In the town of Pshischah, there lived a great scholar who, while personally friendly with Reb Yaakov Yitzchak, the saintly Yehudi, felt that the honor and prestige which the chassidim gave to their Rebbe should really have been granted to him. After all, he was the greater scholar.

Once he candidly made that observation to Reb Yaakov Yitzchak himself. Reb Yaakov Yitzchak agreed. “I really don’t see myself as fit for leadership,” he told his colleague. “I will emphasize this point the next time I address my followers.”

Reb Yaakov Yitzchak kept his promise and spoke to the chassidim about the faults he possessed and his need for self-refinement.

At their next meeting, his scholarly friend asked him why the chassidim were still coming to him.

“I don’t know,” Reb Yaakov Yitzchak answered, assuring his friend that he had kept his promise.

“I understand,” his friend replied, “that chassidim love humility. So if you want to drive them away, you should speak proudly. At your next gathering, tell them how great you are and how deserving you are of their honor.”

“That I cannot do,” Reb Yaakov Yitzchak replied, “for I will not say anything but the truth.”

Parshas Shoftim

This Torah reading contains the command to appoint a king. The idea of a king as an absolute monarch — not merely a ceremonial figurehead — is foreign to our worldview. We are not willing to subjugate our lives to the rule of another human being.

On the other hand, we are starving for genuine leadership. We are disgusted by candy-coated figureheads who lack integrity; who stand for themselves and their personal image and little else.

King David was the exemplar of Jewish monarchy and yet, as he says of himself: “I did not lift up my heart; my eyes were not haughty... I stilled and silenced my soul.” This absolute humility made him a fitting medium for the manifestation of G‑d’s Kingship.

This serves as an example to our people as a whole; for the purpose of Jewish monarchy is to teach the people self-nullification. The purpose of paying homage to a mortal king is to infuse kabbalas ol, “the acceptance of G‑d’s yoke,” into every dimension of our people’s Divine service, deepening the intensity of our commitment until it affects our very essence.

Looking to the Horizon

Many of us are fascinated by royalty. If something happens to the Queen or even a Princess in England, it makes headlines all over the world.

Mashiach, the Torah teaches, will re-institute true monarchy. Admittedly, this is a radical, even abhorrent notion to a world prided on its independence. But let’s think for a second. A desire for short-term satisfaction over long-term growth and purpose plagues most democracies. This can be overcome only through inspired leadership, a leader who has no desire to show authority, no fear of being unpopular, no immediate desire to be loved, and whose devotion to his people is selfless.

Honestly speaking, what are the chances of such a person being elected — and maintained in office — in a democratic society? How would such a person convince people to follow his plan if doing so involves sacrificing opportunities for immediate success and satisfaction?

These are among the reasons that in the era of Mashiach, monarchy will be reinstituted. The intent will not be to take away man’s power of independent decision, but rather to use the advantages of monarchy to elevate our decision-making to a higher rung.