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Hashem Melech!

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil

At a Brit in Jerusalem a great Rabbi stood up to speak and wish well to the grandfather, an accomplished Talmud scholar, on the occasion of the Bris of his first grand-child, “Mazel Tov” he said, “today you are a human being!” Everyone was stunned. Maybe there is some hidden insult implied here. Until now he wasn’t human?

Then he went on to explain that in the animal kingdom it is common to find creatures that have an instinct to protect its young.

However, only by humans does a grandparent demonstrate love and care for his or her grandchild and grandchildren have feelings for grandparents. This is symptomatic of real soulfulness, to see one’s self in a grander historical or familial context. The greater one’s spiritual development the broader is his grasp of the importance of the historical relevance of his life, and its mission.

The Gesher HaChaim lists a number of major differences between a human being and an animal. Amongst the items spoken about there is man’s unique ability to perceive past, present, and future, and to see himself as a creature of history.

The Sephardim mention daily the words “Hashem Melech Hashem Malach Hashem Yimloch Leolam Vaed” – Hashem is King, Hashem, was King, and Hashem will be King forever!

We state that HASHEM is the King in the past, present, and future.

The Ben Ish Hai (Rabbi Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909), (Vayigash) writes that whenever we recite this verse, we recite it twice. This verse expresses our acceptance of G-d as King over us, and we recite it twice to emphasize that we accept the Almighty’s kingship over both our bodies and our souls. The precedent for this practice is found in the Book of Melachim I (18:39), where we read that Bnei Yisrael declared their loyalty to G-d by declaring, “Hashem Hu Ha’Elokim Hashem Hu Ha’Elokim” (“Hashem is G-d, Hashem is G-d”). Just as Bnei Yisrael repeated this declaration, so must we repeat “Hashem Melech” in order to express our commitment of both body and soul to the Almighty.

The Shulchan Aruch (OH 5:1) states that whenever we make a blessing and mention G-d’s Name it is important to contemplate about the way we pronounce His Name (Adnut) as well as the way we read His Name (YHVH). Thus we should ponder each time that He is the Master of everything (Adnut) and He always was, is and will be (YHVH).

It is interesting to note that in Hashem Melech we start with the present –– Hashem is the King. Whereas when relating the kavanot we are supposed to have when saying G-ds Name we are supposed to think, He was, is and will be.

In this case we are thinking about the past first. Why the difference?

In this week’s Parasha Hashem tells Moshe that He had made Himself known to the forefathers only as Kel Sha-dai but never revealed himself as Hashem- (spelt Yud, Heh, Vav, Heh –YHVH).

It was now time to make use of this new revelation.

There are many different explanations of the distinction between these two names of G-d.

On a simple level the idea of YHVH is the concept of the Eternal. The name is a shortened version of “Haya, Hove, V’yehiye” (was, is and will be). G-d is not only powerful, great, kind etc. but as well He is Eternal. He has made us promises in the past and despite the fact that we have not always seen their fulfilment immediately, we have full confidence in what the future holds. Promises were made to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov and now the time has come for fulfilling them.

Times can be tough, but we should always know that there is a long term plan and there is a Master of the world. Moshe had questioned why G-d sent him at this time if it made Pharaoh increase the burden on the Bnei Yisrael. G-d’s reply was that the forefathers never asked, Ushmi Hashem Lo Nodati Lahem – they never needed Me to explain to them the essence of My Name – that I was, am and will be. Rather they lived my Name in comprehensively and understood and felt G-d constantly even in the tough times.

The Gemara (Taanit 25) relates the famous story of Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa. One Friday evening, he came in to see his daughter looking very sad because she accidentally lit Shabbat candles with vinegar (which doesn’t normally burn) instead of oil. He consoled her saying not to worry, because it made no difference—Hashem can command the vinegar to burn the same way He commands the oil to burn.  The Gemara relates the miracle that the candle lit the entire Shabbat!

The Ben Yehoyada asks: What was she worried about? After all, she had already lit the candles, and she SAW that they were burning from the vinegar! He explains that she was concerned because it is forbidden to derive benefit from miracles, and this was clearly a miracle. Perhaps she was had not fulfilled the mitzvah with these Shabbat candles?! However, Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa answered her—there’s no difference! The fact that oil burns is also a miracle! What we perceive as nature is, indeed, a miracle as well. The law forbidding us to benefit from a miracle only applies where the miracle is perceived as something out of the ordinary, and supernatural. However, when one’s Emuna is so strong and clear to see that EVERYTHING is under Hashem’s control, then there is no difference between miracle and nature.

Every time we say a blessing we are supposed to have two ideas. First to internalise that G-d is the Master of the world and only then proceed to ponder that He is, was and will be. Once we have made him Master of the world then we can think of past present and future.

With regards the saying of Hashem Melech – we are in fact coronating G-d with our very words. We are emphatically stating He is the King. We must know first that He is the King, only then can we speak about past and future.

It is this constant knowledge and understanding that existed with the Avot and that Hashem now portrayed to Moshe.

Tosfot (Berachot 11a) asks an interesting question: Why don’t we repeat Birchot HaTorah each time we learn during the day, just like on Succot we make the blessing “Leishev BaSuccah” every time we sit in the Succah for a meal? Tosfot explains that Torah study is different from the other commandments because one’s mind does not abandon thoughts of Torah. Since a person’s obligation to study Torah applies all day long, as the verse states “Vehagita Bo Yomam Valaylah” (– you should meditate in it [the Torah] day and night), it is as if one’s learning is not interrupted during the day.

That is the ultimate way forward. Having G-d on our mind constantly – Shiviti Hashem Lnegdi Tamid.

This was the message to Moshe at the outset in redeeming Am Yisrael, a journey that would be supernatural and majestic.

Let us live and exclaim the words Hashem Melech – He is our King.

There is no difference between miracle and nature it all emanates from Hashem and through this realisation we will be able to experience both.

Shabbat Shalom

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