Classics and Beyond Shoftim – Hybrid Power:

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    Shoftim – Hybrid Power:
    לבלתי רום לבבו מאחיו ולבלתי סור מן המצוה ימין ושמאל
    So that his heart does not become haughty over his brothers and not turn from the commandment right or left (Devarim 17:20).
    While the Torah gives specific mitzvos to the king to ensure that he treads the correct path, David gave an additional order before his death to his successor, Shlomo, to help him follow the ways of Hashem at all times. When Shlomo was to be installed as king, he was to ride on David’s mule (I Melachim 1:33). Rashi explains that when Shlomo rode on David’s animal, this was a sign that Shlomo would reign, and also an indication of the beginning of his advancement – for a commoner does not ride the king’s animal.
    Why did David, and after him Shlomo, ride a mule and not a horse? What lesson was David teaching his son prior to his ascension as king? In Toras Moshe (Parashas Shoftim), the Chasam Sofer explains that the mule’s mixed parentage – from the union of a horse and donkey – is the perfect lesson for a king.
    Horses are haughty by nature (Pesachim 113b). Riding a horse indicates arrogance, as is seen in the pasuk in Beshalach (Shemos 15:1), “Ki ga’oh ga’ah sus ve’rochvo ramah vayam – He is exalted above the arrogant, having hurled horse with its rider into the sea.” According to the Ramban, Hashem exalted Himself over the horse and its mighty rider, who both rode proudly during the war, by hurling them together into the sea.
    By contrast, the donkey, and riding on one, indicates humility and submission. That is why Avraham Avinu, Moshe Rabbeinu, and ultimately, Mashiach, ride donkeys.
    A king must have a proud and commanding presence. In fact, he is not allowed to be mochel on his kavod, to forgo the respect due him (Kiddushin 32b). On the other hand, he must have a humble heart within him as the pasuk writes, “le’vilti rum levavo mei’echav – so that his heart does not become haughty over his brothers” (Devarim 17:20).
    That is why, says the Chasam Sofer, David wanted Shlomo to ride on a mule, a hybrid of an arrogant horse and a humble donkey. A king must remember that although he holds the highest office and has a responsibility to conduct himself with an air of superiority like a horse, he must not allow his position, and the power that goes along with it, to corrupt him. Yes, he must appear to others with a regal and imperial bearing, but his heart inside must always remain humble like a donkey.
    In the Techeiles Mordechai of the Maharsham (Parashas Shoftim 28), we find another symbolism in the use of a mule rather than a horse. Rashi (I Divrei HaYamim 1:41) writes that a donkey is at first attractive and becomes ugly as it ages, whereas a horse starts off looking ugly but later becomes pretty. These two animals change as they age. What you see is not always what you get! A mule, a hybrid of the two, takes on the best of both worlds. It looks good at first, and this appearance does not fade with age.
    Very often, a leader begins his term on what seems like the right foot, as he selflessly attends to the people’s needs, cares for the “little guy,” and is truly a “man of the people.” Yet after a while, he will start letting the trappings of his office get to him. From selfless, he becomes selfish. From providing his nation with bread, he tells them “to eat cake.” His beauty, his dedication to others, is replaced with an ugly narcissism.
    The Maharsham points out that the opposite scenario is also prevalent. At times, in the beginning of his term, a leader is afraid to make changes, and only becomes more involved as he feels more comfortable in his turf and realizes that his detractors have become weak and ineffective.
    David wanted Shlomo to ride on the mule, the animal that keeps its beautiful appearance and does not change with time. His hope was that his son will start strong and finish even stronger. He should earn the respect of the people at first, yet never lose it.
    The Ksav Sofer points out that this idea is hinted to in a pasuk in another mitzvah that pertains to a king, the mitzvah to write a Sefer Torah: “Ve’hayah che’shivto al kisei mamlachto ve’chasav lo es mishneih haTorah hazos – It will be, like when he sits upon his royal throne, that he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah in a scroll” (Devarim 17:18). What are we being taught by the use of the כ’ הדמיוןֹ in the word כשבתו, rendering the translation “like when he sits,” rather than בשבתו , which would mean “when he sits”? The Ksav Sofer explains that the Torah is saying regarding the king: “Ve’hayah” – It will be if he behaves all the years of his rule: “che’shivto al kisei mamlachto” – like the day that he first sat upon his royal throne, on the day of his coronation. On that day he was good, kind, and merciful and forgiving to all. If he continues with those feelings throughout his reign, then he is worthy of having his kingdom last.
    It is no coincidence that the song of the mule in Perek Shirah is, “Yoducha Hashem kol malchei aretz ki shamu imrei ficha – All the kings of the earth shall acknowledge You, Hashem, for they have heard the sayings of Your mouth” (Tehillim 138:4). This pasuk speaks about the greatness of Hashem, the ultimate Monarch, and how all the kings of the earth acknowledge Him. According to the Chasam Sofer, as King, Hashem has the perfect combination of pride and humility, something all the rulers can praise and also emulate. According to the Maharsham’s explanation, Hashem is the role model for other sovereigns, who sing His praises as they learn to be consistent throughout their terms, just like Hashem, Who never changes His techniques or governing systems.
    Just as the mule who sings the words, “Yoducha Hashem kol malchei aretz.”

    Reb Eliezer

    The Chasam Sofer explains that David Hamelech before his passing he commanded his son Shlomo לאמר to constantly say in his life הנני הולך למות I will die and therefore to keep in mind וחזקת והיית לאיש to strengthen myself to be a mentsch like we say daily לעולם יהי’ אדם, to be a mentsch constantly.

    Reb Eliezer

    The above of realizing that one dies will keep Shlomo Hamelech humble.

    Ray Kaufman

    “… realizing that one dies will keep Shlomo Hamelech humble.”
    Ought to work for everyone, but somehow it doesn’t.


    my car is a hybrid model, not that i am a tree hugger

    Reb Eliezer

    The Rambam teaches us the importance of the derech emtzai, the middle way, a hybrid derech in hashkafa by avoiding extremes.

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