6 Shevat 5769
January 3, 2009
In this prophecy, Ezekiel presages the ideal conditions which will exist in God\’s final redemption of the Jewish people. These are summarized well by Rabbi Don Yitzhak Abrabanel, the 15th century Spanish Jewish statesman and biblical commentator: \”When Israel is ingathered and after the restoration of the dead, the kingdom of Israel will no longer be divided nor will there be quarrels between the kingdoms of Judea and Israel; instead God\’s providence will unite all of Israel as one nation in the land, with one eternal king from the seed of David and his family. They will live on the land that was promised to their ancestors and their children will dwell on the land forever. They will not contaminate their land with idolatry but instead will be loyal to God so that they will never again be exiled, for God has established with them an eternal covenant of peace. He will multiply them and establish His Temple amongst them and His divine presence will dwell amongst them so that the nations will know that God sanctifies Israel in that His Temple stands in their midst forever.\” (Adapted translation)
God intends to reestablish the Davidic kingship as a prerequisite for all of the other conditions. Who will this king be? Ezekiel describes the king in these words: \”My servant David shall be king over them; there shall be one shepherd for all of them.\” (verse 24) Rabbi David Kimche (13th century Provence) understood this to mean that the king messiah would either be called David or possibly that since he would be from the seed of David he would be known as David. Rabbi Joseph Kara (12th century France) explains that this description means that he must come from the tribe of Judah since David was the first king from that tribe.
Abrabanel, the statesman, took a particular interest in this matter and attempted to examine the implications of this identity: \”The king messiah will be called David since he is from his progeny and will follow his ways just as Egyptian kings for the longest time were known as pharaoh and afterwards were known as Ptolemy, so, too, the messianic king will be known as David to indicate that only one who is of Davidic descent, is God fearing and turns from wrong (repents) like David (is fit to be king).\”
Abrabanel adopted the notion that the future king will be an idealized version of the original king. It is important to note is the nature of the qualities that this king must possess. He must be someone with integrity and possess the ability to correct himself when he makes mistakes. The tradition envisions David this way and it is the expectation of the tradition that the future leader will measure up to this idealized standard. This gives our leaders a mark towards which they should aspire.
This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
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