth king and God is the tenth). And then, “And God (alone) will be King over all the earth, on that day God will be One and His Name will be One.”[3] There will be no need for a flesh and blood king. This is the manifestation of the illumination of the crown in the sefirah of malchut, the essential manifestation of “the supernal crown is the crown of malchut[4] and then, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God, like water covers the sea,”[5] (meaning that with the manifestation of crown, the sefirah of da’at [knowledge] manifests and faith becomes conceptualized in consciousness).

There are three heads to the crown. From bottom to top they are: Reisha d’arich (the Head of Infinity), which corresponds to the attribute of will. This will be expressed when in the Temple we will “perform before You the mitzvot of Your will.”[6] In the Temple, we will perform God’s will with no need for a human government to tell us to do so. “In the future to come, the mitzvot will be nullified”[7] is the manifestation of Reisha D’Ayin (the Head of Nothingness), Divine pleasure (and as a result, the commandment is nullified, like a “candle at noon”[8]).  Then comes the Great Jubilee, 50,000 jubilees, which is the manifestation of Radl”a, the Unknowable Head, faith in the sefirah of crown.

 

[1] Brachot 58a.

[2] Lamentations 3:6.

[3] Zecharia 14:9.

[4] Ptichat Eliyahu.

[5] Isaiah 11:9.

[6] Shmoneh Esrei prayer.

[7] Niddah, 61b.

[8] Hulin 60b.

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