Menachot 97 - 103
Respect for Royalty
One should always show respect for kings, states Rabbi Yannai who cites two examples of the respect shown by prophets to kings.
When Moshe warned Pharaoh about the plague of the first born which would be visited by G-d upon Egypt he prophesied that "all of these your servants will descend to me, bow to me and say Go, you and your people... " (Shmot 11:8) Although he knew through prophesy that the king would himself thus surrender together with his servants, as we see in a later passage (ibid. 12:30), Moshe showed respect for royalty by mentioning only the submission of the servants.
The second example is that of the Prophet Eliyahu and his behavior towards his archenemy, the idol worship propagator, King Achav. "A G-d-given spirit of courage came to Eliyahu and he girded his loins and ran in front of Achavs carriage until they reached Yizreel" (Melachim I 18:46). Whether he did so, as Rashi explains, because it was undignified for a king to travel unaccompanied, or, as others suggest, because having an advance runner is one of the trappings of royalty, Eliyahus action was an expression of respect.
But why should such evil kings deserve the respect of all their subjects, even such exalted prophets?
In his commentary in Mesechta Zevachim (102a) Maharsha quotes the Talmudic dictum that "kingdom on earth is a reflection of the kingdom of Heaven" (Mesechta Berachot 8a). One who shows disrespect for the earthly reflection, he concludes, is guilty of slighting the kingdom of Heaven as well.
The Broken Tablets
When Moshe came down from heaven after forty days and saw the people worshipping the golden calf they had made in his absence he smashed the sacred tables with the Ten Commandments etched upon them that G-d had given him. When he recounted these events to his people forty years later he mentioned that he was commanded by G-d to prepare new tablets and an ark in which to place them. "And I shall write upon the tablets," said G-d, "the words which were on the first tablets which you broke, and you shall place them in the ark." (Devarim 10:2)
The mention of the broken tablets next to the command to place their replacements in the ark led Rabbi Yosef to conclude that the fragments of the original tablets were placed in the ark along with the new ones. From this he drew the lesson that one must be careful not to show disrespect for a Torah scholar who has unwillingly forgotten what he learned.
Rashi in Mesechta Berachot (14b) explains that the forgetting referred to here is the result of illness or the pressures of earning a livelihood. Such a Torah scholar is compared to the broken tablets because, like them, he once was a carrier of Torah information and is no longer. If G-d instructed Moshe to place the fragments of the broken tablets in the ark rather than discard them He taught us that we must not discard a Torah scholar just because he no longer carries with him the Torah knowledge he once possessed. For this reason Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi warned his son (ibid.) to be careful to show respect for the Torah scholar whose circumstances turn him into broken tablets.