Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hail to the Chief

“A blessing for the czar? Of course. May God bless and keep the czar... far away from us.” So jokes the rabbi of Anatevka during the opening number of Fiddler on the Roof. This was a real feeling among Jews, for many of their rulers were cruel to them.

And yet, there is an interesting law stated in the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) requiring that a special blessing be said upon seeing a gentile king: Blessed are You, Lord, our God, Who has given from His glory to flesh and blood [man]. (Baruch Ah’tah Ah’doh’nai, Elo-heinu melech ha'olam, sheh’natan mee'kvodo l'vasar vah'dam.)

Not only is one supposed to recite this blessing, but a person is supposed to go to great lengths to be able to do so, even traveling long distances to see a gentile king.

Western democratic society in the 21st century is, for the most part, far-removed from the concept of royalty. Those countries that still do have a royal family view them more often as celebrities or figureheads rather than as leaders. Relating to the concept of a powerful monarch is therefore difficult, particularly for Americans who have never had a king or queen.

In fact, America’s lack of a monarchy makes the idea of running to see a king even more important. We are all subject to the ultimate King: God. Upon seeing a mortal king or queen, we can, perhaps, enhance our personal appreciation of God, the King of kings. And that is why the blessing states that God gave of His glory to flesh and blood. God allows these select men and women to radiate the glory of royalty so that everyone might better understand God’s own Divinity.

Let us know your thoughts: Do you think this comparison holds true for a President?


Unknown said...

No! There is nothing to pray for except our survival as Jews. Mr. Obama is nothing more than a celebrity seeking the "limelight" voted into office by small brains and lack-of-foresight idealistic voters...he's a very bright man who happens to be black and he's played that, as have his managers and handlers as well as Hollywood, and has played the "game" well. Heaven help us! Dr. Leonard I. Antick

C Yocheved said...

I think that only praying for ourselves [Jewish people] is wrong; we are all bne'i Adam, we're all in this world together. I absolutely think that it holds true for a President as well.

Chana said...

The custom is not to say this blessing when seeing Western presidents. Some will say for the Queen of England. It truly applies to those who are either clearly royalty or have a true unopposed power over life and death (not just indirectly, say through declaration of war or pardoning). Check with your local rabbi before saying the blessing.