Pomp And Circumstance
‘Try to See the King’
Our Sages composed berachos for 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. That way, when Moshiach arrives, he will see the difference between the honor accorded regular kings and the far greater honor that will be accorded Moshiach and will thus see the great reward given those who observe Hashem’s mitzvos (Magen Avraham, Orach Chayim 224, s.k. 7).
A person shouldn’t always look at a monarch. For example, looking at the face of a wicked person is forbidden, and, therefore, one should not look at a wicked king.
Some say that it’s immodest for a man to look directly at a woman. According to them, therefore, a person should not look at a queen (who rules a country) to make a berachah either.
Poskim conclude (see Responsa Shevet HaLevi 1:35) that a person can make a berachah even without looking at the monarch. It is sufficient to contemplate the admiring gazes of the assembled crowds and the honor they show him (or her). The berachah “who gave from His honor to flesh and blood” is made in response to the impression one gets upon encountering royalty (see Shaarei Teshuvah 224:2), which can be gotten by looking at the monarch’s entourage and ceremonial procession.
A person who sees a king or queen without the fanfare that usually accompanies him or her actually does not say the berachah because he didn’t see anything impressive (Kaf Hachayim 224; see Shevet HaLevi ibid; Responsa Betzeil Hachachmah 2:13).
Rabbi Yehuda HaChasid rules (Sefer Chassidim 950) that a person should only interrupt his Torah studies to see a king once. Once is sufficient to compare the honor shown to a regular king versus the honor that one day will be accorded Moshiach.
He need not trouble himself to see the king again unless the king makes an appearance with even greater ceremony and honor (see Machatzis Hashekel 224, on Magen Avraham ibid.). If he does, he should interrupt his studies so that he can later realize that even this greater procession is nothing compared to the honor that will be shown Moshiach, may he come soon.