Rabbi Chanina
Rabbi Yaacov Haber
April 24, 2010
 
“Rabbe Chanina the assistant to the Kohain Gedolim says: Pray for the Shlaima of the Malchus.  If 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.  Rabbi  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.  They 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 Chanina.  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 Hamikdosh.  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.  Rabbi 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 friends alive?  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 Hamikdosh.  Habakuk implores Hashem, asking “Why are our enemies destroying us?  Why 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.  Parent 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 now.
 
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.  Without Malchus, the lawlessless and chaos of the sea takes over.
 
What is the Malchus that Rabbi Chanina is asking us to pray for?  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 opportunity.  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 uniform.  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.  He 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 was there.
 
I usually try to attend the lectures of Rabbi Moshe Shapiro in Yerushalayim.  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 them.  About 80 million people died in wars in the 20th century, so many following the orders of their governments.  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 Shavuous.  The Sfiros begin at the highest most esoteric and ethereal level, and gradually work their way down to this world.  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 Mayla. 
 
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.  During the 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.  He 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 His Torah.  Your kingship is just a reflection, a mirror, of His Kingship.” 
 
It says at the end of Aleynu, “Hashem will be Melech over all Ha-aretz”.  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.  So 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 alive.  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 Moshiach.  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.