Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Mel Brooks was wrong in his movie History of the World Part Two

My new Hevruta, Rabbis Ben Herman and Ian Silverman, has been studying bi-weekly Moses Maimonides’ Mishnah Torah, the Laws of Kings.  As I was studying I remembered Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton recently visit to the United States on a whirlwind 3 day tour.

It’s good to be king.  Rambam teaches that all people need to treat the king with great respect and awe. No one is ever allowed to ride his horse, sit on his throne, use his scepter, wear his crown, or wear his clothes. When the king dies, all these personal possessions are burnt so no other may use them. (Chapter 2 Halacha 1)  According to Politico, the Senate Periodical Press Gallery emailed its members with what was a timely reminder of how journalists should be expected to behave when dealing with the royal couple. These included 'not taking pictures in the wrong places, not walking backwards and not being so absorbed in a phone as to run into people'.  Other media outlets directed their staff to the Buckingham Palace website, where a strict dress code can be found for journalists wishing to cover Royal events.  The rules state: 'Journalists wishing to cover royal engagements, whether in the United Kingdom or abroad, should comply with the dress code on formal occasions out of respect for the guests of the Queen, or any other member of the royal family.  And remember the brouhaha when LeBron James dared to place his arm around the Duchess of Cambridge at that photo shoot?

Nevertheless a Jewish king is very different from the kings of the surrounding nations.  In chapter 3, Rambam enumerates a Jewish kings limitations.  He may have no more than 18 wives and some commentators include concubines in that number. (That is no great sacrifice according to my father z’l who said that any man who has more than one wife deserves it) He may not increase the number of horses that he needs for his own personal chariot when he goes out to war.  He may not seek wealth in order for his prestige or for his amusement.  He should have in his treasury only what he needs to run his country like the salaries of his army corps and his staff.  He may raise funds for the community needs but not for his own personal use.  He may not drink to excess less that leads to drunkenness and nor be consumed by lewdness with women (Take that Prince Andy).  His sole occupation 24/7 should be Torah study and the needs of the community.  The king is liable for lashes for any violation of these commandments. Although so far in our studies, Rambam doesn’t enumerate who lashes the king.

How different is the ideal Jewish king from modern day rulers whether they be royalty or just plain dictators.  They live lavish lifestyles of the rich and famous.  When a dictator is deposed and escapes the clutches of his countrymen, they usually have millions upon millions of dollars skimmed from the country’s treasury to live off the rest of their lives.

So I guess that Mel Brooks was wrong.  It’s only just ok to be the (Jewish) king.