Rabbi Yaacov Haber
“Rabbe Chanina the assistant to the Kohain Gedolim says:
Pray for the Shlaima of the Malchus.
it wasn’t for the fear of it, each person would swallow up his friend alive”.
It’s interesting that Rabbi Chanina is called the assistant
to the Kohain Gedolim.
You would think
that being an assistant Kohain Godol would be a temporary position until the
Kohain Godol dies, then he would become the Kohain Godol himself.
Chanina lived during the end of the second Bais Hamikdosh.
When the Romans took over, their first plan
was to let the Jews continue in their normal lifestyle, and they would control
only the position of Kohain Godol.
chose corrupt Kohanim who would listen to their dictates.
But they still needed a Kohain who would be
knowledgeable about the Bais Hamikdosh, and that was the role of Rabbi
Rabbi Chanina came from a long
line of Kohanim who had held important positions in the Bais Hamikdosh, and he
often appears in the Gemorah as giving Aidus as to what went on in the Bais
So he was helpful to whoever
was the Kohain Godol, and he held this position for a long time, and that is
why is is referred to this way in the Mishnah.
This is similar to the story of someone in Europe who acted as a Posek,
until it was discovered that he had hired the Pri Megodim to answer all the
questions that people asked him.
Eventually the Romans realized that just controlling the
Kohain Godol wasn’t working, so they disbanded the Sanhendrin, and the Chochomim
had to flee for their lives.
Chanina himself went into hiding, fleeing for his safety from the Romans.
So was it this Malchus of the Romans, that
was killing hundreds of thousands of Jews and destroying the Bais Hamikdosh and
the Jewish presence in Israel, that Rabbi Chanina is asking us to pray for?
Also, what does he mean by using the image of people swallowing up their
It would be more
understandable if he said people would kill their enemies?
But why say that people would “swallow up”
their “friends” “alive”?
The answer to this question can be found in Habakuk, one of
the 12 minor prophets.
Habakuk was also
a Kohain at a very similar time, just before the destruction of the first Bais
Habakuk implores Hashem, asking
“Why are our enemies destroying us?
are the evil ones destroying the righteous people?
It looks as though there is chaos, and we are
all like fish.”
Hashem then responds to
Habakuk, saying, “I have everything under control.
You may not understand it now, but in 10
years, 100 years, 1000 years, eventually, it will become clear why things are
happening the way they are.”
This is discussed in the Gemorah in Avodah Zarah, and
specifically it tries to understand what Habakuk means by the phrase, “we are
all like fish”.
It goes through many
possible answers – for example, Rabbi Akiva’s comparison of the Jewish people
being like fish, that cannot survive without being in the water of Torah.
But in the end, the Gemorah concludes that
Habakuk means that fish are unique in the animal world in that the large fish
swallow the smaller fish.
even swallow their children - alive.
Even the ‘law of the jungle’ is more orderly than this. So Habakuk is
crying out to Hashem that things seem so chaotic that the law of the sea seems
to have taken hold, where friends and relatives eat each other alive.
So Hashem reassures him, saying there is an
order, and I have everything under control, though you may not understand it
So this is what Rabbi Chanina is referring to when he says
that we should pray for the Shlaima of the Malchus, otherwise friends will
swallow each other alive.
Malchus, the lawlessless and chaos of the sea takes over.
What is the Malchus that Rabbi Chanina is asking us to pray
Is it the Malchus of the
Babylonians and their destruction that Habakuk witnessed, and the Romans and
their destruction that Rabbi Chanina witnessed?
The Gemorah in Brochos refers three times to how we should make every
possible effort to witness Malchus, and see a king if we have an
Twice Rabbi Yochonon
mentions this, and there is a brocha we say when we see Malchus.
It says we should try to see a Jewish king,
but if that isn’t possible, we should see non-Jewish kings.
In the middle Gemorah in Brochas on this
topic, Rabbi Eliezer Bar Tzaddok, who was a Kohain, says, “We made shortcuts
through cemeteries to see non-Jewish kings.”
He is saying it is important enough, that the Kohanim would even metamey
themselves for this purpose.
Eliezer Bar Tzoddik was the son of Rabbi Tzoddik.
Forty years before the destruction of the
Bais Hamikdosh, Rabbi Tzoddik started fasting – in a kind of hunger strike – to
warn the Jews about the impending Churban.
Rabbi Tzoddik was at the feast attended by Bar Kamtza, and he chastised
the Rabbis for being quiet when Bar Kamtza was humiliated in public, and he
said this contributed to the Churban.
The Malchus that Rabbi Tzoddisk and his son Eliezer Bar Tzoddik lived
through – and that Eliezer Bar Tzoddisk ran through the cemetery to see - were
the Romans who were destroying the Jews and their presence in Israel.
I remember in Monsey, one of the standard trips on Chol
Hamoed was to go to West Point, to see the marching of the troops in
When I was in England, I made
it a point to see the changing of the guard.
I asked the person next to me – we had been waiting for an hour and a
half – if he found this exciting.
answered, “It’s as exciting as watching paint dry.”
I know why I was there – to witness Malchus
but I didn’t quite understand why he
I usually try to attend the lectures of Rabbi Moshe Shapiro
When the United States
went into Iraq in 2003, he discussed the meaning of 100,000 US troops being ready
to give up their lives in a place in the Middle East that was strange to
About 80 million people died in
wars in the 20th
century, so many following the orders of their
I remember in the 60’s,
there was a billboard in Times Square that said, “What if the governments
announced a war, and nobody came?”
A key to understanding the nature of the Malchus that Rabbi
Chanina is referring to, is understanding the Sfiros, that are especially
relevant to the period of Sfira that we are currently in between Pesach and
The Sfiros begin at the
highest most esoteric and ethereal level, and gradually work their way down to
The Sfira just before it
connects to this world is called Malchus.
It’s the way the highest spiritual levels connect to this world.
All governments and Malchus in this world is
just a reflection of the Malchus that comes from Shamayim.
Just like Yerushalyim shel Matah reflects the
Yerushalayim shel Mayla, and the Bais Hamikdosh shel Matah reflects the Bais
Hamikdosh she Mayla, and just like our Neshama shel Matah is a reflection of
our Neshama she Mayla, all Malchus Shel Matah reflects the Malchus shel
The quality of the Malchus that we receive from Shomayim
differs at different periods of history.
For example, the Gemorah in Yuma says that there was a figure of an
animal in the fire on the Mizbeach in the Bais Hamikdosh, representing the
level of Malchus at the time.
first Bais Hamikdosh the figure in the fire was that of a Lion.
During the second Bais Hamikdosh, the figure
in the fire was that of a dog, representing a lower level of Malchus.
There is a Gemorah where Yehuda Ben Bava is in prison,
waiting to be killed by the Romans.
is learning torah, and his guard says to him, “How can you be learning, you’ve
lost, we the Romans have conquered you.”
Yehuda Ben Bava answers, “We and our Torah will survive long after you
Romans are gone.”
The word gets back to
the Kesar, who calls in Yehuda Ben Bava, and says, “How could you talk with
such Chutzpah, knowing that you will soon be killed.?”
Yehuda ben Bava answsers, “the Gezerah that
is causing me to be killed is from our Melech in Shamayim.
He is eternal, and therefore I am learning
Your kingship is just a
reflection, a mirror, of His Kingship.”
It says at the end of Aleynu, “Hashem will be Melech over
The Ari says about this,
that the Malchus goes down from Shamayim to the earth, but not below the earth
to the sea.
The earth has an order that
is reflected in the Malchus of kings and their armies, and that is a reflection
of the Malchus of Shamayim.
We get a
glimpse of the Malchus of Shamayim when we see the Malchus on earth.
But below the level of the Aretz – the sea
has it’s own rule where even fish eat their friends and relatives alive.
That is below the level of Malchus.
What we do on earth recycles itself into Shamayim, and then
comes down to earth.
When Rabbi Tzoddik
saw Bar Kamtza humiliated in public, he was seeing Jews swallow each up alive,
like the lawlessness of the sea.
Rabbi Chanina is asking us to pray for the Shlaima of Malchus – as it is
exhibited on earth, as a reflection of the Malchus above – so that we don’t
come to the chaos of the sea, where friends and relatives swallow each other
If we pray for the Shlaima of
Malchus, we are asking for the ultimate Malchus to have Shlaimus over us, until
we understand the order of the Malchus with the arrival of the Geula and
Moschiach will bring us
leadership and Malchus that will help us understand – just as Hashem told
Habakuk – how everything is under the control of the Malchus of Shamayim, and
why things are the way they are.