Monday, August 27, 2007

God the King I

Sanctity and Kingship, Kedushah uMalchus. Thus end Pesukei deZimrah, leading to the first beracha of the Shema. How do they relate? Where is G-d the King before the Shema? Why say a Kedushah?

What is a king in Judaism? First, a king relates to his people. As the famous maxim says, “ein melech b’lo am”, there is no such thing as a king without a nation. The human king rules his people, legislates with a word, and holds power of life and death over them. In return, he protects them from enemies, and leads them in following G-d’s word.

How is G-d a King? The analogy should be fairly obvious. In fact, the two are innately linked. G-d lends his power to human beings (as we say in the beracha for seeing a king); their power reflects His, and their honor reflects on Him. The Bible notes: 4 Then Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king instead of David his father” (Divrei Hayamim I 29:23). Not that the throne was G-d’s, but that the throne, symbolizing kingship, drew from G-d’s power.

Honor and glory flow upward as well. The credit of the nation reflects well or badly on its king, and through the king to G-d, as David says, “The Lord says to my lord:'Sit at My right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool” (Tehillim 110:1). The psalm says of David that he is lord under the Lord. David says similarly, after the conquest “Mi k’amcha Yisrael…Who is like Your people Israel… And let Your name be magnified for ever, that it may be said: The Lord of hosts is G-d over Israel; and the house of Your servant David shall be established before You” (Shmuel II 7:22-26). David praises Israel, whose glory redounds upon him, and thus also to G-d.1

Kedushos appear in the daily morning services: in the Shema, in the Amidah, and in the conclusion of the service. Each helps to explain the others; today we focus on the Kedushah deYotzer, in the beracha Yotzer Or.

The kedushos are based on the daily angelic choir described in the first chapter of Yechezkel and elsewhere. These choirs daily crown G-d and acclaim Him King, while accepting upon themselves His Kingship.

Why coronation? We say “umamlichim,” the angels make Him King, but it is explicit in the Sephard mussaf kedushah, saying “keter yitnu l’cha – a crown the angels will give to You.” There are many ways of appointing kings. We anoint Israelite kings, and the community proclaims them by praise. The crown is a badge of kingship, of course, but its placement is not a part of our usual ceremony. That is liturgically reserved for G-d.

The coronation of the kedushah is complemented by the angels’ acceptance of the Divine yoke, “umekablim ol malchus shamayim zeh mizeh,” and also by our coronation of G-d, as the mussaf kedushah goes on to say, “malachei hamonei ma’alah, im amcha yisrael kevutzei mata,” or as we say on Yom Kippur, “darei ma’alah im darei mata”; we crown Him along with the angels above, we accept Him along with the angels. There is no King without a nation, and He rules the heavenly hosts along with the physical realm. This compares to melech ha’olam in the basic beracha text, King of the universe, including the he’elam concealed, spiritual universe.

The coronation theme emerges from a variety of midrashim, both in the Gemara and later midrashic collections. The basic form is in Chagigah 13b, amplified here by variants from parallel versions in the other midrashim, particularly Pesikta Rabbasi 20, and the late Midrash Konen:

It is taught in a Mishnah (really a braisa) that (the angel) Sandalphon … stands behind the merkavah and binds crowns (made out of the prayers of Israel) for His Master. Indeed? But does Scripture not say “Blessed is the glory of G-d from His place” (Yechezkel 3:12) indicating that nobody [including the angels, who speak this verse] knows His place? Rather, he recites a name on the crown and it goes and seats itself on His head. (When the crowns arrive, there is a moment of silence, punctuated by the roaring of the chayos. Then the legions say, quaking, Kadosh kadosh kadosh… Then He passes by them, and they respond Baruch kevod H’ mimkomo. They all together say (Tehillim 146:10) Yimloch H’ l’olam…)

Our prayers crown G-d. Our words form the core of the angelic coronation ritual. We join their daily crowning and acclamation of G-d the King, and prepare to accept His Sovereignty when we say, Shema … Baruch shem kvod malchuso l’olam va’ed. The Gra comments on es shem hamelech: “this is the Royal Crown” – hinting at the whole trope, of names corresponding to crowns, made from our prayers, ascending to G-d.

Where does the Kedushah fit into the Yotzer Or? We begin the beracha with praise of G-d for creating the physical universe. Then, both on Shabbos (Keil Adon) and on weekdays (Keil Baruch) we get a piyut, that starts with physical creation, concluding with angelic praise. We read, and join in with, the angelic coronation ceremony, return to praise of physical things, concluding with thanks for creating the light sources. Light is of this world, of the physical sun and moon, but light is also a spiritual energy, as the Infinite Light.

These midrashim link us and our prayers with the angelic choirs, and urge us to incorporate them in our daily acceptance of G-d’s Kingship. However, the angels have to praise Him. We choose to praise and crown and accept Him, through free will, and may thus rise higher than the angels.

1 The Temple, by R’ Joshua Berman, Aronson: 1995, pp. 101-103.

(Originally published as Sefasai Tiftach, in the AishDas parsha sheet Mesukim MiDevash, Re’eh, 5764. It was largely based on Dr. Arthur Green’s book Keter, which was deemed an inappropriate source to mention by name for the intended audience of Mesukim MiDevash.)

(This is a prequel to next week’s article on the Coronation Theme on Rosh Hashanah.)

No comments: