Beit Midrash

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Part II

The Content of Slavery and the Content of Kingdom

The soul of a Jew is connected to the idea of malchut, of not being in need.


Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

Nisan 13 5779
Last time, we saw that malchut (kingship) is not about rulership but about a personal characteristic, and the same is true in the negative about avdut (servitude). We were left wondering how as great a man as Avraham’s servant Eliezer could have had a characteristic of avdut.

Let us see how Eliezer lost his status of being cursed. After he found Yitzchak’s match, Rivka, her family said to him, "Come, the blessed of Hashem" (Bereishit 24:31). The midrash (Bereishit Rabba 60) explains that once he served Avraham faithfully, he went from cursed to blessed. In other words, as long as he was looking out for his own welfare, in regard to his daughter marrying Yitzchak, even if it was subconsciously, he remained cursed, because he was bolstering his ego. Once he faithfully went about doing what Avraham had requested, he straightened out and became blessed. He needed to be able to conquer his inclinations and self-interests before he could fully be on the side of Avraham, as Avraham was on the other side from the rest of the world.

This was the way of Avraham. The Torah and the Rabbis detail how hard he toiled when he was in pain to prepare a meal fit for kings for three unknown guests, whom he even suspected were idol worshippers. But we have no idea what Avraham would eat himself; it sounds like it was nothing special. To act like a real king is to be concerned more about others; for himself, he is not in need (Sanhedrin 7b). The real master is one who can give his only pillow to someone else. That is the reason that Avraham’s Chitite neighbors treated him like a king (Bereishit Rabba 58).

The soul of a Jew is connected to the idea of malchut, of not being in need. The first things the Torah refers to as rulers are the sun and the moon, which give light to others. They give without withholding for themselves. If one is thinking about himself, he will always be hungry, as Eisav demanded to be fed (Bereishit 25:30). Yaakov and his descendants think about removing the hunger of others. We reach the height of this in the midst of our festive Pesach Seder when we declare that we look for those who are hungry. This is real malchut.

This is why there is and can be malchut in every Jew. We can, in this way, be a king even if we have only a walking stick and a pouch. Whether or not we have much means we can help others in need. That ability is why it is worthwhile to be free. We need laws and statutes of different types to purify our beings and thereby reveal the content that is in our souls. This is the type of greatness and malchut that we strive for.

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