Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Kingdom of Moses and Joshua

Maimonides rules[1] that the Jews are commanded to appoint a king over themselves once they enter the land of Israel, as the Torah says, "Thou shalt put over yourselves a king.[2]" However, Maimonides[3] and Rashi[4] rule in accordance with the Talmudic passage, which said that Moses was the King of Israel[5]. Indeed, the Midrash says[6] that when the Torah refers to the "King in Jeshurun"[7] the reference is to Moses[8]. The reign of Moses occurred before the Jews entered the land of Israel, yet Maimonides ruled that the commandment of appointing a king is only in the land of Israel. Furthermore, in many instances Moses did not act regally, rather he acted in a fashion unbefitting of a king, so it is difficult to explain that Moses was the King of the Israelites. Furthermore, assuming that Moses was a king, what then was the status of Joshua; was he a king as well? The Midrash says[9] that King Saul was the first Israelite king. This clearly implies that Moses and Joshua were not actually kings of Israel. Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein explains[10] that although Moses and Joshua had the halachik status of kings, in reality, they did not act like kings and did not present themselves as such.

Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik (1886-1959) explains[11], according to Maimonides, just as Moses was a king[12] and Supreme Justice in the Sanhedrin[13], so too Joshua was a king[14] and the Supreme Justice in the Sanhedrin[15]. Rabbi Soloveitchik writes that this explains why Moses was commanded[16] to lean his hands upon Joshua as Rabbinic ordination, for such ordination is required for one to serve as a judge on the Sanhedrin. Rabbi Yisroel Moshe Finkelstein[17] says that in describing the role of Joshua, Nachmanides[18] writes that Joshua was a "ruler" (moshel), but not necessarily a king (Melech), yet elsewhere, Nachmanides writes[19] that Moses blessed the tribe of Joseph that they should merit raising a King of Israel, and Joshua was that Josephian King of Israel[20]. Rabbi Finkelstein reconciles the seeming contradiction by explaining that initially Joshua was only appointed by Moses to lead the Israelites in the capacity of a "ruler", however, once he was led his people into the land of Canaan, they decided to promote his status from "ruler" to "king". Thus, according to Nachmanides, before entering the land of Israel, Joshua was only a "ruler", but afterwards, he was a "king" as well[21].

Rabbeinu Nissim explains[22] that the power that the Sanhedrin, or any rabbinical court, has to execute the death penalty stems from the king's power as king to carry out such capital punishment. He further writes[23] that even at a time when there is no king, the Sanhedrin has the powers to execute a sinner because in the absence of a king, the Beis Din assume the executive role of the king, in addition to their judicial role as the court. Thus, he understands that power of Sanhedrin is really a reflection of the powers delegated by the Torah to the king. According to Rabbeinu Nissim, every one of the Judges (from the Book of Judges) served not only as a judge, but also as a king[24]. Therefore, according to Rabbeinu Nissim, Moses and Joshua were not actually kings, they merely the Heads of the Sanhedrin, and as such, they assumed the role of the kings, in the absence of an existing king. Consequently, one can explain that since Moses was not really a king he was allowed to forgo the honor due to him[25]. Rabbeinu Nissim assumes that the powers of the kingship and judicial powers are dependent on each other, but Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik understood in the explanation of Maimonides that they are two independent responsibilities. Rabbi Don Yitzchok Abarbanel (1437-1508) asked[26] on the view of Rabbeinu Nissim that it is not necessarily true to assume that certain powers exist that a king could possess and a court cannot possess, but must use the king's abilities to carry out their assigned tasks.

The Talmud[27] says that the source for the rule that rebelling against a king is punishable by death is the scriptural verse, which states, "Any man whom after you have ruled does not listen to your words which you have commanded, shall be put to death.[28]" This verse was stated by HaShem regarding Joshua's authority. Therefore, the Talmud must have understood that Joshua did indeed have the status of a king. Rabbi Chanoch Zundel of Bialystock explains[29] that Joshua carried a Torah Scroll with him wherever he went, as is the rule with any king. Rabbi Dovid Luria (1798-1855) writes[30] that Maimonides' source for the law that a king must always carry with him a Sefer Torah is the verse, which says,[31] "This book of the Torah shall never leave your mouth." This verse was stated concerning Joshua, which proves that Maimonides understood that Joshua was a king.

The Book of Chronicles mentions[32] the Hagrite wars in which the Reubenites and Gadites prevailed against the Hagarites, without the leadership of King Saul. The Midrash explains[33] that the Scripture does not literally mean King Saul; rather, it means King Joshua, who is called Shaul because he "borrowed" the kingship, but did not establish a royal dynasty passing the kingship to his descendants. Rabbi Zev Wolf Einhorn explains[34] that usually the royal approval is needed in order to wage war, but this war was waged without the approval of Joshua because he was not really a king, the mandate of his kingship only included the responsibility of conquering and dividing the land of Canaan. Thus, Rabbi Einhorn understood that Joshua was not completely a "king" in the full sense of the word[35]. Indeed, Rabbi Epstein writes that Joshua was not anointed with oil in the fashion that other kings were because, unlike other kings, Joshua's progeny never continued his kingship. However, Rabbi Yosef Babad (1801-18740) is not satisfied with this explanation[36] because King Saul also did not establish a dynastic monarch, yet he was anointed with oil[37].

Rabbi Yosef Babad explains that Joshua, although he was a king according to Maimonides, was not anointed with the Oil of Anointment (Shemen HaMishcha) because he was not a king of the Davidic family. Why then was King Saul anointed with such oil if he too was not of the Davidic dynasty? Rabbi Dovid Kimchi (1160-1235) writes[38] that King Saul was not actually anointed with the regular oil used to anoint kings; rather, his oil was different because it had balsam spice in it and, thus, was not pure oil. Rabbi Chaim Ibn Attar (1696-1743) answers[39] that the right to the kingship given to King Moses and King Joshua came directly from HaShem, so they did not require to be christened with the smearing of oil to signify their royalty. He understands that the "word of HaShem" was instead of oil for Moses and Joshua's kingship. On the other hand, King Saul's appointment did not come divinely; rather, it came through the people, so the smearing of oil upon his head was required to signify his coronation. However, Rabbi Mordechai Carlebach asks[40], according to this explanation, how one justifies the anointing of King David if he too was chosen directly by G-d and thus should not have been anointed. Rather he proposes another reason as to why Joshua was not anointed and King Saul was, even though both were not members of the Davidic dynasty. He explains that since Joshua was only supposed to be king temporarily and never pass on the kingship to his descendants, his coronation did not require anointment. However, King Saul was initially supposed to be the king and his children were supposed to inherit the title, as well, but since he sinned in the matter of Amalek, so he lost the kingship. Therefore, Maimonides understood that since at the onset King Saul was originally supposed to father the House of Saul, which was destined to rule Israel as a monarchist dynasty, King Saul was initially anointed with oil as an everlasting king; nonetheless, his sin prevented such a dynasty from continuing[41].

However, Nachmanides understands[42] that King Saul was only supposed to be king temporarily from the onset, because it has been predestined since the time of Jacob that the kings would descend from the Tribe of Judah, not Benjamin, accordingly, there is no difference between Joshua and Saul. If both Joshua and Saul were only destined to reign for one generation, then why was Joshua not anointed with oil upon assuming the role of king, but Saul was? Perhaps this is a proof to the view that Nachmanides understood that Joshua was not a king, unlike Maimonides' stance. Alternatively, one can answer that Nachmanides understood like Rabbi Menachem Meiri (1249-1310)[43] who said that King Saul was not anointed as a king; rather, he was merely inaugurated as a governor or officer of some sort, but not as a king. This explains King Saul's anointment, because it was not really an anointment of kingship, it was a mere appointment to a position of power.

The Talmud maintains[44] a rule that a king is not allowed to forgo the honor due to him and Tosafos[45] explain this is because the king's honor is not actually his. Rabbeinu Yonah explains[46] that a king's honor is not really, rather it belongs to the people whom he represents, and therefore he cannot give up his honor because it is a slight to the people's honor, of which he is a personification. Similarly, Rabbi Shmuel Eidels (1555-1631) explains[47] that a king cannot ignore his own honor because the honor due to the kingship is not really his own honor, rather the kingship really belongs to HaShem,[48] and a human king is merely an agent of Above. Since the honor due to a king is really due to HaShem, a human king cannot forgo an honor that is not really his. The Midrash says[49] that when Jethro met up with the Israelites in the desert, Moses himself prepared and served the banquet honoring Jethro. However, the commentaries ask, that if Moses had the status of a king how was he halachikly allowed to serve as a waiter, if doing so is beneath his royal dignity and the Talmud says that a king cannot waive the honor due to him. Rabbi Abraham Maskileison (1788-1848) answers[50] that Moses only had the status of a king after he brought the second pair of tablets down from Mount Sinai[51]; the incident involving Moses waiting on his father-in-law, according to some authorities, occurred before the reception of the Torah at Mount Sinai, when Moses did not yet have the status of a king. However, this does not reconcile the event with the opinion of the others authorities[52] who understand that Jethro's arrival occurred only after the Sinaitic Revelation. Furthermore, Rabbi Chaim Ibn Attar writes[53] that Moses was already the King of the Jews in Egypt, so either way he was already king when Jethro arrived. Indeed, if Deuteronomy 33:5 is the source for Moses' royal status, the logic dictates that he would have been king from the time that he "gathered the leaders of the nation", which occurred in Egypt (see Exodus 4:29). Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz (1731-1805) explains[54] that since Moses was not king in the land of Israel, rather he was king of Israel in the Sinaic desert, his kingship was not a fulfillment of the positive commandment of appointing a king. Therefore, even though he had the status of a king, since his kingship was not a fulfillment of the commandment, then the rule that a king may not waive the honor due to him did not apply to Moses. Rabbi Horowitz understands that that rule is applicable only to a king whose reign is a fulfillment of the Biblical precept of appointing a king.

When Eldad and Meidad were prophesying in the encampment, Joshua wanted to "confiscate" the power prophecy from the brothers because Joshua looked at the brothers as rebelling against King Moses, who until then was the prophet. However, when he asked Moses, Moses told him not to do so, for all of HaShem's people are prophets[55]. Nachmanides writes[56] that when Moses said this, he was forgoing his rights to honor. Nachmanides must have learned like Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz that, although Moses was a king, since his kingship was not a fulfillment of the Biblical precept of appointing a king because it was in the Diaspora, Moses was allowed to surrender the honor that he is owed. Later on, Rabbi Chaim Ibn Attar writes[57] that when Miriam spoke slander about Moses, she was still punished despite the fact that Moses forgave her because since Moses was a king, he was not allowed to forgive any slights to his honor. Rabbi Chaim Ibn Attar obviously did not learn like Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz because according to Rabbi Horowitz the rule about a king not giving up his honor did not apply to Moses. It is indeed difficult to explain how Rabbi Chaim Ibn Attar understood the law about a king not being allowed to relinquish the honor due to him[58].

A passage in the Talmud also seems to argue against the novel interpretation of Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz. The Talmud asks[59] how King Agrippa was allowed to praise a newly married bride if praising such a woman was beneath his dignity and a king is not allowed to give up the honor due to him. The Talmud answers that King Agrippa only praised the newlywed at a crossroads in such a fashion that it was not easily recognizable by the masses that he afforded the woman honor. Now, King Agrippa was a scion of the Herodian dynasty, which in the eyes of halacha, took the kingship of Judea illegitimately, and Tosafos even say[60] that King Agrippa was not even Jewish and therefore did not deserve the throne, yet the Talmud still assumed that he was not allowed to give up his honor. To explain this, Tosafos[61]say that although appointing Agrippa as king was halachikly unacceptable, ex post facto that he was appointing the king, all laws applicable to a king are in effect[62], so the Talmud asked how he praised the bride. From here, one sees not like the words of Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz because according to Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz since the ascent of King Agrippa to the throne was not a fulfillment of the commandment of appointing a king, then King Agrippa should have justifiably been allowed to surrender the honor due to him[63].

Rabbi Malkiel Tzvi HaLevi Tenenbaum of Lomza (1847-1910) offers[64] an explanation to the question of the Talmud concerning King Agrippa. He explains that only those kings who were appointed by people cannot waive the honor, which is supposed to be accorded to them. This is because since the people elected this king, they will naturally begin to disparage him because they will feel that they are in charge, and not he. Therefore, Halacha says that in order to counter this effect, honor is forced upon the king—whether he wants it or not—so that the masses will not demean the kingship. However, if a king is chosen divinely or chosen because he has some glaringly obvious qualities over the rest of the nation, then such a king is allowed to forgo his rights to honor because the masses will respect him anyways. Therefore, says Rabbi Tenenbaum, King Agrippa, who was chosen and loved by the masses, was not allowed to surrender his honor, so the Talmud asked how he praised the bride and had to answer he did so in a way that he did not degrade himself. However, Moses, who was divinely chosen as the King of Israel, was allowed to give up his own honor, and therefore was justified in serving the banquet to honor his father-in-law, Jethro[65]. Rabbi Yosef Chaim Shneur Kotler (1918-1982) also makes this distinction explaining[66] that the kingdoms of Moses and Joshua were different from that of the other kings because Moses and Joshua were chosen directly by HaShem, while other kings were chosen by the people.

Rabbi Shneur Kotler explains that Samuel was a king in the same way that Moses and Joshua were. The Midrash[67] says that just as Moses ruled over all of Israel and Judea, so too the prophet Samuel ruled over all of Israel and Judea[68]. Indeed, the Talmud says[69] that Samuel reigned over the Jewish people for ten years alone and for two years, he was co-regent with King Saul. After the Jews requested from the Prophet Samuel to have a king lord over them, HaShem told Samuel, "It is not only you whom they are disgusted with, and rather it is Me as well.[70]" HaShem viewed the request for a king as a rebellion against not only Himself, but against Samuel as well. Rabbi Shneur Kotler explains[71] that this was because Samuel was already a king and requesting from him a king was akin to rejecting Samuel's pre-existing kingship. Rabbi Chaim Palagi (1788-1868) writes[72] that the Zohar understood that Samuel was not a king, because if he were a king, then the Jews would not have asked from his to establish a Jewish monarchy. However, according to Rabbi Kotler, he was a king, and that request was viewed by HaShem as an affront to Samuel's kingship. (The Midrash also says that Abraham was a king.[73])

Rashi[74] understands that a king is not allowed to abstain from honor due to him because by abstaining from such honor, he is actually abstaining from the kingship and would thus temporarily lose his position as king[75]. According to Rashi, perhaps one can explain that Moses temporarily relinquished his title of king in order to serve at the banquet honoring his father-in-law and he later took up again that title[76].

[1] Laws of Kings 1:1
[2] Deuteronomy 17:15
[3] Laws of Beis HaBechirah 6:11 (It is difficult to understand what Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein (1829-1907) meant when he said (Aruch HaShulchan HeUsid Kodshim §13:2) that Maimonides had to specifically say that Moses was a king because this is not found explicitly elsewhere. As one can clearly see below, this concept is stated in other places as well.)
[4] To Shavuos 15a
[5] See Zevachim 102a and Jerusalemic Sanhedrin 1:3
[6] Midrash Tanchuma to Behaaloscha §9
[7] Deuteronomy 33:5
[8] Although, Rabbeinu Bachaya and Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (1093-1167) write (to Deuteronomy 33:5) that Moses was "like a king", which implies that he was not literally a king.
[9] See Leviticus Rabbah §26:7 and the Midrash quoted by Rashi to Numbers 22:7
[10] Aruch HaShulchan HeUsid
[11] Chiddushei HaGriz Al HaTorah (stencil), §156 and Chiddushei HaGriz Al HaTorah, Parshas Vayelech
[12] Zevachim 102a
[13] See Maimonides, Laws of Sanhedrin 1:3
[14] As Maimonides himself writes in Laws of Kings 1:3
[15] This position of the Brisker Rov is disputed by the Brisker Rav's great-grandfather, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (1817-1893). The latter writes (Emek HaNetziv to Sifri to Numbers 12:1) that Moses was not a king and he writes (Ha'emek She'eila to Sheiltos of Rabbi Achai Gain, Devarim §142:9) that Joshua was not a king, as well. Although Rabbeinu Efraim, a Tosafist, states explicitly that Moses did have the law of a king (see Pirush Rabbeinu Efrayim to Numbers 12:1 printed based on the Cambridge University manuscript).
[16] Numbers 27:18
[17] Torah Ohr on Chiddushei HaGriz Al HaTorah, Parshas Vayelech §3
[18] In the end of his addition to Maimonides' Sefer HaMitzvos
[19] Ramban to Deuteronomy 33:17
[20] Joshua was from the tribe of Efrayim, who was a son of Joseph.
[21] This explanation is not necessarily evident from the wording of Nachmanides in both places because Nachmanides subscribes to the view of Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra who wrote (to Genesis 49:10) that Judah, the son of Jacob, was the first king of the Judean tribe, yet in discussing the rulership of Judah, Nachmanides repeatedly uses moshel and " Melech interchangeably. See Ramban to Genesis 49:10 and Genesis 38:24. Although, see Biur HaGra to Psalms 22:29 who does differentiate between the two terms.
[22] Chiddushei HaRan to Sanhedrin 46a
[23] Drashas HaRan, Drush #11
[24] Rabbi Shneur Kotler wonders (See commentary to Maimonides, Laws of Kings §5. (Printed in Kovetz Oraysa by Yeshivas Derech Chaim in memory of Avinoam Grossman, Teves 5767) whether the judges had the status of kings or not. According to Rabbeinu Nissim, they surely did. Nonetheless, Rabbi Kotler attempts to prove from the fact that no Judge was succeeded by his son that the right to be a judge was not inheritable like the right to rule as a king.
[25] This explanation of Rabbeinu Nissim does not justify the stance of Rabbi Chaim Ibn Attar because according to this explanation Moses should have been allowed to forgive Miriam, yet Rabbi Chaim Ibn Attar wrote above that he could not.
[26] Abarbanel to Deuteronomy 17:8
[27] Sanhedrin 49a
[28] Joshua 1:18
[29] See Eitz Yosef to Genesis Rabbah §6:9
[30] Chiddushei HaRadal to Genesis Rabbah §6:9
[31] Joshua 1:8
[32] Chronicles 1 5:10
[33] Genesis Rabbah §98:!5
[34] Maharzu to Genesis Rabbah §98:!5
[35] See Divrei HaYamim (pg. 408-411) by Rabbi Moshe Eisemann who offers another approach to this discussion (Published by Artscroll/Mesorah Publications Ltd.)
[36] Hagahos Minchas Chinuch to Maimonides, Laws of Kings 1:3 (printed in Sefer Likutim in the Rabbi Shabsai Frankel edition of Maimonides' work) which is also quoted in a footnote in the Machon Yerushalayim edition of Minchas Chinuch, #497
[37] See Maimonides, Laws of Kings 1:7
[38] Radak to Samuel 1 10:1
[39] Ohr HaChaim to Numbers 27:23
[40] Chavatzeles HaSharon to Numbers 27:23
[41] This is according to the understanding of Tosafos Yeshanim to Yoma 22b that initially King Saul was supposed to pass on the kingship to his descendants, but his sin prevented such a thing from happening.
[42] Ramban to Genesis 49:10
[43] Beis HaBechirah to Horayos 10b
[44] Sotah 41b
[45] To Sanhedrin 19a
[46] Sanhedrin 19a
[47] Maharsha to Kiddushin 32b
[48] See Psalms 22:29
[49] Mechilta, Parshas Yisro §1:13
[50] Mitzpeh Eisan to Kiddushin 33b
[51] Rabbi Meir Simcha HaKohen of Dvinsk (1843-1926) also writes (Meshech Chochmah to Exodus 18:14) that Moses had the status of a king only after the Sinaitic Revelation, although he does not specify from the time of the acceptance of the second tablets as Rabbi Maskileison does. Rabbi Chizkiyah ben Manoach writes (Chizkuni to Deuteronomy 33:5) that Moses attained the status of king from the time that he received the first pair of tablets on Mount Sinai. At Mount Sinai, Moses gathered the tribes of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:10), so Deuteronomy 33:5 says he became king when gathering the leaders of the nation.
[52] Zevachim 116a
[53] Ohr HaChaim to Exodus 6:13 and Exodus 27:20
[54] Sefer HaMakneh to Kiddushin 32b
[55] Numbers 11:25-29
[56] Ramban to Numbers 11:28
[57] Ohr HaChaim to Numbers 12:11
[58] He cannot hold like Rabbi Shmuel Eidels and the opinion that Jethro join with the Israelites before the Sinaitic Revelation, and thus before Moses became a king, because, as mentioned above, he understood that Moses was a king over the Israelites in Egypt.
[59] Kesubos 17a
[60] See Tosafos to Yevamos 45b
[61] To Kesubos 17a, see also Chiddushei HaRa'ah to Kesubos 17a
[62] Although, see Bava Basra 3a which implies that King Herod did not have the halachik status of a king, only of a Nasi (roughly translated as "President").
[63] Indeed Rabbi Horowitz himself addresses this issue (Hafla'ah to Kesubos 17a) and purports that the words of Tosafos are inexplicable. They are only inexplicable according to Rabbi Horowitz's own explanation of the issue in Sefer HaMakneh to Kiddushin 32b
[64] Responsa Divrei Malkiel Volume 2, §73
[65] The stance of Rabbi Chaim Ibn Attar cannot be explained like Rabbi Malkiel Tzvi Tenenbaum because by the latter's reasoning Moses would have been allowed to forgo his honor because he was appointed as king by HaShem, yet Rabbi Chaim Ibn Attar writes that Moses was not able to forgive his sister Miriam because he could not relinquish the honor that he was supposed to be accorded.
[66] To Maimonides, Laws of Kings §3. (Printed in Kovetz Oraysa by Yeshivas Derech Chaim in memory of Avinoam Grossman, Teves 5767)
[67] Yalkut Shimoni to Jeremiah §292
[68] See also Maharzu to Numbers Rabbah to Numbers 15:13
[69] Temurah 15a
[70] Samuel 1 8:7
[71] To Maimonides, Laws of Kings §5. (Printed in Kovetz Oraysa by Yeshivas Derech Chaim in memory of Avinoam Grossman, Teves 5767)
[72] Nefesh Chaim, the letter Shin, §102
[73] See Yalkut Shimoni to Parshas Vayera §96
[74] As explained by Rabbi Betzalel Ashkenazi in Shittah Mekubetzes to Kesubos 17a
[75] Similarly, Rashi explains (Kerisos 5b) that when the Talmud says that a Davidic King only requires anointment from the Oil of Anointing if his kingship is disputed, this is because when there is a dispute of the kingship, all disputants lose their status as king so a new anointing is required.
[76] This explanation also does not explain Rabbi Chaim Ibn Attar because according to this reasoning, Moses should have suspended his status as king temporarily in order to pardon Miriam his sister.

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