#62 - Sanhedrin 16-22
This Thing Called King
"When you enter the land which Hashem, your G-d, has given you and you inherit it and settle in it and you will say I wish to appoint for me a king like all the nations around me." (Devarim 17:14)
Thus does the Torah introduce the institution of monarchy in Israel. It is followed by a command to appoint a king who Hashem will choose "from amongst your brothers" and not a foreigner.
Is this to be understood as a Torah command for Jews to appoint a king or is it merely a restriction on who is eligible for this position?
This depends, says Iyun Yaakov, on how we understand the chapter (Shmuel I 8) in the Prophets which describes the request made by Jews to their aging leader, the Prophet Shmuel, for a king to lead them. Shmuel was displeased with the request and prayed for Heavenly guidance in responding. He was told to go along with the popular demand but to first warn the people about the virtually unlimited powers that kings enjoy. The prophet thereupon painted an awesome portrait of unfettered royal usurpation which would eventually result in "You shall cry out on that day because of the king you have chosen (ibid. 8:13)", but this failed to dissuade them.
Rabbi Nehorai's view is that all the oppressive powers listed by Shmuel are truly the prerogatives of a king in Israel. It therefore follows that such tyranny would not be imposed on the Jewish nation in the form of a command since the Torah never orders something which is unpleasant. Rabbi Yehuda, however, posits that Shmuels description of royal powers was intended only as a strategy for dissuading the people from seeking a king and not as a mandate for royal behavior. This view makes it possible for Rabbi Yehuda to declare that the Torah actually commanded us to appoint a king.
May the Kohen Drink?
Kohanin were forbidden to enter the Sanctuary and perform their service after having imbibed wine. (Vayikra 10:9)
Since different families of kohanim were on duty each day of the week there was a ban on each kohen of the family on duty to drink wine that day.
What about today when there is no Beit Hamikdash, must the kohen refrain from drinking wine because the Beit Hamikdash may suddenly be reestablished and he will be summoned to duty?
One view of the Sages is that if a kohen is aware of which day his family would have been scheduled for duty in Temple times, he must refrain from drinking wine only on that day. Should he be aware only of the week in which his mishmar (one of 24 larger family units which rotated in weekly duty) was on duty but not the day of his particular family, he must refrain from wine that entire week. Should he be aware neither of the week of his mishmar or the day of his family he must forever refrain from wine because the sudden reestablishment of Temple service may come on the very day he is to be on duty.
Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi (Rebbie) disagreed with this approach. He contended that should we be concerned with the sudden reestablishment of Temple service every kohen would be obligated to refrain from wine forever even if he was aware of the day and week his family was on duty. This is so, he argued, because such a sudden reestablishment would call upon every kohen immediately available to report for duty and he may be one of them.
Even though theoretically all kohanim should therefore be banned from drinking wine today, it is Rebbies position that "the destruction (of the Beit Hamikdash) is their resurrection" and they may drink wine as long as there is no Temple. Rashi explains that since the destruction of the Temple interrupted the pattern of kohanim being forbidden to drink when they were actually on duty, it is not reasonable to impose any ban on them today when no Temple service exists and the sudden reestablishment of the Temple service catching a kohen unprepared, because of drinking is only a remote possibility.