Why do Embassies have Presidential Portraits? (Eruvin 73)

Following the destruction of the Holy Temple, the Jewish people were exiled to Babylonia.  Nebuchadnezzar ordered his officers to seize young Jewish men of noble descent to be his personal servants.  Four of these boys, Daniel, Chanania, Mishael, and Azaria were taken to the palace and offered their rations.  Committed to their religious practice, they pleaded with the chef to give them only vegetables.  And despite contending that they would lack the strength to serve the king, they proved themselves stronger than all the other lads in the palace.

In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, he had a dream.  The king ordered his fortune-tellers to tell him what he had dreamed. They came and stood before the king and said, “O king, live forever! Relate the dream to your servants, and we will tell its meaning.” The king said in reply to the Chaldeans, “I hereby decree: If you will not make the dream and its meaning known to me, you shall be torn limb from limb and your houses confiscated. But if you tell the dream and its meaning, you shall receive from me gifts, presents, and great honour; therefore, tell me the dream and its meaning.”

The Chaldeans said in reply to the king, “There is no one on earth who can satisfy the king’s demand, for great king or ruler—none has ever asked such a thing of any magician, exorcist, or Chaldean. The thing asked by the king is difficult; there is no one who can tell it to the king except the gods whose abode is not among mortals.” Whereupon the king flew into a violent rage, and gave an order to do away with all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel and his companions were about to be put to death.

That night, the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a dream.  He rushed off to inform Nebuchadnezzar, explaining as follows: “O king, as you looked on, there appeared a great statue. This statue, which was huge and its brightness surpassing, stood before you, and its appearance was awesome. The head of that statue was of fine gold; its breast and arms were of silver; its belly and thighs, of bronze; its legs were of iron, and its feet part iron and part clay. As you looked on, a stone was hewn out, not by hands, and struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. All at once, the iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold were crushed, and became like chaff of the threshing floors of summer; a wind carried them off until no trace of them was left. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”

The king said in reply to Daniel, “Truly your God must be the God of gods and Lord of kings and the revealer of mysteries to have enabled you to reveal this mystery.” He then elevated Daniel and gave him very many gifts, and appointed him governor of the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect of all the wise men of Babylon.

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ חָמֵשׁ נָשִׁים מְקַבְּלוֹת פְּרָס מִבַּעֲלֵיהֶן, וַחֲמִשָּׁה עֲבָדִים מְקַבְּלִין פְּרָס מֵרַבֵּיהֶן — רַבִּי יְהוּדָה בֶּן בְּתִירָה מַתִּיר בַּנָּשִׁים, וְאוֹסֵר בָּעֲבָדִים. רַבִּי יְהוּדָה בֶּן בָּבָא מַתִּיר בָּעֲבָדִים, וְאוֹסֵר בַּנָּשִׁים. אָמַר רַב: מַאי טַעְמָא דְּרַבִּי יְהוּדָה בֶּן בָּבָא, דִּכְתִיב: ״וְדָנִיֵּאל בִּתְרַע מַלְכָּא״.

בתרע מלכא – בכ”מ שהוא חשיב ליה בתרע מלכא

With regard to one who has five wives who receive a portion from their husband (while living in separate quarters in the courtyard), and five servants who receive a portion from their master (while living in separate quarters), Rabbi Yehuda ben Beseira permits in the case of the wives, (they do not each have to contribute separately to the eruv, as they are all considered to be residing with their husband). And he prohibits in the case of the servants (each is considered to be residing on his own). Rabbi Yehuda ben Bava permits in the case of the servants, and he prohibits in the case of the wives (as each is considered a separate household). Rav said: What is the rationale for the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda ben Bava? As it is written (following the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream), “Daniel was in the gate of the king.

Rashi: Everywhere Daniel went he was in the gate of the king.

The Meiri explains that, although Daniel was constantly occupied with Torah study, he was nonetheless aware that he was a chief servant of the king and viewed himself as if he were always standing before the king, ready to respond should the need arise. I have a colleague who when asked where he’s a rabbi, he responds, “Everywhere I go.”  That was Daniel’s approach to serving Nebuchadnezzar, which is the ultimate example of the attitude we must take to serving the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch begins with the iconic adage, “I place God before me always.”  The Ramo explains that this is one of the greatest Torah principles and the approach of the righteous.  The way one walks and talks when he is home alone is incomparable to the way one conducts himself in the presence of a king.  Constantly bearing in mind one’s presence before the Supreme King of Kings ensures that one is always engaged in His service.  On a practical level, the Arizal recommends picturing the holy four-letter name of Hashem Y-H-V-H with the vowel sequence of the word ‘yirah’ (referring to the awe of Heaven).

Picturing God before you is the key, not just to a sin-free day, but to a day of success maximization.  The primary reason we fall short of our daily, weekly, monthly, and annual spiritual goals, is that we lose focus.  You were placed here on this Earth as an ambassador of Heaven.  When you walk into many embassies, they have the picture of the head of state on the wall.  What’s the reason?  After all, nowadays everybody knows how they look!

The answer is that it’s not for the clientele coming into the embassy; it’s for the embassy staff themselves.  To remember that they’re on a mission.  To everyone else, it might appear that they are regular residents of the country where they work.  They go shopping in the same stores as the locals.  They send their children to the local schools.  They belong to the local civic clubs.  But each day, they see the picture on the wall of their head of state from abroad and they remember that they’re different.  They’re only here on a temporary mission, representing their country.

You are only here on Earth on a temporary mission.  The Almighty, your Head of State, has appointed you to serve as His ambassador.  To stay focused on your mission, always picture God right in front of you.  May you be ever-ready at the gate of the King!

About the Author
Rabbi Daniel Friedman is the senior rabbi of the 1200-family Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, the United Synagogue's flagship congregation.
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