Understanding The Three Crowns of Torah

There are two basic issues in our mishna which require discussion. The first is, what actually is the concept of a crown? Our mishna is not just referring to a king, scholar or priest, but to those who wear the “crown” of these positions. What does it mean to be crowned a scholar rather than just to be one? We know, of course, that kings physically wear crowns, but the other crowns are clearly allegorical. (In fact, we would suggest that the fact that a king literally wears a crown — this being a universal practice — is a physical reflection of a metaphysical truth the world instinctively recognizes.) If so, what is the metaphor of a crown, and how does it distinguish the true king, priest or scholar from the mere pretender? The second issue which requires explanation is the reference to the “crown of a good name.” The simple reading of our mishna is that this is a separate crown, superior to the other three. The commentators point out the obvious difficulty with this: Our mishna began by stating there are three crowns, not four. If so, the good name seems not to be a crown of its own at all, but something which exists only in conjunction with the other three. How does this work?

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