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What does “until Shiloh arrives” mean? The Ramban explains the reign of the House of David will hold true “until Shiloh arrives, and to him there will be [an assembly] of all the nations.” Shiloh, which refers to Mashiach, will be able to do with all the nations as he desires. “Scepter” alludes to King David, who was the first king from Judah who possessed a royal scepter, and “Shiloh” alludes to Mashiach through whom there will be a subduing of the nations.

The Ramban stresses that before King David there was no “scepter of Judah.” Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra disagrees, explaining that “Shiloh” refers to King David himself while the “scepter of Judah” refers to the situation that existed prior to King David. The Ramban fins this explanation implausible because, even though Judah was distinguished and traveled first among all the tribes as the Jews marched in the Wilderness (see Numbers 10:14), the word “scepter” is not appropriate for such minor distinctions. It only appropriate when talking about a king or ruler as in the following examples: “shevet mi’shor shevet ma’lchutecha – the scepter of fairness is the scepter of Your kingdom” (Psalms 46:7), “shevet moshlim – the scepter of the rulers” (Isaiah 14:5), and “shevet lim’shol – a scepter to rule” (Ezekiel 19:14).

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The Ramban reiterates: This verse alludes to the fact that Jacob crowned the tribe of Judah king over the other tribes, and bequeathed to Judah the permanent right of rulership over Israel. This is what King David was referring to when he said (I Chronicles 28:4), “Va’yivchar Hashem Elokei Yisrael bi mi’kol beit avi, l’hiyot l’melech al yisrael l’olam, ki b’Yehudah ba’char l’nagid, u’bibeit Yehudah beit avi, u’bivnei avi bi ratzah l’hamlich al col yisrael – Hashem, G-d of Israel, chose me out of all of my father’s family to be king over Israel forever, for He chose Judah to be the ruler and out of the House of Judah [He chose] my father’s house, and out of the sons of my father He saw fit to make me king over all of Israel.”

The Ramban clarifies further: When it says “the scepter shall not depart,” it alludes to the fact that another tribe would reign over Israel, but only before Judah reigned. Once the scepter of kingship belonged to Judah, it would never depart from him. This is the meaning of II Chronicles 13:5: “…ki Hashem Elokei Yisrael natan mamlachah l’ David al yisrael l’olam; lo u’li’vanav, brit melach – …that Hashem, G-d of Israel gave kingship over Israel to [King] David forever, to him and his children, for an everlasting covenant.”

(To be continued)

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.