Intimations of Anarchic Libertarianism in the Shmoneh Esrei

I’ve already gone into how and why I don’t say את צמח דוד in my personal Shmoneh Esrei (silent prayer of 18 blessings). This is the bracha (blessing) for the Davidic monarchy, which I don’t want so I don’t pray for it. The blessing is an addition over the original, which makes the original 18 a new 19, according to the Yerushalmi Talmud.

I’ve also said that anarchy did exist in Jewish history, and it was the most peaceful period of Jewish history ever. That was the time of the Shoftim, who were popularly chosen and sanctioned by God, with no other government or taxes to speak of. There was not even a tax-funded army during that period. It was nearly perfect, as perfect as human history can be. There were a few skirmishes, but nothing compared to the constant wars of the period of the Kings, and no civil wars either.

Read the book and it is misleading, because it covers the skirmishes only. But between each story there is a single pasuk that says, וישקט הארץ שמונים שנה, or sometimes ארבעים שנה. Meaning, the land was quiet for 80 years, or sometimes just 40. Can you imagine that? 80 years of pure absolute peace? Nothing to write about, nothing to talk about, just live your life, worship God, enjoy your friends and family, celebrate the holidays, just live life? 80 years back then is 2 lifetimes. 3 generations. Imagine no wars for 3 generations, no taxes, nothing. Unbelievable.

I’m often challenged that if I love small government then why not move to the wilderness? The answer is because I love capital equipment more than small government. If I have capital equipment that can produce 10x and the government takes 5x, I’m left with 5x. If I’m in the wilderness with no capital equipment and I can only produce 1x with my hands, then I only have 1x. Therefore, I’d rather live in a big government society with more capital equipment than in an anarchy with zero.

But if someone would give me a time machine to go back to one of those 80 year periods during the Shoftim, wow would I be tempted to actually push the button and spend the rest of my life there, despite less capital. If I could take my family and they agreed, I may do it. Fantasyland yes, but a principle.

I yearn for the period of the Shoftim to return. That is what I want, that is what I long for.

Thank God it is now Aseret Yemei Teshuva (the Ten Days of Repentance) because it forces you to pay more attention to what you’re saying. There is one bracha that changes slightly during the 10 days, and that is השיבה שופטינו, or “Restore our judges.” The end changes from “Blessed is the King who loves righteousness and justice” to “Blessed is the King of Justice.” So you have to slow down when you get to it so you don’t say the normal formula.

And when you slow down, you can start to realize things.

Here’s the whole text:

השיבה שופטינו כבראשונה, ויועצינו כבתחילה, והסר ממנו יגון ואנחה, ומלוך עלינו אתה לבדך בחסד וברחמים, וצדקני במשפט. ברוך אתה יהוה, המלך המשפט.

Restore our judges as in the earliest times, and our counselors as at the beginning. Remove from us sorrow and pain, and reign over us – you God alone – with kindness and compassion, and make us just through your justice. Blessed are you God, the King of Justice.

For some reason on Motzei Shabbos (the end of the Sabbath) last night, something clicked. This is a prayer for the restoration of the period of the Judges. Not the monarchy, the anarchy, the Judges. It is so clear now. The “judges” in the blessing are not some Rabbi who sits on a Beis Din (court) under David. It’s talking about the period of the Shoftim, that period when there was no king at all. No government in charge of defense, and no government in charge of justice. Both defense and justice were private industries back then.

The evidence is in the language of the Bracha – the “earliest times” – before a king. That only God should reign over us, alone, meaning no king. Counselors, voluntary, not kings. This is now my favorite bracha. I will say it with extra kavana now. It only took me 20 years or so of saying it to figure this out.

To all the monarchists out there, yes, David is mentioned too in the Shmoneh Esrei. There are both minarchic and anarchic sources in Judaism. We pick what we prefer. If what we need is a privately funded Davidic figurehead to rally the people, which I see as very possible, then fine. He can have a donated throne. I’ll donate it. But no taxes.

That’s as far as I’ll go with a request for the return of David’s line.