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Melachim uMilchamot - Chapter 3

Melachim uMilchamot - Chapter 3

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Halacha 1

During a king's reign, he must write a Torah scroll for himself in addition to the scroll which was left to him by his ancestors. A court of 71 elders should check this scroll by comparing it to the Torah scroll kept in the Temple Courtyard.

If his ancestors did not leave him a Torah scroll or that scroll was lost, he must write two Torah scrolls:

one, in whose writing, he is obligated as is every individual Israelite, and which he places in his treasury;

the second, which should not move from his presence except when he enters a lavatory, the baths, or other places in which it is not fit to read the words of Torah.

When he goes to war, this scroll should accompany him. When he returns, it should accompany him. When he sits in judgement, it should be with him. When he dines, it should be opposite him, as Deuteronomy 17:19 states: 'It should accompany him and he should read it all the days of his life.'

Halacha 2

'He should not amass many wives' Deuteronomy 17:17. The Oral Tradition states that he may take no more than eighteen wives.

The figure eighteen includes both wives and concubines. If he takes an additional wife and has relations with her, he is punished with lashes.

He may divorce one of his wives and marry another instead of the one he divorced.

Halacha 3

He may not accumulate many horses, only what is necessary for his cavalry. It is even forbidden for him to have one additional horse to run before him as is customarily done by other kings. If he adds an additional horse, he is to be lashed.

Halacha 4

He may not amass silver and gold to keep in his personal treasury in order to boost his pride or allow him to glorify himself. Rather, he may collect only what is necessary to pay his soldiers, servants, and attendants.

Any gold and silver which he does accumulate should be given to the Temple treasury to be kept there, in readiness for the needs of the community and their wars.

It is a mitzvah to accumulate such treasure stores. The prohibition is only against amassing personal wealth in his own treasure houses, as Deuteronomy 17:17 states: 'He shall not amass for himself...' Should he amass personal wealth, he is to be lashed.

Halacha 5

The king is forbidden to drink wine to the point of intoxication, as Proverbs 31:4 states: 'It is not for kings to drink wine....'

Rather, he should be involved with Torah study and the needs of Israel by day and by night, as Deuteronomy, loc. cit. states: 'It should accompany him and he should read it all the days of his life.'

Halacha 6

Similarly, he should not be overly indulgent in his relations with his wives. Even if he has only one wife, he should not constantly be with her as is the practice of fools, as Proverbs 31:3 states: 'Do not give your strength to women.'

When the Torah forbade the king from accumulating many wives, its emphasis was that his heart not go astray as Deuteronomy 17: 17 warns: 'lest his heart go astray.' His heart is the heart of the entire congregation of Israel. Therefore, the verse commanded him to have it cleave to the Torah to a greater degree than the rest of the nation, as it is stated: 'all the days of his life.'

Halacha 7

We have already explained that kings of the Davidic dynasty may be judged and testimony may be given against them.

However, in regard to the other kings of Israel, the Sages decreed that they neither sit in judgement or be judged. They may not give testimony, nor is testimony given against them. This is because they are arrogant and the matter may cause a tragedy and loss to the faith.

Halacha 8

Anyone who rebels against a king of Israel may be executed by the king.

Even if the king orders one of the people to go to a particular place and the latter refuses, or he orders him not to leave his house and he goes out, the offender is liable to be put to death. The king may execute him if he desires, as Joshua 1:18 states: 'Whoever rebels against your command ... shall be put to death."

Similarly, anyone who embarrasses or shames the king may be executed by the king as was Shim'i ben Gera.

The king may only execute people by decapitation. He may also imprison offenders and have them beaten with rods to protect his honor. However, he may not confiscate property. If he does, it is considered theft.

Halacha 9

A person who negates a king's command because he was occupied with a mitzvah, even a minor one, is not liable. Whose words should have precedence in case of conflict, the words of the Master or the words of the subject? Needless to say, if a king decrees that a mitzvah should be negated, his words should not be heeded.

Halacha 10

A murderer against whom the evidence is not totally conclusive, or who was not warned before he slew his victim, or even one who was observed by only one witness, and similarly, an enemy who inadvertently killed one of his foes - the king is granted license to execute them and to improve society according to the needs of the time.

He may execute many on one day, hang them, and leave them hanging for many days in order to cast fear into the hearts and destroy the power of the wicked of the earth.

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