1

The mishna, Shabas 14:4 (daf 111 amud 1), cites R. Shim'on as stating that "all Jews are children of kings" (and therefore can use a certain oil on their skin on Shabas).

  1. In what sense is it the case that all Jews are children of kings? Certainly we're not literally all children of kings. Doubtless most or all of us (except for the ten lost tribes) are descendants of kings, but not via patrilineal descent; but, then, most non-Jews are doubtless descendants of kings, too. Or if it means we're like children of kings, in what sense are we so? How are we like descendants of kings? Does it mean merely that we're important, or honorable, or something, or what does it mean?

  2. Once that's clarified — once we know what "children of kings" means — why does being children of kings effect the halacha that we can use oil on Shabas? (And other halachos, too; see e.g. Rashi to Shabas 59:2.) Why should children of kings (again, as defined in the answer to #1 above) have special halachos?

2

The Maharal from Prague wrote in גבורות ה' (chapter 61):

כי אחר שהוציא הקב"ה את ישראל ממצרים ונתן אותם בני חורין, ולא עוד אלא אף מלכים שנאמר (שמות יט) "ואתם תהיו לי ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש" זה השם הוא לישראל בעצם, והמעלה והחשיבות שיש בזה לא נתבטל אף בגלותם שהוא במקרה, ולפיכך אומרים חכמי ישראל (שבת קיא ע"א) כל ישראל בני מלכים הם אף בגלותם...

In other words, Jews are not actually sons of kings, but rather the sons of THE king - God. This means that you we understand that every Jew must be treated with the proper respect as if he were the son of a king, because the fact that God chose us makes each and every one of us special.

  • +1; many thanks. But I don't see (in the passage you quote) anything about being sons of God. – msh210 May 20 '15 at 12:09
  • @msh210 true, I don't think that that was necessarily his opinion, it seems that his point of view is that "sons of kings" is a term for honerd. But I recall that the general opinion is that the meaning is sons of God, though I do not have the source at the moment. – yechezkel May 20 '15 at 17:18

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