Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A King For Israel

Right now we are hearing a lot about what Israel needs. Better PR, better military planning, more concern for human rights, etc. You won't hear many people suggesting that what Israel really needs is a king. But that is precisely what Dr. Michael Wyschogrod suggested in a recent article in First Things (link - no longer available for free online).

Dr. Wyschogrod will be speaking on this topic on Thursday with an introduction by R. Meir Soloveichik (link). I bumped into R. Soloveichik last week and asked him what the deal is with this article, which seems incomprehensible to me. He said that he thinks it's brilliant but I need to dig below the surface. Here is what I found after digging, which could be more my own intepretation than Dr. Wyschogrod's idea.

Dr. Wyschogrod begins by pointing out the crisis in Israel due to its lack of a constitution. His solution is the appointment of a Regent for the messianic king, a figurehead with no authority (like the President) to represent the king in what will be a constitutional monarchy. In this way, Israel will define itself as a Jewish country and make a point that God is its king, with the messianic king His representative.

The way I understand it, this suggestion makes a unique case for the role of a democratic government in the State of Israel. As discussed in this post (link), R. Avraham Kook saw the democratically elected government as functioning in the role of a monarchy while R. Shlomo Goren saw it as self-rule in lieu of a monarchy. Dr. Wyschogrod sees it as serving below a monarchy, remaining within the confines of monarchal and Divine (which he equates) fiat. Instead of a government serving as a monarchy or instead of it, he sees it serving together with the king. They are partners in governing, with the king defining the basic parameters of Divine rule and the government involving itself with the details. God's rule, as embodied by the king, serves as the nation's constitution.

Dr. Wyschogrod does not state what role he sees a democratically elected government playing once a king arrives in Israel to take his throne. Presumably, the representatives will serve as the governing body while the king is the figurehead with veto power. This is an interesting and innovative suggestion. I don't know that it has the biblical and talmudic backing that other approaches do but perhaps, with further work, that can be established.

I don't know whether I will be able to attend Dr. Wyschogrod's lecture but I look forward to hearing what else he has to say on the subject.

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