My posting had become less frequent and I apologize. Preparing and giving a Daf Yomi shiur and getting involved in anew project has taken a toll. BE"H I will slowly be able to increase postings....hope so. Thank you for being patient.
Rabbi Chanina, deputy to the kohanim, would say: Pray for the integrity of the government; for were it not for the fear of its authority, a man would swallow his neighbor alive.
The teaching of R. Chanina is interesting because he was a late Tanna, we lived just before the destruction of the Temple. By skipping more than 100 years forward to R. Chanina, the Mishna indicates to us a thematic connection between R. Akavia ben Mehallel and the teaching of R. Chanina. R. Akvia was focused on individual versus the group, but that was no longer the actual question a hundered years later. Now, the question is individual versus the government.
What happened in the decades before the destruction of the Holy Temple? Well, this was the time of increasing anarchy in the land of Israel, with the appearance of homegrown brigands and terrorists, and progressive weakening of governmental authority. At the same time, the notion of the Kingdom of Heaven, a place that was supposed to and radically better than the kingdom of this Earth, began to circulate. It is very clear from the Gospels that the radical teaching that devalued temporal authority and considered obeisance to it to be a betrayal of the Heavenly Kingdom, has gained many adherents at that time. Whereas before the Rabbis were focused on the questions of the religious meaning of individual service to God versus national destiny, the very value of earthly authority was now being questioned. Rabbi Chanina defined two different charges of earthly authority. One was to serve as a moral and ethical force. The Roman prefect never fulfilled that function. However, it was time to remind faithful Jews that the government also served as a deterrent to interpersonal and intercommunal violence. It may not be fulfilling a positive role that Shimon Hatsadik envisioned, but it was still a powerful barrier to general anarchy. That alone justified that Jews should pray even for an unrighteous government, even for one that represented and elevated values that where radically at conflict with Torah values.