Malkhut Melekh Part 2

  • Rav Moshe Taragin


            Last week we established the distinction between the categories of "melekh" and of "MALKHUT".  Whenever you distinguish between two categories, which generally overlap, but theoretically are distinct, one must conduct a test to determine that they can exist independently of each other.  If they cannot, possibly they aren't actually different but represent slightly different words or terms referring to the very same concept.  To verify that an authentic distinction exists rather than merely a semantic one, ideally some independence between the two categories should be sought.  Sometimes they will not be mutually independent - only one aspect can exist independently.  For logical purposes this is sufficient since they are necessarily distinct.


            To a degree we already witnessed the independence of malkhut from melekh.  We considered two instances in which malkhut existed though there was no melekh.  One case was the period prior to the actual appointment of a KING  during which, according to the gemarot in Rosh Ha-shana and Horayot the king doesn't actually have a halakhic status of MELEKH.  In addition, we noticed that according to the Yerushalmi, during the six month political upheaval of Avshalom neither David nor Avshalom were considered king although the malkhut spiraled uninterrupted.  Can we discover additional examples of malkhut without a melekh?


            One such example readily presents itself from yet another gemara in Horayot (10a) which mentions that when a melekh is afflicted with tzara'at (which according to Chazal is equivalent to death) he looses his status of a king (he brings a commoner's chatat rather than the special offering of the melekh).  The gemara cites the proof from Yotam whose father Azarya was struck with tzara'at.  During this period, since Azarya's status as king was suspended, his son Yotam handled his judicial duties.  Here we notice again that a melekh's status is suspended without his successor actually ascending the throne as the next melekh.  The pasuk relates that Yotam assumed only his father's judicial chores - he did not become the melekh until his father actually passed away.  Here is another instance of malkhut which endures even for a period where there is no person representing that malkhut as melekh.  Malkhut is truly independent of melekh.


            The Rambam provides another blatant case of malkhut independent of melekh.  In Melakhim 1:7 he concludes that if the deserving primary inheritor is still a minor at the moment of the previous monarch's death, we reserve the throne for him until he matures.  Until that point in time there is no one sitting on the throne occupying the office of melekh; despite this absence the malkhut itself endures - no new meshikha is necessary to jump start the malkhut once the boy.  The malkhut was abiding even without a melekh representing it and doesn't have to be regenerated again.


            The Minchat Chinukh provides a fascinating scenario which might further comprise a case of malkhut without melekh.  The Sifri determines from the pasuk "som tasim alekha melekh" that a woman cannot become king - melekh ve-lo malka.  What happens, the Minchat Chinukh asks, if there are no male inheritors to the throne and the only remaining relative is a woman - would she inherit the throne.  This the Minchat Chinukh raises despite the specific pasuk which disallows a woman from becoming melekh.  Evidently, if this case would ensue she would not be considered a melekh - as the gezeirat ha-katuv underlines.  She would, however, inherit the malkhut - and pass it on to her children.  We then would arrive at a scenario of an existing malkhut without a specific melekh.


            This statement of the Minchat Chinukh opens an interesting Pandora's box.  The Sifri lists several criteria for the person who would be king.  For example his mother must be Jewish - i.e. he cannot be a ger, nor the son of a convert.  What would happen if a convert would be appointed king in violation of this rule (according to many positions such an event actually occurred as Rechavam, Shlomo's son was the child of Na'ama Ha-amonit).  Would we maintain along the lines of the Minchat Chinukh that while he doesn't occupy the official office of melekh because he doesn't meet the full criteria, he nonetheless possesses malkhut - in terms of transferring the dynasty to his children?  The Minchat Chinukh who partially validates female representatives of malkhut invites us to consider other exclusions and whether they are excluded entirely or merely precluded from acting as official melekh but capable of passing the office to their inheritor.




            We have managed to isolate cases where malkhut continues even though there is no melekh.  In some instances the melekh is suspended, in others he has yet to be appointed, in still others the person occupying the throne does not acquire the halakhic status of melekh.  In all these cases the independent entity of malkhut endures.


            What about the reverse case?  Can there be a melekh even though there is no malkhut?  On first glance such a case seems unfeasible.  If there is no political institution of malkhut there is certainly no representative melekh!!!  A closer consideration yields one notable example.  Let us turn our attention to the concept of malkhut Yisrael.


            Throughout the gemara we pick up hints that monarchs from the greater Jewish nation, though they were not part of Beit David which was guaranteed malkhut, were still considered halakhically legitimate kings.  Take for example the gemara in  Horayot (13a) which declares "kol Yisrael re'uyin la-malkhut" the entire nation is suitable to be king".  In Horayot (11a) the gemara declares that both "Davidic Kings" as well as Kings of "Yisrael" (the Northern Empire which split from the Southern, Davidic kingdom in the days of the first Temple) bring special chatat korbanot if they sin. This indicates that each of them enjoy a status of king.  In general, throughout halakha, we find all the laws of kings applied to kings of Yisrael as well.  The gemara in Ketubot (17a) discusses the priority a king has to cross an intersection or use a road before a funeral procession or a wedding procession.  The gemara seeks to disprove this by citing the example of Agrippas (a non-Davidic king) who allowed a funeral procession to precede him.  Tosafot in Sanhedrin (20b) extends royal authorities to Achav who also hailed from non-Davidic roots.  The Rambam in particular confers upon the melekh "Yisrael' all the  rules of a Davidic sovereign - ve-kol mitzvot ha-malkhut nohagin bo.  Evidently non-Davidic rulers have the status of King.  And yet....


            The Mekhilta to parashat Bo informs us "until David was chosen all Jews were worth for royalty; once he was chosen all the rest of the nation was excluded."  Even more startling are the statements of the Rambam himself, in his Sefer Ha-mitzvot, negative prohibition 362, when he writes " Anyone who comes from a family other than the house of Shlomo ... in terms of malkhut is considered a NOKHRI just as anyone who isn't a kohen is considered a ZAR in terms of avoda in the Beit Ha-mikdash."  With this, the Rambam extends the issur of "lo tuchal limnot alekha ish nokhri - (which conventionally means that you may not appoint a Gentile or a convert as king) to include non-Davidic appointments.  He equates non-Davidic kings with non-kohanim - in each case underscoring their utter incompatibility or incongruity with the particular office.  Similar sentiments and similar exclusion of non-Davidic Kings can be found in the Rambam's commentary to the Mishna Sanhedrin (2;3).  This apparently contradicts what was stated earlier that "malkhei Yisrael" have the status of king and that "kol mitzvot ha-melekh nohagin bo" all the royal laws apply!!!


            Possibly, the solution to this famous contradiction lies in the distinction between malkhut and melekh.  Clearly, the personal status of melekh, which determines a range of halakhot can apply even to a non-Davidic individual.  There is no question that he can serve as halakhic melekh.  Melekh, however, but not malkhut.  The concept of malkhut was promised to David and once they  were chosen all other families were excluded from dynastic ownership of the throne (see especially Rambam Melakhim 1:7,9).  There is no background malkhut outside of Beit David even though the personal status of melekh applies.  When the Rambam describes their status as nokhri he clearly stresses their exclusion from the concept of malkhut - "le-inyan MALKHUT nokhri karinan bei".  The same language can be found in his Yad Chazaka Melakhim 1:8-9 when he discusses that even though a melekh "Yisrael" has legitimacy still "Ikkar MALKHUT le-beit David".  There can be a melekh from other tribes but no family dynasty which sees the throne pass eternally through the family.  Indeed, throughout Tanakh we notice that children of malkhei Yisrael inherited their father's throne.  This does not reflect the presence of malkhut - a dynastic political entity which automatically passes through the generations.  Instead, it reflects another halakha - any public position is inherited by a son - this is known as the law of serara.  The office of king is no worse than any other position and is hereditary.  This does not, however, constitute malkhut, which is a familial reality independent of any particular individual.  Malkhei Yisrael seem to present an instance of melekh without malkhut.


            A second example of melekh without malkhut might relate to the Nasi.  The Jewish "PRINCE" - the reigning Jewish leader in times during which Jewish sovereignty is absent, was afforded the status of king regarding several halakhot - among them he is required to offer the special korban chatat of a melekh.  This suggests a partial din of melekh.  Yet once the malkhut has been suspended, as it was  at the time of churban, it would be very difficult to conceive of an enduring concept of malkhut.  The Nasi might reflect an additional instance of melekh without a malkhut.


            We have thus proven that malkhut and melekh are independent categories - in a mutual sense - each capable of existing in the absence of the other.


Methodological Points:


1. See last week's edition about the need to seek the independence of categories to prove their fundamental difference.



Please excuse the brevity of the last two portions - I have been traveling in the US, and have not had the time to fully elaborate.