Monday, March 28, 2011

Maharal On The Four Kingdoms Part 1 (The Question of Why Are There Four Kingdoms)

In the beginning of Ner Mitzva, the Maharal discusses the four kingdoms that are supposed to rule from the time of Israel's downfall (Approximately 586 BCE) and the coming of the Moshiach (Approximately ....... JUST KIDDING). I would like to go through the Maharal, slowly, and explain the different ideas discussed. (Here is a link if you would like to see the Maharal in Hebrew

I am just going to use a translation from Mechon-Mamre for the verses from The book of Daniel (7:2-7):
ב  עָנֵה דָנִיֵּאל וְאָמַר, חָזֵה הֲוֵית בְּחֶזְוִי עִם-לֵילְיָא; וַאֲרוּ, אַרְבַּע רוּחֵי שְׁמַיָּא, מְגִיחָן, לְיַמָּא רַבָּא.2 Daniel spoke and said: I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven broke forth upon the great sea.
ג  וְאַרְבַּע חֵיוָן רַבְרְבָן, סָלְקָן מִן-יַמָּא, שָׁנְיָן, דָּא מִן-דָּא.3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
ד  קַדְמָיְתָא כְאַרְיֵה, וְגַפִּין דִּי-נְשַׁר לַהּ; חָזֵה הֲוֵית עַד דִּי-מְּרִיטוּ גפיה (גַפַּהּ) וּנְטִילַת מִן-אַרְעָא, וְעַל-רַגְלַיִן כֶּאֱנָשׁ הֳקִימַת, וּלְבַב אֱנָשׁ, יְהִיב לַהּ.4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings; I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon two feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.
ה  וַאֲרוּ חֵיוָה אָחֳרִי תִנְיָנָה דָּמְיָה לְדֹב, וְלִשְׂטַר-חַד הֳקִמַת, וּתְלָת עִלְעִין בְּפֻמַּהּ, בֵּין שניה (שִׁנַּהּ); וְכֵן אָמְרִין לַהּ, קוּמִי אֲכֻלִי בְּשַׂר שַׂגִּיא.5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was said thus unto it: 'Arise, devour much flesh.'
ו  בָּאתַר דְּנָה חָזֵה הֲוֵית, וַאֲרוּ אָחֳרִי כִּנְמַר, וְלַהּ גַּפִּין אַרְבַּע דִּי-עוֹף, עַל-גביה (גַּבַּהּ); וְאַרְבְּעָה רֵאשִׁין לְחֵיוְתָא, וְשָׁלְטָן יְהִיב לַהּ.6 After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the sides of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.
ז  בָּאתַר דְּנָה חָזֵה הֲוֵית בְּחֶזְוֵי לֵילְיָא, וַאֲרוּ חֵיוָה רביעיה (רְבִיעָאָה) דְּחִילָה וְאֵימְתָנִי וְתַקִּיפָא יַתִּירָה וְשִׁנַּיִן דִּי-פַרְזֶל לַהּ רַבְרְבָן, אָכְלָה וּמַדֱּקָה, וּשְׁאָרָא ברגליה (בְּרַגְלַהּ) רָפְסָה; וְהִיא מְשַׁנְּיָה, מִן-כָּל-חֵיוָתָא דִּי קדמיה (קָדָמַהּ), וְקַרְנַיִן עֲשַׂר, לַהּ.7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet; and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.

These verses in sefer Daniel seem wild. What are they talking about? Many people explain that these are the verses that tell us about the four kingdoms that will rule between the time of the destruction of the first Temple and the coming of the Moshiach (Messiah). The Maharal uses these verses as a springboard into this discussion.

The question here is that, there is no doubt that these four kingdoms [referenced in the Book of Daniel] that G-D established in His world are not by chance, rather they are interwoven into the order of G-D's [plan] for His world. If so, why are there specifically four kingdoms? 

The Maharal's question is twofold, as we will see shortly. He is stating the belief that everything that occurs in this world, at least on a large scale, is guided by G-D and is part of His plan for where the world is supposed to end up. However, the Maharal is asking, why did the world need to have the four kingdoms. In other words, why did G-d need there to be kingdoms that rule the world and, basically, guide the world that were not the Jewish people. Also, the Maharal wonders, why does there need to be specifically four kingdoms, why not 2 or 3?

Behold, you will find that at the time G-D created His world there was an allusion in the verses to these four kingdoms (Genesis 1:2):
ב  וְהָאָרֶץ, הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ, וְחֹשֶׁךְ, עַל-פְּנֵי תְהוֹם; וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם.2 Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.
In Breishis Rabbah (2:4) we find:
Reish Lakish applied the verse to the kingdoms.  וְהָאָרֶץ, הָיְתָה תֹהוּ this refers to the kingdom of Babylon for it says in Jeremiah (4:23):
כג  רָאִיתִי, אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, וְהִנֵּה-תֹהוּ, וָבֹהוּ; וְאֶל-הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵין אוֹרָם.23 I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was waste and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.
 וָבֹהוּ this refers to the kingdom of Mede for it says in Megilas Esther (6:14):
יד  עוֹדָם מְדַבְּרִים עִמּוֹ, וְסָרִיסֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ הִגִּיעוּ; וַיַּבְהִלוּ לְהָבִיא אֶת-הָמָן, אֶל-הַמִּשְׁתֶּה אֲשֶׁר-עָשְׂתָה אֶסְתֵּר.14 While they were yet talking with him, came the king's chamberlains, and hastened to bring Haman unto the banquet that Esther had prepared.
(supposedly the Medrash is referring to  וַיַּבְהִלוּ)
וְחֹשֶׁךְ  this refers to the Greek kingdoms since they would darken (חֹשֶׁךְ)  the eyes of the Jews with their decrees. They (the Greeks) would say to them (the Jews), "Write on the horn of an ox that you (plural) do not have a portion in the G-D of Israel." עַל-פְּנֵי תְהוֹם this refers to the wicked kingdom for it can not be measured like the deep. Just like the deep can not be measured, neither can the wicked ones. וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם. this refers to the spirit of the King Moshiach (Messiah). How (do we derive this)? (Based on) what is said in Yishaya (Isaiah) (11:2):
ב  וְנָחָה עָלָיו, רוּחַ יְהוָה--רוּחַ חָכְמָה וּבִינָה, רוּחַ עֵצָה וּגְבוּרָה, רוּחַ דַּעַת, וְיִרְאַת יְהוָה.2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.
In the merit of what will this spirit come? "מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם." In the merit of repentance that is compared to water, like it says in Eichah (Lamentations) ( 2:19):
יט  קוּמִי רֹנִּי בליל (בַלַּיְלָה), לְרֹאשׁ אַשְׁמֻרוֹת--שִׁפְכִי כַמַּיִם לִבֵּךְ, נֹכַח פְּנֵי אֲדֹנָי; שְׂאִי אֵלָיו כַּפַּיִךְ, עַל-נֶפֶשׁ עוֹלָלַיִךְ--הָעֲטוּפִים בְּרָעָב, בְּרֹאשׁ כָּל-חוּצוֹת.  {ס}19 Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches; pour out thy heart like water before the face of the Lord; lift up thy hands toward Him for the life of thy young children, that faint for hunger at the head of every street.'{S}
(End of Medrash Rabbah and the Maharal continues) Behold, you will find that when G-D created His world He [included in his plan] the order of the four kingdoms. If so, this leads us to ask, "Why [did He include the four kingdoms in his plan] and why is there this order that there should be four kingdoms."

The Maharal makes sure to point out that the four kingdoms idea is not just his own thought, rather it comes straight down from previous generations. It is an idea that is found throughout Jewish thought and believed to be true. I think the Maharal does this to strengthen the need for an explanation. If this was just something he made up then others could say, "Who says there are four kingdoms?" It could be called false just like people are weary of Gematria (using numbers to equate things). However, now that we have a Medrash from Reish Lakish (one of the foremost scholars in the Talmud) such claims would be deemed unworthy challenges.

Next time I discuss this Maharal, we will be going into the idea of why the four kingdoms are necessary and why there needs to be four of them.

For the next part see here.

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