Day 18 – Berachos 19
תָּא שְׁמַע דְּאָמַר רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בַּר צָדוֹק: מְדַלְּגִין הָיִינוּ עַל גַּבֵּי אֲרוֹנוֹת שֶׁל מֵתִים, לִקְרַאת מַלְכֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. וְלֹא לִקְרַאת מַלְכֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּלְבַד אָמְרוּ אֶלָּא אֲפִילּוּ לִקְרַאת מַלְכֵי אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁאִם יִזְכֶּה, יַבְחִין בֵּין מַלְכֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְמַלְכֵי אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם.
Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok the priest said: I and my fellow priests would jump over coffins of the deceased in order to hurry towards kings of Israel to greet them. And they did not say this only towards kings of Israel, but they said this even towards kings of the nations of the world, so that if one will be privileged to witness the redemption of Israel, he will distinguish between kings of Israel and the kings of the nations of the world.
This Gemara stuck out for me, as today we saw dozens of heads of state come visit Yerushalayim.
First of all, we see the importance the Tannaim put on going to see a king to the extent that even a Kohen can step over graves to hurry to see the king.
(The Ishbitzer (Emor) explains that the reason Kohanim become tamei from a meis is because they get annoyed at Hashem that there was death in the world. Here, they are not thinking about the dead guy, all they are thinking about is the king. Therefore, there is no Tumah.)
I always understood the reason why the Gemara instructs us to see the king, is to understand how royal malchus works. From this, we will know how we should treat HaKadosh Baruch Hu, the King of Kings.
Here, however, the Gemara mentions a different reason, albeit cryptic. If one is privileged to see the redemption he will be able to distinguish between kings of Israel and the kings of the nations of the world.
Rav Kook (Ein Ayeh Brachos 290) explains, that the reason we need to see the kings of the world is to understand their culture and their contributions to the development of the world. As Jews, we need to gather all this together, to bring about a Tikkun Olam and do our job of continuing the process of creation in this world. Once we have this down clearly, we can then apply it when Moshiach comes to establish the ultimate ideal of Malchus in this world.