Every King Needs a Queen

Coronating God on Rosh Hashanah

Our primary service of God on Rosh Hashanah is to coronate God as King over us. But what exactly does this mean and how are we supposed to accomplish this goal?

Plainly put, God is already King of all. He is the Creator, and everything is under His Providence. It would seem that all we must do is accept the yoke of His will upon us. In other words, making God King demands that we get our act together, that we rectify ourselves by not shirking our duties, and by starting to fulfill our duties as we should. It is possible that over the year, we have transgressed and turned God into a “neglected king” (in the terminology of Pirkei Heichalot), a King whose subjects insult Him and deny that He is present. This does not mean to imply that God really is “neglected,” but only to describe our misconception of our relationship with Him over the passing year. When we accept God’s sovereignty over us, we rectify this situation.

Penetrating Beyond the Surface

However, the Torah’s inner dimension explains that it is not enough that we simply renew our commitment to serving God to automatically coronate Him as Sovereign over all of reality. This would make God’s sovereignty a technical matter, one that depends merely on us, His creations, and our actions. Chasidut reveals that our relationship with God is such that to make Him King over the entire world, we must arouse within Him, as it were, the desire to rule over His domain. Our own renewed commitment makes it possible for Him to openly exercise His sovereignty, but without His desire, God will not agree, as it were, to rule over us this Rosh Hashanah and the coming year.

We can dub God’s arousal as the hidden requirement for coronating God. But, as in fact, this hidden requirement itself has two dimensions to it. When we fulfill both, we make God King.

The first dimension is based on the observation that, “There is no king without a people”[1] (אֵין מֶלֶךְ בְּלֹא עַם), which essentially reveals that God decided to create the world because before there were “others” that He could rule over, He was a King only in potential. The manifestation of His kingdom, His sovereignty, could only be made possible when the souls of Israel volunteered to be His nation. Only once a collection of individuals, separate from the Almighty and with personal autonomy (thereby indicating that their relationship with God is more distant than the relationship of children with their father) decided to make Him King over them, did God, as it were, become a King in practice.

The second, even deeper dimension is based on the Zohar’s statement that, “A king without a queen is not a king and he is not great”[2] (מַלְכָּא בְּלֹא מַטְרוֹנִיתָא לָאו אִיהוּ מֶלֶךְ וְלָאו אִיהוּ גָּדוֹל). In other words, just as “there is no king without a people,” so “there is no king without a queen.” The nature of the king’s relationship with the queen is different than the one he has with his people. The king consults with his queen. He asks her, “What do you think I should do?” The queen is not necessarily wiser than the king, but she is more insightful. What that means is that she engages the king, her husband, in exploratory dialogue. Her aim is to help the king reveal his innermost desire—his will that is buried deep within the recesses of his unconscious.

The Talmud provides a fascinating illustration of this principle. The sages of his generation wanted to appoint Rabbi Elazar Ben Azaryah the head of the Sanhedrin.

They came and said to him: Would the Master consent to being the Head of the Yeshivah? He said to them: I will go and consult with my household. He went and consulted with his wife. She said to him: “Perhaps they will remove you [from office just as they removed your predecessor]!? He said to her, [based on the folk saying:] “Let a person use an expensive goblet one day and let it break tomorrow, [meaning that one should take advantage of an opportunity and not concern himself whether or not it will last.] She said to him: You have no white [hair in your beard, and it is inappropriate for one so young to head the Yeshivah. Indeed,] that day, [even though] he was eighteen years old, a miracle transpired for him and eighteen rows of hair [in his beard] turned white.[3]

The queen gives the king the sensitivity to reality and to his people. An example of what happens when a king does not have a queen to consult can be found regarding the seven kings of Edom, none of whom married.[4] The Torah describes that “they ruled and died,” without leaving successors. Kabbalah points out that because they were not married and had no queen to consult, their reign was unstable, chaotic, and left no remnant. For this reason, they are associated with the seven sefirot of the World of Chaos that precedes our World of Rectification; the hallmark of the latter is that every king has a queen leading to a more stable and lasting reign. The queen’s role is further clarified when we consider God’s instruction to Abraham, the first holy king, “All that Sarah says to you, listen to her voice”[5]).

Who then is the Almighty’s queen, so to speak? The sages answer this question: “With whom did He consult? With the souls of the righteous.”[6] But since “Your nation are all righteous,”[7] the Almighty consults with the entire Jewish people on Rosh Hashanah, waiting to hear our valuable insight that indeed, God should reign over His creation this year, once again.

The King and Queen Together

We will conclude with a beautiful numerical allusion demonstrating the main point of our meditation. The essence of the month of Elul is traditionally identified with the initials of the verse, “I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me”[8] (אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי). Amazingly, the value of the entire phrase, “I am to my Beloved and my beloved is to me” (אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי) is exactly equal to that of the two words “king-queen” (מֶלֶךְ מַלְכָּה)—they also refer to the same bond, between the king and queen, between God and the Jewish people.

In the same vein, we find a verse that illustrates God’s ascent to His throne on Rosh Hashanah as the result of His relationship with His queen—the Jewish people: “Extol her and she will exalt you; she will bring you honor when you embrace her”[9]  (סַלְסְלֶהָ וּתְרוֹמְמֶךָּ תְּכַבֵּדְךָ כִּי תְחַבְּקֶנָּה). Beyond expressing the nature of the relationship between the king who consults with his queen and benefits from it, the value of the first word in the verse, whose appearance is singular in the entire Bible, “Extol her” (סַלְסְלֶהָ) is the same as “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me” (אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי) and “king-queen” (מֶלֶךְ מַלְכָּה)! Even more amazing is the fact that the first two letters in this word (סַלְ) equal “king” (מֶלֶךְ) and the value of the final three letters (סְלֶהָ) is equal to “queen” (מַלְכָּה)!

This verse tells the king: the more you extol and embrace your queen, the more you yourself will be exalted. In like manner, to make God King over the world, we too must beautify ourselves like a queen who is worthy of a king. We must recognize what an important role we play for Him and express our desire to marry Him (which, naturally, requires Him to forgive our offenses). But perhaps most importantly, we must be happy and joyful to find favor in His eyes thereby attracting Him, as it were, to us, just as a woman attracts her husband.

By following this meditation, we will find that on Rosh Hashanah, our prayers are far more than just a supplication for forgiveness and go far beyond being an apology for rebelling against God. Our silent prayers will be even more than a declaration that we coronate God as King by his people. They will become an intimate conversation between us as the queen, who has the king’s ear, and is able to influence the king’s heart—God’s heart, as it were—to lean towards us.

 

[1] Rabbeinu Bachyei on Genesis 38:30.

[2] Zohar 3:5a.

[3]. Berachot 27b-28a.

[4]. Genesis 36:31-38. Note that the final, eighth king enumerated, Hadar (Ibid. v. 39), is described explicitly as having a wife, Meheitavel. In fact, the sum of the numerical of Hadar (הֲדַר) and Meheitavel (מְהֵיטַבְאֵל) is 306, the value of “woman” (אִשָּׁה), suggesting that (Bereishit Rabbah 17:6) “all is from the woman” (הַכֹּל מִן הָאִשָּׁה).

[5] Genesis 21:12.

[6] Breishit Rabbah 8:7.

[7]. Isaiah 60:21.

[8]. Song of Songs 6:3.

[9]. Proverbs 4:8.

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