Hoshana Raba: We Can All Be Kings

I’ve traveled all over the world, but I have never met a king.  Rabbi Ben has seen the queen and been able to make a bracha on seeing her, but I have not.  And anyhow, a king or queen today, in most countries at least, does not seem to have the power they once did.

I have seen castles and palaces all over the world.  Seeing the stunning buildings the leaders erected way back when is a testament to their power.  But they don’t have that power anymore and I have never even met a king.

Today is Hoshana Raba, and we have a tradition that ushpizin, spiritual guests, visit our sukkot each day of the holiday.  Today’s guest is David HaMelech, King David.  What can we learn from him as he is visiting us? We can learn how to be a king.

You see, David HaMelech was not the first king.  King Shaul came before him, but yet he does not visit our sukkot as an example of what it means to be a king.  What makes them different? What makes King David special?  And why is he visiting us on Hoshana Raba, specifically, they day when the books of judgment are put away, and the day on which our mayim, our material blessings for the next year, are judged?

Rabbi Moshe Hauer explains that two incidents illuminate the differences between King Shaul and King David, and also show exactly why King David is visiting us on Hoshana Raba.

King Shaul was commanded by Hashem to kill all of Amalek.  When Shmuel HaNavi, Shmuel the prophet, came to him and asked him about it, King Shaul’s first response was, “I did exactly what you told me to do!”  But he had been commanded to kill all of Amalek, including all the people and all the animals, and he hadn’t done that.  Shmuel called him out on it and said, “Oh really? Then what are all those sheep I hear?”  King Shaul knew he was caught, so he tried to pass the buck, saying, “Well, the people really wanted to keep the sheep to make sacrifices to HaShem (G-d)!”  Shmuel called him out on that, too, saying, “No, you are the king, not the people. The responsibility ultimately lies with you!”  And even then King Shaul was afraid to accept responsibility. “Okay, you’re right, I did it, but please Shmuel, will you walk with me before the people just as you always have?”  Shaul was afraid of the consequences of his actions even when he finally did take responsibility.

King David also sinned, when he took Bathsheva for his wife prematurely.  He sent her husband out to war so he would be killed and he could take Bathsheva for his own.  Now, King David knew that Bathsheva was his beshert, his soul mate, his divinely intended.  He knew that, but instead of waiting, he took her for himself early.  And when he was confronted with this sin, he said just one thing: “I sinned.”  He didn’t make excuses.  He didn’t say, “Well, I knew she was my beshert anyway!”  He didn’t try to pass the buck and blame Bathsheva.  He didn’t shrink away from the consequences of his actions. He said, very simply, “I sinned.”  And he asked HaShem to forgive him.  He did teshuva, repentance.  And his teshuva was accepted.

This is what true kingship is about and this is why King David, of all the kings of Israel, is the one to visit us on Hoshana Raba.  When G-d is just putting away the books that contain our fate for the upcoming year, He still hopes for us to repent at the last minute.  He still hopes we’ll beg Him to re-open the books and re-write our fate for the better.  And He wants to remind us all that we are the princes and princesses of Israel and we all have the potential to grow into ourselves, to become kings and queens through our sincere teshuva.

Wishing you all a chag sameach!


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