A King From The House Of Dovid

In 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 Moshiach."

It 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.

In 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.

Concerning 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.

If 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.

It’s 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?

The 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.

The 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.

The 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 being.

There 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.

To 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.

In 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.

There 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 friend.

Accordingly, 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 offices.

The 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.

Although 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.

Regarding 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.

The 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 forever.

Moreover, 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.

Concerning 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.

The 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 blessed.


All offices are passed down as an inheritance. So what is the specific value in the eternity of the kingship of 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.


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