Sanctuary of the King, the Royal City

Rav Shelomo al-Qabetz actually addresses much of Lekha Dodi to Jerusalem: “מִקְדַּשׁ מֶלֶךְ עִיר מְלוּכָה — Sanctuary of the King, the Royal City.” “הִתְנַעֲרִי מֵעָפָר קוּמִי \ לִבְשִׁי בִּגְדֵי תִפְאַרְתֵּךְ עַמִּי — Arise, get up from the dust / dress yourself in your glorious clothes, my nation.” “כְּבוד ה’ עָלַיִךְ נִגְלָּהּ — Hashem’s Glory is revealed upon you.” “וְנִבְנְתָה עִיר עַל תלָּהּ — the city will be rebuilt on its hill.”

Notice how he describes it, Jerusalem is the “Sanctuary of the King, the Royal City.” A place of holiness and a place of civil leadership.

Simlarly, the name of the city is a portmanteau of two words: Yeru, and Shaleim.

Yeru” derives from the Aqeidah, when Avraham finally offers the ram, and declares the future Temple Mount to be “ה’ יִרְאֶה — Mount ‘Hashem Will See’”, which, the chumash continues, “אֲשֶׁר יֵאָמֵר הַיּוֹם, בְּהַר ה יֵרָאֶה — about which today it is said, Mount ‘Hashem will be Seen’” (Bereishis 22:14). Yeru is a place where Avraham encountered G-d, where He experienced hashgachah peraris, Divine Supervision.

Right near the place of the Aqeidah, Malkitzedeq (who tradition identifies with Sheim the son of Noach) was reigning as king of Shaleim. “Shaleim” means whole, both in the sense of lacking missing parts, and in the parts working together smoothly.

According to R’ Aryeh Kaplan, King David unified these two places into one city. (“Jerusalem, the Eye of the Universe”, pg. 46) But whether unified by him or earlier, the Psalmist does describe it as “כְּעִיר, שֶׁחֻבְּרָה-לָּהּ יַחְדָּו”, taken literally: “a city which is connected for Him together.” (122:3) The City of David is a place of unity, where Yeru and Shaleim connect.

What does Rav Shelomo al-Qabetz mean when he juxtaposes “מִקְדַּשׁ מֶלֶךְ עִיר מְלוּכָה”? In which way does he expect Jerusalem as the Sanctuary of the King to relate to Jerusalem as the capital? How do the two ideas come together to make a single “Yerushalayim”?

In 1940, Rav Joseph B Soloveitchik delivered a eulogy for Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski at the second Agudath Israel of America conference. (At the time he was actually the head of the American Agudah. It was not until the end of WWII and the rise of the State of Israel that the Rav felt that “history is a poseiq” which came out on the side of Mizrachi, and he switched affiliations. See “Yoseif ve’Echav” in Chameish Derashos, for his own description.)

The eulogy was published as “Nos’ei haTzitz vehaChoshen” (in Divrei Hegut Veha’arakha). The Rav highlighted the point that it was only the same kohein gadol who wore the golden tzitz on his head with the words “Qodesh Lashem — Sanctified to G-d” on it could be the one who wore the choshein, the golden breastplate with its precious stones bearing the names of the tribes. Religious leadership and communal leadership (“all current political questions”) should be in the same hands.

This was not an argument for da’as Torah as the term later came to be used. This was not an assertion that the leading posqim should perforce be accepted as civil leadership. After all, RJBS was speaking of the community rabbi.  That somehow Torah study makes the rabbi more fit to lead even when the open questions are not those of Torah, but of the situational details (metzi’us). Rather, RYBS was saying that when a community seeks a leader, they should be seeking a single person for both jobs, and to specifically hire someone who is competent in both jobs.

While both call for unifying religious and civil leadership, there is a sharp difference. Whereas da’as Torah teaches to entrust those who are spiritually informed with civil and material questions, haTzitz vehaChoshen tells one to only trust their halachic questions to someone informed about people and who helps people manage on the personal and social levels in addition to knowing halakhah.

Rav Shimon Shkop defines the holy life as follows:

לכן נראה לפי עניות דעתי, שבמצוה זו כלול כל יסוד ושורש מגמת תכלית חיינו, שיהיו כל עבודתנו ועמלנו תמיד מוקדשים לטובת הכלל, שלא נשתמש בשום מעשה ותנועה, הנאה ותענוג שלא יהיה בזה איזה ענין לטובת זולתנו, וכמובן בכל הקדשות שהוא התיחדות למטרה נכבדה,
והנה כשהאדם מישר הליכותיו ושואף שתמיד יהיו דרכי חייו מוקדשים להכלל אז כל מה שעושה גם לעצמו להבראת גופו ונפשו הוא מתיחס גם כן אל מצות קדושה…

And so, it appears to my limited understanding that this mitzvah includes the entire foundation and root of the purpose of our lives. All of our work and effort should constantly be sanctified to benefitting the community. We should not use any act, movement, or get benefit or enjoyment that doesn’t have in it some element of helping another. And as understood, all holiness is being set apart for an honorable purpose.
Behold, when a person straightens his path and strives constantly to make his lifestyle dedicated to the community then anything he does even for himself, for the health of his body and soul he also associates to the mitzvah of being holy.

Holiness is sanctifying one’s life to the benefit of others. Not a private relationship between myself in G-d, but committing to bringing His Good to His Children.

When the city was established, it was Shalem — the city of unity and peace — first, and only then was it able to house the location where Hashem could be “seen”. The “choshein”, the interpersonal perfection is the more fundamental and earns the kohein gadol the right to wear the ineffible name on the tzitz. It is only to the extent that Yerushalayim lives up to being the Ir Melukhah, the city which provides from society, that it can merit being the Miqdash Melekh, sacred to G-d.

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  1. Interesting, especially in light of what many view as the Chasmona’i arrogation of the malchus.

    • rmpearlman says:

      The early Chasmonic leaders were careful not to usurp ‘Malchut’ so did not consider selves kings as reserved for beis David.

    • micha says:

      The Chashmona’im end up getting rid of the third seat of authority as well, by backing a version of Judaism that deprecates the authority of the rabbi.

      I think your point reinforces my thesis, but given your later comment calling this one “obsessing about my minor comment” I’m not sure you do. After all, the Chashmonaim were religious leadership absorbing civil leadership role, rather than the other way around — appointing civil leadership who are also spiritual exemplars. If we’re to make a comparison, the Chashmonaim charicatured “daas Torah”, not my interpretation of RYBS’s model.

  2. I have to rephrase that. I should have begun by saying that I very much enjoyed the post as a whole, instead of obsessing about my minor comment. The observation that Yerushalayim is central to Lecha Dodi, and the symbolism of that centrality, is very interesting.

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