Pomp And Circumstance
‘Endeavor to See the King’
Our Sages composed two berachos to say upon seeing a king. We say, “Blessed are You Hashem…who apportioned from His honor to those who fear Him” upon seeing a Jewish king and “Blessed are You Hashem… who gave from His honor to flesh and blood” upon seeing a gentile king.
The Gemara states that a person should always run to meet kings of Israel, or even kings of other nations. That way, when Moshiach arrives, he will be able to discern the difference between the honor of kings in this world and the far greater honor and greatness of Moshiach. He will then see the great reward for those who observe Hashem’s mitzvos (Magen Avraham, O.C. 224, s.k. 7).
There are certain circumstances under which one should not look at a king. For example, it is forbidden to look at the face of a wicked person. Therefore, one should not look at a wicked king.
Some poskim also say one should not look at a queen who has the halachic status of a king if she rules a country in place of a king. One should say the berachah, but looking at her directly is immodest, these poskim explain.
Under certain circumstances, a person might recite a berachah upon seeing a king’s entourage, his marching band, or a ceremony held in his honor, yet not when seeing the king himself!
How so? Poskim conclude (see Responsa Shevet HaLevi 1:35) that in situations where one is proscribed from directly gazing at a monarch, it is sufficient to contemplate the honor that is shown to him or her by the assembled crowds and their gazes of admiration in order to recite the berachah. The impression upon encountering royalty (see Shaarei Teshuvah 224:2) can be realized simply by looking at the entourage and ceremonial procession.
On the other hand, a person who sees a king without the fanfare that usually accompanies him does not gain this impression. In such circumstances, therefore, he should not say the berachah (Kaf Hachayim 224; see Shevet HaLevi ibid.; and Responsa Betzeil Hachachmah 2:13).
Based on this, we can understand why Rebbi Yehuda HaChassid rules (Sefer Chassidim 950) that a person only needs to interrupt his Torah studies to see a king once. After he has already seen a king’s honor once, he can compare it to the honor of Moshiach and the Jewish people in the future. He need not trouble himself to see a king again unless the king makes an appearance with even greater ceremony and honor (see Machatzis HaShekel 224 on Magen Avraham ibid.). He then will see that even the greater honor shown to the king is nothing compared to the honor of Moshiach, may he come speedily and in our days.
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