Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hear O Israel - God is our King

Sefasai Tiftach
Parshat Re’eh 5764
Jonathan Baker

Sanctity and Kingship, Kedushah uMalchut. Thus end Pesukei deZimrah, leading to the first bracha of the Shma. How do they relate? Where is G0d 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 (phantom Chazal) 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 G0d’s word.

How is G0d a King? The analogy should be fairly obvious. In fact, the two are innately linked. G0d lends his power to human beings (as we say in the brocho for seeing a king); their power reflects His, and their honor reflects on Him. The Chronicler notes (I Chr 29:23): Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king instead of David his father, not that the throne was G0d’s, but that the throne, symbolizing kingship, drew from G0d’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 G0d, as David says, (Ps 110:1) The LORD saith unto my lord: 'Sit thou at My right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.' The psalm says of David that he is lord under the L0rd. David says similarly, after the conquest (2 Sam 7:22-26) Mi k’amcha Yisrael…Who is like Your people Israel… And let Thy name be magnified for ever, that it may be said: The LORD of hosts is G0d over Israel; and the house of Thy servant David shall be established before Thee. David praises Israel, whose glory redounds upon him, and thus also to G0d. [1]

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

The kedushos are based on the daily angelic choir described in the first chapter of Yechezkel and elsewhere. These choirs daily crown G0d 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 Sephardi musaf 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 to G0d.

The coronation of the kedushah is complemented by the angels’ acceptance of the Divine yoke, umekablim ol malchut shamayim zeh mizeh, and also by our coronation of G0d, as the musaf kedushah goes on to say, malachei hamonei ma`alah, `im `amcha yisrael kvutzei 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 bracha 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 Pesiqta Rabbati 20, and the late Midrash Konen:

It is taught in a Mishnah (really a braita) 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 G0d from His place” (Ez. 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 chayot. Then the legions say, quaking, Kadosh kadosh kadosh Then He passes by them, and they respond Baruch cvod H’ mimkomo. They all together say (Ps. 146:10) Yimloch H’ l’olam…)

Our prayers crown G0d. Our words form the core of the angelic coronation ritual. We join their daily crowning and acclamation of G0d the King, and prepare to accept His Sovereignty when we say, Shema … Baruch shem kvod malchuto l’olam va’ed. The Gra comments on et shem hamelech: “this is the Royal Crown” – hinting at the whole trope, of names corresponding to crowns, made from our prayers, ascending to G0d.

Where does the Kedushah fit into the Yotzer Or? We begin the bracha with praise of G0d for creating the physical universe. Then, both on Shabbat (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 G0d’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.

(Originally published in the AishDas parsha sheet, Mesukim MiDevash)

Source: for the translations and the general idea of the two-phase coronation – Keter, by Art Green

[1] The Temple, by R’ Joshua Berman, Aronson, 1995,101-103.

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