The public perception of royalty has taken a tumble in recent times. With the royal families of Europe excelling themselves only in publicly disgracing their inherited positions, from my "commoner's" perspective I reckon the world could do quite nicely without the whole pack of inbred ingrates.

Republican sentiments aside, one can ask what public good has ever been served by the notion of a ruling class or royal family. Haven't kings and queens throughout history only ever represented profligacy, decadence and despotic rule? If, as is commonly accepted, absolute power corrupts absolutely, given the choice, aren’t we far better off as a democratic meritocracy?

We read this week one of the last commandments listed in the Torah: "When you arrive in the Land... You shall surely appoint a king... from among your brethren appoint a king to rule you." (Deuteronomy 17:15). Does it not seem strange that G‑d positively encourages the notion of human kingship, commanding us to subjugate ourselves to a mortal majesty?

Even weirder: When actually settled in the Land of Israel and ready to surround themselves with all the trappings of statehood, the Jews requested the prophet Samuel to help them appoint "a king, so that we may be like all the surrounding nations." Whereupon Samuel reacted with anger and disgust, assuming that their request for a king was the equivalent to rejecting G‑d. (I Samuel, Chapter 8).


There is an academic method known as “The Great Man School of History,” where wars, political upheaval and other mass-movements are described in terms of the leadership prevalent at the time. Military battles are studied purely from the perspective of the generals, with no more analysis given to the thoughts and individual actions of the common soldier than would be paid to the feelings of a pawn on a chessboard.

This method of examining history is not without merit. The fate of nations is almost exclusively correlated to the quality of leadership they enjoy, and nothing can drag a whole country into the doldrums faster than the irresponsible decisions made by a selfish or incompetent ruling party.

Equally true is the notion that the strong sense of structure provided by a committed and organized government creates a sense of freedom and opportunity for all, and allows individualism to prosper.

Follow me

However, from a Torah perspective it is impossible to accept that the sole function of a leader is to provide law-and-order. Where a healthy recognition of G‑d’s eternal presence prevails, the accepted norms of proper behavior are provided directly by the Torah and it is not necessary to enforce the rule of law.

From this perspective, the challenge of leadership is not to frighten the nation but to inspire it. A true leader stands head-and-shoulders above the people, presenting a sense of mission and purpose and inspiring us all to emulate him. When we appoint a leader or anoint a king, it should be in the expectation that the fine personal qualities that the leader possesses, and the grandeur which the monarch displays, will arouse in ourselves a corresponding sense of enthusiasm to commit to the program of goodness and G‑dliness to which the king himself has committed.

When the prophet Samuel rebuked the nation for requesting a king, his anger was directed at their motives rather than the object of their desire. Their request, "appoint for us a king so we may be like all the surrounding nations,” demonstrated that it was not the inspiration of majesty as a mortal representation of Divinity that they desired. Rather theirs was a more prosaic request; they had no confidence in the rule of G‑d or the expectations of Torah to fashion and direct their society, and chose to rely on the appointment of mortal majesty to arbitrarily impose upon themselves the rule of law.

Show me what to do

Though we live in an age of egoism and individuality, where each of us wishes to be a law unto themselves, there is still much to be recommended in submitting oneself to the advice of a mentor. We may no longer have real kings and queens to inspire us to follow the ways of G‑d and commit to His torah, but every one of us can and must find a guide or spiritual mentor to direct us on our journey through life.

Far from denying your individualism or sense of self, the requisite humility demonstrated in requesting and following the advice of a spiritual guide will help you to develop, flourish and grow into the real you.