“For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He is the ruler over the nations” (Psalms 22:29).

The Vilna Gaon (Elijah Ben Solomon, 1720 – 1797) considered one of the most brilliant men of his generation, used this verse from Psalms to describe the difference between a king and a despot. “A melech (king) rules based on how the subjects want to be ruled; a moshel (despot) is a ruler who forces his rule upon his people.” In the case of Psalms 22:29, the Gaon explained that this was the difference between God’s relationship with the nation of Israel and His relationship with those who do not recognize His Divine Kingship.

The term is also applicable to human leadership. While in an ideal world according to the Torah the leader of the Jewish people is a Divinely chosen king, the sages discuss the importance of the popular acceptance of every leader:

Rabbi Isaac said: We must not appoint a leader over a community without first consulting it, as it says (Exodus 35:30): ‘See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri.’ The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses: Do you consider Bezalel suitable? He replied: Sovereign of the Universe, if You think him suitable, surely I must also! Said [God] to him: All the same, go and consult them. He went and asked Israel: Do you consider Bezalel suitable? They replied: If the Holy One, blessed be He, and you consider him suitable, surely we must! (Talmud Brachot 55a).

This passage demonstrates the ideal relationship of the People of Israel with God,. God chooses a leader, but wants Israel to agree, and Israel wants to agree because they trust God’s choice of leadership.

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