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    A greedy king – Shof’tim

    King Solomon, from a Bible card, 1896

    The 17th chapter of D’varim lays down laws for a king.

    One of his responsibilities is not to have too many wives, horses, or gold and silver treasures.

    The rabbis ask why he should limit his wives when the Torah does not prohibit an array of wives and the Mishnah Sanhedrin even gives a number – 18 – of wives whom he is entitled to have.

    The problem is that if he is so polygamous that he has wives in the hundreds or thousands he will concentrate too much on his personal pleasures and neglect the kingdom.

    What about horses? Surely a king needs ample cavalry! The sages explain that it is not his army that is the problem but his personal horses. Once again the question is whether he is more interested in his pleasures than his responsibilities.

    Much the same, of course, can be said of his material wealth, but it’s more than just a warning against indulgence. When he works out what the kingdom needs he will know what taxation to impose on the people; otherwise he will over-tax them and ruin the kingdom.

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