Sunday, November 28th 2021   |



The Rabbis teach: Chatan Domeh l’Melech — “The bridegroom is likened to a king” (Pirkei Rabbi Eliezer 16).


Certainly not an absolute monarch, nor a benevolent despot, whose word is law….

A constitutional monarch? The object of love and esteem but with little actual power… only occasionally consulted by the real decision-makers?

Perhaps the bridegroom resembles the king in a game of chess (with which the rabbis were well acquainted; see Rashi to Eruvin 61A). A chess king moves as little as possible: at most a hesitant, single step at a time – only when such a move is unavoidable – evading attacks and often besieged… in distinct contrast to the far more powerful queen, who can make sweeping moves in any direction at all.

At his best, a king embodies hereditary obligations. A king is a link to a people’s history, and takes responsibility for its well-being and future. At his best, a king embodies the most cherished and sacred values of his nation… embracing grace, humility, charity, mercy, fidelity.

John Milton observed: “He who reigns within himself and rules passions, desires, and fears is more than a king.”

The king inspires those of more modest station to aspire to their own best selves.

Chatan Domeh l’Melech — “The bridegroom is likened to a king.”

(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)

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