Barry Epstein asked:

The Gemara says that a king can't bring a variable chatas as he can never be poor. Two questions arise:

1) At least 2 kings were destitute such that if they had sinned, they could only have brought the very poor man's variable chatas. The two that come to mind were King Solomon when he was expelled from the throne by Asmodeus, and the king led away in chains by the Babylonians (perhaps Tzidkiyahu). Given that a king CAN become destitute, shouldn't he be liable to this offering?

2) Is a king's wealth his personally or his only because he is king? The question further arises on 10a (in the Artscroll notes). It says that a king can be removed from office due to tzaraas. Yet he is still considered wealthy and therefore can't be eligible to bring the very poor man's offering. Does this imply the wealth is his?

3) The Gemara on 13a says that "all Israel are qualified for kingship." Does the next King of Israel have to be from the Davidic line (which would contradict this), or can he also be either a Kohen or Levi?

Barry Epstein, Dallas, USA

The Kollel replies:

1) Part of the Mitzvah in the Torah of appointing a king is that the Jewish people are responsible to enrich him if he does not have his own riches (see Shmuel I, chapter 8). We find a similar concept with regard to the Kohen Gadol, as the Gemara here relates. Therefore, every king must be rich, as long as he is recognized as the king.

When Shlomo was banished by Ashmodai, during that time he was not recognized as the king (as related in Gitin 68b) and thus there was no obligation for him to be rich, and thus, indeed, he would have brought a poor man's offering. The same applies to Tzidkiyahu; when he was exiled, he no longer had any authority and thus was no longer considered the king.

2) He is entitled to do whatever he wants with the wealth (as described in Sefer Shmuel there). See the Tosfos ha'Rosh (9a), who quotes the Ramah who says that the king, when removed from office, becomes like any other wealthy person who might become poor. (Rashi seems to learn that the king became so immensely wealthy while in office that it is not possible for him to lose it all). A king cannot become poor so long as he is the king, because he is entitled (and obligated) to take money from the nation in order to remain rich.

3) The king does not have to be from the family of David, as long as there is no king from David at the time.

M. Kornfeld