A Jewish King

Published November 30, -0001

A Jewish King

Last week we took some of our kids to see the Herod the Great exhibit at the Israel museum. I don’t know if they were as excited about the exhibit as I was. Herod may not have been a nice husband (according to some, he killed his wife Miriam) and was not the most favored leader, but he was an amazing builder – expanding the second Temple, building Caesarea, Masada, the monument above the tomb of our Patriarchs in Hebron, his winter palaces in Jericho, and his tomb in Herodion. Each one of these projects alone was tremendous – but to think about all of this together is unbelievable.
While walking through the exhibit and looking at the exquisite frescoes, mosaic floors, glass ornaments and amphorae pottery, I kept thinking of the verses (17:14-20) from this weeks portion of SHOFTIM that talk about the positive command to appoint a king. It says that when we come to the land of Israel and we want to have a king we must appoint a monarch from “among your brethren; you may not appoint a foreigner who is not one of your brethren” (17:15).
The Sefer Hachinuch (498) explains why an appointed leader over the Jews should be Jewish. Jews are merciful by nature. If the leader is Jewish there is more chance that he will not put too much pressure or hardship over his subjects, but will be caring towards them. This might not be the case with a ruler who is not Jewish.
We see this with Herod, whose Jewishness was controversial. Herod was born an Edomite slave. If he had been let free by his master he would have been considered Jewish, but according to the Gemara in Bava Batra (3b) he killed his master. He adopted Jewish practices, but was not truly Jewish.
He himself was considered a tyrant. He killed all the remaining Hasmoneans of his time. He even had secret police to monitor and report the feelings of the general populace toward him. His brutality was condemned by the Sanhedrin.
May we be worthy of a true Jewish King who knows how to be merciful to his brethren and to be tough with those who want to harm his brethren.
The exhibit is open till Jan. 2014 – so if you don’t make it there this summer you still have time before it closes.
IN HEBREW, walnuts are called EGOZEI MELECH, the King’s Nuts. Since we talked about kings, here is a salad recipe with walnuts and figs which are in season. Figs can have worms so be sure to check them very well.

1/2 cup walnuts, halved
4 cups mixed lettuce leaves
6 fresh figs, checked and cut into quarters
250g goat cheese, crumbled into small bite sizes

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients for dressing. Combine the salad ingredients in order. Pour dressing over the salad, mix and serve.