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Beit Midrash Series Parashat Hashavua

part I

The Content of Slavery and the Content of Kingdom

The Seder night is accompanied by songs of freedom, greatness, and malchut, which form a contrast to the situation we could have sunk into had we remained in Egypt, as permanent slaves in the “house of slaves.” We set an atmosphere of “All Jews are the sons of kings” (Shabbat 67a) and “are fit to be kings” (Horiyot 13a).
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The Seder night is accompanied by songs of freedom, greatness, and malchut, which form a contrast to the situation we could have sunk into had we remained in Egypt, as permanent slaves in the "house of slaves." We set an atmosphere of "All Jews are the sons of kings" (Shabbat 67a) and "are fit to be kings" (Horiyot 13a).

What is this idea of malchut which we are linked to? Usually it means rulership. The king rules over someone, who is under his control as his servant. If this is the meaning, then it is difficult. Should it be our desire to rule over others? If so, what does it mean that we are all fit for kingdom? After all, if we are all kings, who we will be king over? If it means that we will rule over other nations, it is still difficult in light of the hope for the End of Days that there will not be conflict between nations and everyone will subscribe to the proposition that "beloved is man who is created in Hashem’s image."

Malchut is a characteristic of the spirit, which gives one a certain power, irrespective of whether he controls anyone else. A person can be a king even if he possesses no more than "a stick and a backpack." One who has such an internal power often induces others to follow him. But what constitutes this power, and what is the opposite – avdut (servitude)?

When Avraham’s servant Eliezer suggested his daughter should marry Yitzchak, Avraham replied: "You are cursed and I am blessed, and the cursed cannot cling to the blessed" (Bereishit Rabba 59). If Eliezer being cursed was just about his being a servant, Avraham could have solved the problem by releasing him!

The first time being cursed and being a servant are connected is in regards to Noach’s grandson, C’na’an (Bereishit 9:25). There the implication is that because he was cursed, he will be a servant, not vice versa. Rather, such people have a negative characteristic, and this played a role in their becoming servants. Let us look to the story of Eliezer to learn more.

The midrash (ibid.) says that while Avraham told Eliezer to look for a wife for Yitzchak from Avraham’s family, Eliezer was plotting how to arrange a match between Yitzchak and his own daughter. Only afterwards did he discover that this would be impossible. Realize that Eliezer had greatness, so much so that Lavan thought that he might be Avraham (ibid. 60). He also is described as disseminating Avraham’s teachings and ruling over his evil inclinations. Why should it not be possible for such a person’s daughter to be fit for Yitzchak? Why was it wrong for him to plan and try to arrange such a match?

We will continue with an explanation next time.
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