Yisroel, a student in the yeshiva in Yerushalayim where I teach, told the following story:
“When I heard that President Trump would be visiting Israel, I was really excited. You see, I am a Lakewood boy and the president of the United States never stays around the block from me. Now he would be staying in the King David Hotel, just a few minutes away! I was determined to see him, no matter what.
“I knew the president was eating supper in the home of the prime minister, so I went with my friend Yehuda to wait outside, hoping to get a good look. The place was swarming with secret service agents and soldiers. An impressive motorcade of limousines, police cars and motorcycles was lined up in the street waiting to go. We found a good place to stand, expecting to see the president momentarily.
“But it was not so simple. The police cordoned off the entire area and began clearing everyone out. We quickly ran into a courtyard nearby and managed to go unnoticed. We thought he would be coming out soon, but two hours passed and nothing was happening. Suddenly the police spotted us and we ran into an apartment building nearby. They thought we lived there so they left us alone.
“Another hour went by and we were about to give up when suddenly everyone came to life. Sirens, motorcycles, flashing lights, horns blaring, American flags… the president was coming! Then came scores of black sedans with D.C. plates, the US Secret Service Electronic Countermeasures Suburban, vans of Marines pointing machine guns, and several limousines. And then we saw “The Beast” – the special presidential tank in the form of a limo. Out of sheer excitement I jumped out of the building, not realizing that my sudden action could have endangered my life! My friend Yehuda was standing close to the car and he waved to the president.
He was not sure, but it looked like the president saw him and waved back! Yehuda told me (jokingly) that the three-hour-wait was worth it – he could now tell his grandchildren about his meeting with the president!”
Three hours to just get a glimpse? Dunno. But you know what? If they made sure to utilize the opportunity it was worthwhile.
Run to See Him!
The Gemara tells us (Brachos 58a, and cited in the Shulchan Aruch, O.C. Siman 224:9) that a person should run to see a king – even a gentile one. When one sees the human king’s glory and magnificence, he will understand the difference between Jewish kings and gentile ones. Rashi explains that this refers to the days of Moshiach, when we will see how much greater is the splendor of those who do mitzvos is. Seeing the honor afforded a gentile king or queen provides us with a small, yet tangible example of what is in store for us, giving us the impetus to do mitzvos with more energy and greater devotion.
The Kaf Hachaim (ibid.) adds another reason. The Gemara (ibid.) cites a story about Rav Shila, who was being judged by a non-Jewish court for ruling without governmental consent. Suddenly Rav Shila cried out the words of Dovid HaMelech: “Licha Hashem hagedulah, v’hagevurah, v’hatiferes, v’haneitzach, v’hahod, ki chol ba’shomayim u’va’aretz! Yours, Hashem, is the greatness, the strength, the splendor, the triumph and the glory, even everything in heaven and earth!” (Divrei Hayamim Alef 29:11). When the judge asked what he meant, he answered: “Blessed is the L-rd who gave us a kingdom here on earth that is a miniature version of the Kingdom of Heaven.” What he meant was that when we see the glory and power of human dominion, it gives us an idea of what Heaven must be like. But where in this verse did Rav Shila see this concept?
Dovid HaMelech, explain the commentators, is saying that we see Hashem’s majesty not only in heaven but also on earth. Where do we see Hashem’s kingdom here on earth where His presence is so well hidden? It must be that when we see the honor and power of an earthly kingdom we gain a perception of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Thus, we see Hashem’s majesty even here on earth.
The next verse states: “Yours, Hashem, is the kingdom and the sovereignty over every leader. Wealth and honor come from You and You rule everything – in Your hand is power and strength and it is in Your hand to make anyone great or strong.” Hashem is the One pulling the strings and deciding what should happen. Not only that, any powerful person we see in this world exists only because Hashem chose that person to be the recipient of his or her position. This means that all the splendor and majesty we see is in truth a reflection and a manifestation of the true kingdom – the Kingdom of Heaven!
This is why it is a mitzvah to see the impressive grandeur of an earthly kingdom, as it will help us picture the rule of Heaven. If a person takes those feelings of greatness and majesty, and uses them for the right purpose, he will have achieved a great accomplishment!
Now, it is obvious that the president of the United States is not a king, nor does his glory come close to the monarchs of old. But ultimately, whoever holds the position of president is probably the most powerful human in the world, and the honor and protection he receives is quite impressive. We can suggest that, in our day and age, seeing the president is a fulfillment of the aforementioned halacha. So if the yeshiva students learned this lesson, they did not waste time by waiting for him.
Go Right In!
I believe that there is also a great lesson for us. They hid for three hours, hoping to get a glimpse of a human head of state who definitely will not retain his position for more than eight years. Not only that, his power is limited by various elements, such as the system of checks and balances and public opinion. They certainly did not even dream of being able speak to him or ask him for a favor. After all, he has an entire country on his shoulders and has little time for individuals.
If meeting with such a leader is almost impossible for a regular person, how much more so should it be true regarding Hashem, the King of all Kings, and the Master of the Universe, who has “the greatness, the strength, the splendor, the triumph and the glory?” Certainly one can forget about having a private meeting with Him.
However, as we all know, we have this opportunity three times a day! We merely take three steps forward and enter a different realm – the private chamber of Hashem, where we are granted permission to speak to Him and ask for whatever we wish! He listens to every word we say, and is interested in hearing our praises and requests. Hashem cares about us, and if He wants, He can give us anything that we need – and no one can stop Him! If we think about this when we start Shemoneh Esrei, it will fill our hearts with pride and joy and help us truly feel that we are now having a private meeting with the source of all power and splendor in this world!