Sunday, September 07, 2008

the mitzvah to appoint a king - is democracy assur?

One the one hand, Chazal teach us that appointing a king is one of the 613 mitzvos, yet on the other hand, the Torah presents the idea of appointing a king as a response to the demands of the people, "V'amarta asima alay melech…", implying that where there is no demand, there is no requirement to appoint a king. The Netziv explains that there is no contradiction. The mitzvah of appointing a king does not require imposing a monarchy willy-nilly. There is a built-in condition to the mitzvah that calls it into effect only should the people demand a monarchy. In some countries a democracy may be the preferred form of government, in other countries other systems may work. However, should the people demand a king, the Sanhedrin is commanded to then act on that demand and put in place a monarchy which conforms to the principles set down in our parsha.

[This post has been updated - the idea of an issur aseh which I mentioned originally is in fact rejected by the Netziv.]


  1. Anonymous9:36 AM

    R'Shachter (in Bikvei ha-tzon, I think) also points out based on a Ramban in parshas Korach that the mitzvah of a melech does not require an actual king but rather a Jewish government.

  2. Anonymous2:30 PM

    I believe this is a Machloket Rishonim. The Rambam does call appointing a king a mitzvah. The latter opinion would seem easier to reconcile with the 2nd perek of Sanhedrin.

    I think this may also be tied into the various opinions of the source of "Dina d'malchuta"

  3. Anonymous11:38 PM

    Anything for Reb Tzodik Yahertzeit?
    Maybe an Elul Rosh Hashanah shtikle?

  4. I wish I had time... :(