King From The House Of Dovid
the Laws of Kings (Ch. 11, halacha 4) the Rambam delineates the criteria
of determining who is chezkas Moshiach (one who is assumed to be
Moshiach): "If a king will arise from the House of Dovid, immersed in the
Torah and occupied in the mitzvos like Dovid, his father, according to
the Written and Oral Torah, and he compels all the Jewish people to go in its
ways and to strengthen its breaches, and he fights the wars of Hashem this is chezkas
seems that here the Rambam is explaining that Moshiach is "from the House
of Dovid" on account of Hashem’s promise to Dovid HaMelech that "the
kingship will not be cut off from the seed of Dovid forever." However, it
does not appear from this statement that there is anything special about the
lineage that applies to Moshiach himself. But in truth, the Rambam’s joining
the statement that Moshiach is a descendant of the House of Dovid to the acts of
compelling all the Jewish people and fighting the wars of Hashem is proof that
being from the House of Dovid is actually an essential quality of Moshiach.
order to understand this point, we must first explain what is special about the
kingdom of the House of Dovid that is different from kings from other tribes of
Israel, and why Moshiach must come specifically from the seed of Dovid.
the laws that pertain specifically to kings, the Rambam writes (the Laws of
Kings, Ch. 11, halacha 20): "When a prophet raises a king from the
[other] tribes of Israel, and that king follows the Torah, he is considered a
king. All the mitzvos of the kingship apply to him, although the main
monarchy belongs to Dovid." Thus, there is no difference between the mitzvos
that apply to Dovid (and his progeny who inherit the throne) and to any other
king in Israel.
so, then how is the specific preeminence of the kings of Dovid manifested? The
Rambam explains in Hilchos Talmud Torah, in the beginning
of the third chapter): "With three crowns Israel is crowned – the crown
of Torah, the crown of Kehuna, and the crown of malchus. Dovid
merited the crown of monarchy, as it says, ‘His seed will always exist, and
his throne is like the sun before me.’" We see that specifically Dovid
merits the crown of malchus, and this gives him the advantage that
"His seed will exist forever" the eternity of the monarchy.
difficult to understand, however, what great advantage there is (in the eternal
monarchy of the kings from the House of Dovid), for we also see the aspect of
eternity in the reign of the kings of Israel, as well. According to the Rambam
(the Laws of Kings), kingship is an inheritance. In fact, this rule applies not
only to the monarchy, but all offices are passed down as an inheritance to sons
and grandchildren forever. So what is the specific value in the eternity of the
kingship of the House of Dovid?
answer lies in the two components within the concept of monarchy: function and
essence. The first category, fulfilling the function of a king, describes a king
as leading the nation, enacting laws, fighting wars, etc. Being king is
manifested by performing the functions of a king. The description of a person as
king is insofar as he carries out the duties of leading the nation. However, of
himself alone, nothing about him is identifiable as a king.
second category is that his essence makes him a king. Even before he fulfills
the functions of a king, and, outside of these duties as well, there is a
category of king who is a king in essence. This is a quality established in the
essence of the soul of the king; he is king on account of his essential and
elevated being. In this case, the definition of king applies to him at all
times, even when alone.
first instance is speaking about a king who is not a king because of his inner
essence; his rule is tied to the function he fulfills. However, the second
instance, a more elevated one, speaks of a king as he is – a king in his very
is another example of this: A Jew and a non-Jew are both creations of G-d who
are obligated in mitzvos. The Jew is obligated in 613 mitzvos,
whereas the non-Jew (l’havdil) is obligated in seven. It would not be
correct, however, to say that the only difference between them is the number of mitzvos
each must perform (or that if they each do not do any, they are identical to
each other). Certainly there are essential differences between them that
separate them completely, which makes it impossible to compare them.
that extent as well is the sharp difference between the kings of the House of
Dovid and the kings of Israel. The description of the kings of Israel derives
from their function. Since they are chosen to be the leaders of the people, they
are thought of as actual kings. However, their function is not related to the
kings’ inner quality as king.
contrast, Dovid and all the kings from his seed merit the crown of malchus,
an inheritance that endows them with the essential superiority of kingship, even
before they become actual kings.
is an additional way to clearly differentiate between the two. Concerning the
kings of the House of Dovid, it says "ha’keser hulmosom."
This means that the crown of the malchus of the House of Dovid is fit to
rest on their head specifically and not on the head of any other king. This is
derived from the fact that the kings of the House of Dovid are kings in essence.
Thus, they are worthy that the crown should pass from one to the other. However,
concerning the kings of Israel, who have no essential relation to the crown,
there is no reason why the crown of one king isn’t just as suitable for his
we see the difference between the inheritance of the monarchy concerning kings
in general, as compared to the inheritance of the monarchy of the kings of the
House of Dovid. The inheritance of the other kings is like that of any public
office. We see this point expressed in the words of the Rambam. He links the law
of the inheritance of the monarchy to the inheritance of all other public
first person from malchei Yisroel (who was not a king in his
essence) had the monarchy bestowed upon him; therefore, the inheritance of
kingship (as a position, not as essence) is merely bestowed upon the next person
– added to him, so to speak; not coming from within him.
the monarchy can remain forever in the hands of the kings of Israel, this is not
a necessary condition. The inheritance of the monarchy can be compared to any
treasure that is an inheritance for many generations, passing from father to
son. Therefore, it’s impossible to include in the definition of this category
of kingship that it is an eternal inheritance.
the monarchy of the House of Dovid, however, the essence of kingship is what is
passed from one generation to another. The essence of the king is the
inheritance of the monarchy in the family of the House of Dovid.
latter point is alluded to in the Rambam’s writing, "Dovid merited the
crown of monarchy, as it says, ‘And his seed will be forever.’" Hashem
granted the kingship to the descendants of Dovid because of their inner essence.
Kingship is implanted within them for all eternity; thus, specifically
concerning the kingship of the House of Dovid does it says that the monarchy is
the Rambam writes in the chapter about the signs of Moshiach that "A king
will arise from the House of Dovid." Although the kingship does have a
connection to Moshiach’s actions, for example, "He will fight the wars of
Hashem…he will compel all Israel, etc.," the most important factor is his
elevated essence – that he is a king "from the House of Dovid."
Moshiach must be a king in essence because it is precisely this point upon which
the entire function of Moshiach depends.
Moshe Rabbeinu it says "I stand between Hashem and all of you." This
is also the function of a king – to connect the Jewish people to Hashem. In
the words of the Tzemach Tzedek in his book Derech Mitzvosecha
("The Mitzva of Appointing a King"): The king is nullified to malchus
Shamayim (the Heavenly rule) and the Jews are nullified to their king.
Through the king, the Jews are nullified to G-d, may He be blessed. This is the avoda
of the king – that in him and through him the people are nullified to Hashem.
main function of the king is to link Hashem to the Jewish people. If the only
function of a king would be to give orders to the nation, this would only create
a superficial bond between the people and the king, and by extension the
connection of the Jewish people to Hashem would likewise be lacking; it would be
a superficial bond expressed in merely fulfilling Hashem’s orders. But when
the king’s function is a manifestation of his essence, then the connection
between the people and the king is an inner, essential connection. As a result,
the people are connected to the higher level of king, and this becomes the
conduit through which they connect themselves to Hashem – in a much more
elevated manner. They connect themselves to His innermost essence, may He be