On the DD"M wave, Jeremiah writes (29:7):

"וְדִרְשׁ֞וּ אֶת־שְׁל֣וֹם הָעִ֗יר אֲשֶׁ֨ר הִגְלֵ֤יתִי אֶתְכֶם֙ שָׁ֔מָּה וְהִתְפַּֽלְל֥וּ בַעֲדָ֖הּ אֶל־ה' כִּ֣י בִשְׁלוֹמָ֔הּ יִהְיֶ֥ה לָכֶ֖ם שָׁלֽוֹם׃"
"And seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you and pray to the LORD in its behalf; for in its prosperity you shall prosper.

While in the Torah we find city-states (Melech Shechem), I can't find that a kingdom (let alone an empire) would be called a "city". On the other hand, the Jews were exiled to numerous cities in the Babylonian kingdom, not just "the city".

Why does the prophet use "city" and not "kingdom"?

  • 2
    I think you would be better off letting go of the idea that dina demalchusa is related to that passuk. A better passuk would be מלך במשפט יעמיד ארץ, quoted by Rav Asher Weiss.
    – N.T.
    Jan 3, 2022 at 11:30
  • @N.T. Accepted (not because of RAW). I think the verse refers to God, who's interpreting it as any king?
    – Al Berko
    Jan 3, 2022 at 13:09
  • All the mefarshim, esp. because the end of the verse contrasts the king to a dishonest man. See also the gemara: sefaria.org/…
    – N.T.
    Jan 4, 2022 at 2:43
  • Seems similar to שַׁאֲלוּ, שְׁלוֹם יְרוּשָׁלִָם - surely the intent is not to restrict it solely to Jerusalem... but Jerusalem represents the might/stability of the Judean state... perhaps similarly the city of Babylon represents Babylonia writ large... if the city is in precarious position, that means the entire state is... so pray for the city Feb 2, 2022 at 17:52

2 Answers 2


Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in his Nineteen Letters writes on this pasuk in Jeremiah that "And seek the peace of the city whither I have exiled you, and pray for it to the Lord, for in its peace there will be unto you peace."- means that

"it is our duty to join ourselves as closely as possible to the state which receives us into its midst, to promote its welfare and not to consider our well-being as in any way separate from that of the state to which we belong."

It seems that Rabbi Hirsch is connecting this pasuk to the idea of אור לגויים.

Thus, the meaning of "And seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you and pray to the LORD in its behalf" seems to mean that we are meant to "exhibit to mankind a better example of "Israel" than did our ancestors the first time". By doing this, "the entire race will be, hand in hand with us, joined in universal brotherhood through the recognition of G-d, the All-One" (Nineteen Letters, 16:7).

Similary, the following explanation is given by the Haamek Sheilah on Sheiltot d'Rav Achai Gaon, Kidmat HaEmek, Part I 13:1 in the commentary on the pasuk in Isaiah 60:3.

FOR THE SAKE of [Israel’s] righteousness,1 G-d desired to sharpen the glittering sword of Torah and to enlarge the Torah and its splendor. [To ensure] that Israel would be fortified and strengthened by G-d’s Torah, He exiled the Torah’s honor from Babylonia to the province of France. It was a land [whose inhabitants] had not seen the well-arranged light of tradition, [and they therefore] needed to search for the doorway of the palace2 through examination and analysis. They toiled and discovered a new path that [shone] as brilliantly as the sun.

So, it seems to me that the idea of "And seek the peace of the city whither I have exiled you, and pray for it to the Lord" learns us to make sure the "cities" we live in, discover the "new path"- e.g. the path of Torah and that will bring them closer to G-d.

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    Thank you very much for your effort. It appears that you misunderstood the question that was specifically about the use of the word "city" instead of "kingdom", not about possible interpretations.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 3, 2022 at 12:54

A good reason to specify to seek the welfare of the city and not the empire/state/kingdom: A city is characterized by the spectrum of society living together. An empire is characterized by a big hierarchy with the emperor on the top. If you disregard the wellbeing of the subjects while trying to get favor with the emperor, you create a tension that will one day snap in your face.

In Joseph's Egypt and in all of the places Jews have lived in Christendom until Emancipation, Jews have fulfilled a role in which they serve as a go between between the King and the peasants. Moneychangers, moneylenders, tax farmers, landlords, tax collectors, "arrendator"s. They served as the instrument by which the nobility would extract wealth from the peasants and burghers (townies).

When the milk hits the fleisch, the nobility would cast aside the Jews and the peasants would take out their anger against them (because it was the Jews, not the king, who would hassle them)

You should also seek the benefit of the emperor but the prophet doesn't need to warn you because it's obvious. Seeking the benefit of the city is more difficult because it involves rubbing shoulders with non-Jews.

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