Rosh Hashanah – God’s Kingship (Malchut)

I know one of the big themes of Rosh Hashanah is God’s kingship, that we proclaim God as king. To me it feels kind of meaningless, just stating the obvious. Is there any real purpose to our calling God king? Is there some message for us?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Thank you for the important question. We proclaim God as King in part for our own sakes, to help us understand who God is and our relationship with Him. But there is actually a much deeper message behind it as well.

We firstly declare God as our King for our sakes. By doing so, we recognize God as the all-powerful Creator and Ruler of the universe. Everything in the universe was created by God, and exists for the purpose He had in mind for it. Thus, we have no other purpose in life other than fulfilling the mission God has for us. We were not placed in this world to make money, gain prestige, cultivate our image, or satisfy our passions. God is our King and we exist for Him. On Rosh Hashanah we accept this reality and attempt to identity with it, praying that all mankind recognizes God as his King and Master.

But there is a fascinating second angle to this. Although God is perfect and requires nothing, there is one thing that man can give God which He literally does not have without us: kingship. A king requires subjects, as the Kabbalists express it, “There is no king without a nation.” God may be the creator and controller of all existence whether we acknowledge it or not, but He is only “King” when human beings willingly accept Him over them. By exercising our free will and acknowledging God as our Master, we crown Him as King – a position He literally does not have without us.

This is not a mere matter of semantics. It literally fulfills the purpose of creation. Although a perfect God has no needs in any sense, He created the universe in such a way that it afforded mankind the opportunity to “give” something to God. What we can give Him is kingship. To the tiny extent we can understand, God created the world so it could fulfill a purpose. And that purpose is that human beings, who have the free will to either accept or reject God, would willingly pledge their allegiance to God and accept Him as their King. Thus, when we do so on Rosh Hashanah, we bring the world that much closer to its true fulfillment.

Based on part on ArtScroll Rosh Hashanah, Overview Part I.

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