Israel’s 3 Crowns
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Three crowns were conferred upon Israel: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of royalty. Aaron merited the crown of priesthood, as stated in Num. 25:13: "And it will be an eternal covenant of priesthood for him and his descendants after him." David merited the crown of royalty, as stated in Psalms 89:37: "His seed will continue forever, and his throne will be as the sun before Me." The crown of Torah is set aside, waiting, and ready for each Jew, as stated in Deut. 33:4: "The Torah which Moses commanded us is the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob." Whoever desires may come and take it.
Lest you say that the other crowns surpass the crown of Torah, Proverbs 8:15-16 states: “Through me [Torah] kings reign, princes decree justice, and nobles rule." Thus, you have learned that the crown of Torah is greater than the other two. (Maimonides, Laws of Torah Study 3:1)
These “Crowns” refer to Israel’s perfections. We service God in Temple (priesthood), we enforce God’s laws and justice (kingship) but the greatest perfection is not one of practicality like these first two, but one of intellect, where we study and teach God’s wisdom. This third crown of Torah surpasses the 2 other crowns.
Leadership attracts egocentricity; Korach’s revolt taught this lesson. But anyone who seeks leadership is unfit, as his motives are usually self-serving, not God-serving. Just look at all the politicians who backpedal when they lose constituents.; they're not interested in principles, but in position. In contrast, Moses rejected God's request that he lead the people. He debated God for seven days until he had no choice but to accept.
God’s solution is that priests and kings are only from the lineage of Aaron and David, respectively. David descended from Tamar and Ruth, who both displayed great humility, and attachment to God's will. As Howard Salamon said, their descendants would identify with them and counter all egocentricity as they value their ancestors’ humility. Identification via lineage leads to emulation. The descending kings of these great women would emulate their humility, which is needed by a person in the highest office. For this reason, to temper a king’s arrogance, God also commands of king to carry a Torah scroll with him everywhere. This keeps him mindful of God's will and not his own ego.
To protect the institutions of priest and kings, God commanded they descend from a blood line. But Torah is unlike priests and kings, it is not a matter of leadership, but of pursuing truth. Lineage is irrelevant.
The 3 crowns of Israel are bound up with God, we don’t praise ourselves otherwise. Our honor is only due to following God in temple worship (priests), in upholding Torah (kings) and this is achieved only through Torah study, the third and greatest crown: “Through me (Torah) kings reign and rulers decree just laws; through me princes rule, great men and all the righteous judges” (Proverbs 8:15,16).