1) SEATING THE KING UPON A "DARGASH"
QUESTION: The Mishnah states that when a Jewish king is in mourning and the Se'udas Havra'ah is brought to him, all of the people sit on the ground and the king sits on the "Dargash." In the Gemara, Ula explains that a Dargash is an "Arsa d'Gada" -- a special bed designated exclusively for bringing good fortune into the home, upon which no one sits or sleeps. The Gemara asks that if a Dargash is an "Arsa d'Gada," why is the king allowed to sit on it when he is an Avel, if he does not sit on it during the rest of the year? Why is he given more honor during Aveilus? Rava answers that during Aveilus, the Avel indeed is given things of honor which he is not accustomed to receiving.
Why, though, is it necessary for the king to sit on a Dargash? It seems clear that the objective behind the Mishnah's ruling is that the king retain his honor even while he is an Avel. To this end, everyone else sits lower down on the ground while the king sits in an elevated position. Why, though, is he seated upon a Dargash? If he is allowed to sit higher up despite his Aveilus, he should sit on a couch ("Mitah") in the manner in which he sits during the rest of the year! Why is he allowed to sit on a Dargash, which affords him more honor than he receives during the year, when it is not necessary?
ANSWER: The Gemara cites a Beraisa which teaches that an Avel must overturn all the beds in the house, even those upon which he does not sit. This statement includes two distinct Halachos: an Avel should not sit on a bed, and the beds in the house must be overturned even if the Avel does not sit on them. (It is because of this second Halachah that the Beraisa later needs to teach that a Mitah on which utensils are placed does not have to be overturned; see ROSH, Moed Katan 3:78.) The Chachamim were lenient and allowed a king to sit on an elevated place because of his honor, and therefore in the case of a king they eased the restriction which prohibits an Avel from sitting on a bed during Aveilus. However, they did not want to remove both Halachos -- the prohibition against sitting on a bed and the requirement to turn over the beds in the house -- if not necessary. Therefore, they sought something which does not need to be overturned upon which the king could sit, and thus they enacted that the king sit on a Dargash (which does not need to be overturned), rather than on a bed (which needs to be overturned).
(The Mishnah here and in Moed Katan (27a) follows the view of the Tana Kama in the Beraisa in Nedarim (56b) who argues with Raban Shimon ben Gamliel and maintains that it is not necessary to undo the straps of the Dargash, effectively turning it over. See RAN to Nedarim 56b, DH b'Shuka.)
However, the RAMBAM (Hilchos Avel 5:18) writes that it is not enough to overturn the beds in the house; the Avel must also sit upon the overturned beds (and not on a chair, or even on the floor). The ruling of the Rambam implies that the Mitzvah to turn over the beds is not fulfilled unless the Avel actually sits on an overturned bed. Although the other Rishonim (see HAGAHOS HA'HASHLAMAH and TUR) disagree with the Rambam in this matter, the Rambam does associate turning over the beds to sitting on an overturned bed. According to the Rambam, if the Chachamim suspended the requirement to sit on an overturned bed in the case of a king who is an Avel, there should be no necessity at all for a king to overturn the beds! Since the Rambam seems to rule that the purpose of turning over the beds is to enable the Avel to sit on an overturned bed, the king might as well sit on an ordinary bed which is not overturned!
The answer is that the Rambam agrees that the requirement to sit on an overturned bed and the requirement to turn over the beds are two distinct Halachos. This is clear from the fact that the Rambam writes (Hilchos Avel 5:18) that an Avel is required to sleep on an overturned bed, which implies that he may sit on the ground and does not need to sit on the overturned bed. This is more evident from the Rambam's ruling earlier (Hilchos Avel 4:9) where he writes that on the first day of Aveilus, the Avel may not eat from his own food, and he is obligated to sit on an overturned bed. This implies that during the remaining days of Aveilus, the Avel is not required to sit on an overturned bed (but he may sit on a mat or on the floor).
The RADVAZ and others explain that the Rambam understands that there are three different Halachos which describe how an Avel sits during Aveilus. The first Halachah is that all of the beds must be overturned. The second Halachah states that the Avel is obligated to sleep on an overturned bed during the entire period of his Aveilus, although he is not required to sit there during the last six days of the Aveilus. The third Halachah states that on the first day (or during the time when others must feed him and he may not eat of his own food), the Avel must also sit on an overturned bed.
Accordingly, the Rambam may understand that the Chachamim removed the necessity for the king to sit on an overturned bed (in order to maintain his honor), but they did not suspend the other two Halachos. Therefore, the king still must overturn all of the beds in his home (and he must sleep on an overturned bed). At the Se'udas Havra'ah, the king must be seated upon something other than a bed, and that is why he is seated upon a Dargash. (See also Insights to Nedarim 56:2.) (M. KORNFELD)
2) "ARSA D'GADA" -- THE "GOOD LUCK BED"
QUESTION: The Gemara cites Ula who explains that a Dargash is an "Arsa d'Gada" -- a special bed designated exclusively for bringing good fortune into the home, upon which no one sits or sleeps. RASHI adds that it brings good fortune through "Nichush," superstition.
Why is one permitted to set up a bed in one's home for the purpose of Nichush? The Torah explicitly prohibits Nichush (Vayikra 19:26)! Moreover, when the RAN explains the meaning of the meaning of "Arsa d'Gada" ("Gad," or "Mazal"), he cites the Gemara in Shabbos (67b) which says that a person who attempts to improve his luck by saying, "Let my Mazal ('Gad') become fortuitous," transgresses the prohibition against Nichush. Rebbi Yehudah there adds that "Gad" refers to a type of idolatry, as he proves from a verse in Yeshayah (65:11). (CHIDUSHEI HA'RAN)
(a) The ROSH (in Nedarim 56a, and in Tosfos ha'Rosh) explains that the Sar of Ashirus, the Divinely-appointed spiritual being in charge of wealth and success, is named "Nakid," or "refined" (Pesachim 111b, Chulin 105b). A person attracts that Sar to his home by maintaining a clean and neat home. For this reason, many people had the custom to beckon the Sar of Ashirus to visit them by keeping one bed in the home always neatly spread. (In contrast, when a house is not kept neat and tidy, the Sar of Aniyus, the Divinely-appointed spiritual being in charge of poverty, is able to enter. The Sar of Aniyus is named "Navil" (Pesachim ibid.), which means "untidy" and "disordered.")
The EINAYIM LA'MISHPAT explains that the Rosh echoes the words of the SEFER CHASIDIM (#458): an act which works through supernatural means (Mazal, or Ru'ach ha'Tum'ah) is permitted if it is widely known that such an act brings about a certain result. Since that act has been tried and tested and found to be effective, relying on that act to obtain a certain result is not considered Nichush. This explains why the Chachamim caution against eating food left under a bed because of the Ru'ach ha'Tum'ah that resides there. Similarly, it is well-known that a home with a bed kept neatly spread enjoys success, and, therefore, it is not considered Nichush. (See Shabbos 67a, where the Gemara says that any act known to heal is not called Nichush; see also Insights to Shabbos 67:2:c.)
It is possible that this is the intention of Rashi here as well. The purpose of the Arsa d'Gada bed is for a type of Nichush which is permitted. (Rashi calls it "Nichush" only because it works through supernatural ways.)
(b) The SHITAH MEKUBETZES writes that the Arsa d'Gada bed is not actually spread for good luck, but rather it is intended to welcome the heavenly emissary that Hash-m sends to bring wealth to a home. By honoring the emissary, one honors the One who sent him. Hence, the bed is unrelated to Nichush.
The Shitah Mekubetzes compares the Arsa d'Gada bed to the Kisei Shel Eliyahu set up at every Bris Milah to honor Eliyahu ha'Navi, the visiting emissary of Hash-m. (According to this explanation, it appears that it was only a Jewish practice to spread such an "emissary bed." It demonstrated a family's trust and confidence in Hash-m that He will send His Divine emissary to bring bountiful blessing to the home.)
(c) The RAN answers that the Arsa d'Gada was not made for Mazal at all. Rather, it was a form of expression of gratitude to Hash-m. By spreading a bed which is not even used, one shows that he recognizes that Hash-m has blessed him with more than he needs. The word "Gada" ("Mazal") in this context is a borrowed term. (Through thanking Hash-m for what He has given in the past, one merits to have more blessing in the home, and thus such a bed indeed brings wealth.) (See also Insights to Moed Katan 27:1 and Nedarim 56:1.)
3) THE POWERS OF THE KING
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses the verses in Sefer Shmuel I (ch. 8) which describe the appointment of a Jewish king. When the nation asked that a king be appointed over them, the prophet Shmuel told them that they did not realize how much power the king would wield over them, and he warned them of the king's many harsh powers, such as the ability to take away their children forcibly to serve him. The Gemara cites a dispute between the Amora'im, Rav and Shmuel, which is the same dispute between the Tana'im, Rebbi Yehudah and Rebbi Yosi, who argue about whether the king indeed has all of the powers mentioned by Shmuel, or whether Shmuel mentioned them only to frighten the Jewish people and deter them from their request.
TOSFOS asks that Achav was punished for killing Navos because he would not give him his ancestral field. According to the opinion that the king is entitled to take anything he wants from the people, why was Achav wrong?
(a) In his first answer, TOSFOS writes that the verse (Shmuel I 8:14) implies that the king may take the property of his subjects only in order to give it to his servants, but not for his own private use. Since Achav killed Navos and took the field for his own private use, he acting beyond his authority and therefore was punished. (See RADAK to Shmuel I 8:15, who explains that the king is permitted only to take the produce of fields and give it to his servants (his army) when they go to war.)
The RAN also gives this answer, as does the YAD RAMAH and ME'IRI. The RAMBAM (Hilchos Gezeilah 5:14) rules that this is the Halachah.
(b) In his second answer, Tosfos suggests that Achav was punished because he took the field with intent to use it for idol worship. Tosfos infers that Achav wanted to use the field for idol worship from the fact that Achav said that he wanted to use the field as a "Gan Yarak" (literally, a vegetable field; Melachim I 21:2), which is an allusion to fields used for idol worship as mentioned in Sefer Yeshayah (66:17).
(c) In his third answer, Tosfos explains that Achav indeed was entitled to take the field. However, Achav asked Navos to sell him the field, and he did not demand that Navos give it to him for free by virtue of the power of the king. Navos, therefore, assumed that he was entitled to refuse to sell the field, since Achav was not asking for it based on his kingly rights. Consequently, Achav was wrong in killing Navos for refusing to sell him the field. The RAN records this answer in the name of RABEINU TAM.
(d) Tosfos cites the "NAKDAN" who explains that a king is permitted only to take distant fields, outside of the city, which are not prime real estate. The field of Navos was adjacent to the king's palace (Melachim I 21:1), and thus the king was not entitled to take such a valuable field.
(e) In his fifth answer, Tosfos says that perhaps a king is permitted to take only a purchased field (which the owner bought), and not a field that was inherited. The field of Navos was his inherited, ancestral field (as mentioned in Melachim I 21:3), and thus Achav was not permitted to take it.
(f) In his final answer, Tosfos writes that the laws of eminent domain apply only to a king who rules over both Yehudah and Yisrael, and who was appointed as king by Hash-m (such as through a prophet). Achav ruled over Yisrael, and not over Yehudah, and he was not appointed as king by Hash-m.
The RAN disagrees with this answer of Tosfos. The Ran maintains that any king who was appointed by the ten tribes was considered a valid king according to Halachah with all of the rights of a Jewish king. He explains that since Hash-m decreed that the nation should be divided into two kingdoms (Melachim I 11:31), it was considered as though the king of Yisrael (i.e. the ten tribes) was appointed by Hash-m.
The ARUCH LA'NER explains that Tosfos does not mean that any king who is not appointed by Hash-m is not a king. Indeed, both Moshe Rabeinu and Eliyahu ha'Navi gave kingly honor to such kings (Eliyahu to Achav). Rather, Tosfos means merely that not all of the harsh laws regarding the absolute rights of a king mentioned by Shmuel ha'Navi apply to such a king.
The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM concludes with a question on the Ran's opinion. Why should a king of the ten tribes be considered to have been appointed by Hash-m? If his specific appointment was not directly through a prophet's prophecy, then his appointment does not fit the requirement of appointing a king "whom Hash-m will choose" (Devarim 17:15). (Y. MONTROSE)