Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Democratic Messianic King

It is a matter of prophecy that Moshiach (the Messiah) be a king with not just the pomp and pageantry of royalty, but the legal power of life and death over his enemies within the society itself. Now in Halachah (Jewish Religious Law) matters of practice take on a religious import. If something is recognized as the best way of doing things, it is likely that when in pursuit of God's Honor, we must do things in that very way. And it is a matter of practice in our times that society considers good governance that which is closest to democratic ideals, and that which avoids the potential ability to abuse power by individual leaders. This brings us to the question. How do we have a king messiah in the age of democracy? According to God's own rules, this seems to be almost a paradox.

Well we already showed how it is possible for the world to come to a time where rebuilding the Holy Temple is not considered an act of war, but this concept of the messiah being a powerful ruler is perhaps more intrinsic to the entire messianic project. Once the temple is rebuilt, it is there. Once the king is in place, any time there is a lack of democracy, wouldn't there be the potential for discord against the king if indeed he were a fully fledged king? How can the messiah be a "peaceful ruler" (Isaiah 9.5) if his every command is open to question and a potential source of national strife. A "peaceful ruler" also cannot be a monarch who rules with an iron fist, placing extraneous fear in the hearts of his people, who he is obligated to view as his flock that he must lead closer to his Master, the Living God of Israel.

There is no need to show how it can happen that Israelis could choose the absolute rule of a messiah king over democracy. We need look no further than at Russia to see how a country whose governmental system, if it is viewed as the main problem, and not the main solution to the ills of state, how the people of a nation can reject their current form of governance for a more effective, albeit less democratic form.

Yet the crux of the matter is in the nature of the king, not the nature of monarchical governance. From a faith based perspective, the King Moshiach is absolutely guaranteed to be the perfect ruler, the most just leader, so the people will trust him to the extent to which no other people could trust a standard king to lead them. From a psychological perspective, Moshiach is described as having a Davidic style of personality. King David eventually became head of the Sanhedrin (Supreme Court) due to his incredible level of scholarship. Moshiach will be more scholar than politician. He will look for ways to avoid getting bogged down with day to day affairs of state. Therefore he will avoid tampering with the republican nature of the Jewish State. The more he can leave to the Knesset, the more of God's Holy Word he can study, and then inculcate into his lordship persona. The weight of prophecy and history will bear down upon him to be as perfect in his judgment as any king ever was. In the words of Maimonides (from 'the Laws of Penance' 9.2), "He will be wiser than Solomon, and like unto the greatness of Moses."

So what this means is in relation to the current Israeli system, if Moshiach came today, he will likely say that the Knesset should continue to run the daily affairs of state. Only in the event of war, or a complete break down of government sensitivity to the needs of the public, would the king ever act as king. For the most part he will be the most studious of scholars. It is mainly on the side that he will police the policies of the government to make certain everything is running smoothly. To do this most efficiently and effectively, he needs the full powers of a king.

One way this could work, without creating many new offices of government, would be to revamp the office of President of the State of Israel. Give the ceremonial tasks that the current Presidency calls for to the Vice President. Then give three main powers to the President:
  1. The power to not only line item veto, but also to initiate legislation, and approve it without governmental support. (I call this the Power of the Super Veto) The check and balance to this is that the Knesset can appeal to the Sanhedrin to override the Super Veto. Thus there is a method to limit monarchical power, but rather than making it hard to get anything done, as it is in current bureaucracies, this way would make it hard to overrule the king. Obviously there is a need of having a king you can really trust for this kind of power to be in place, and Moshiach fits that bill.
  2. The Power of Commander In Chief (as per the USA version of this concept)
  3. The Power of Absolute Immunity (he can be removed from office by vote of the Sanhedrin for egregious acts, but never physically or otherwise punished for any crime he commits).
This would also fit in nicely with the Prophecies of Ezekiel who calls the Messiah and his son and grandson, The Nasi, which is Hebrew for prince, and in modern Hebrew, the word for President.

In Honor of my father, Rabbi Leon Eliezer Friedlander, Esq., of blessed memory on 17 Shevat, 5768, the third anniversary of his passing to the World of Truth

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