General Topics

The Royal Wedding

image_pdfimage_print

There is a blessing the Talmud gives for when one sees royalty (Brachot 58a). The text itself goes further and says one should even go out of one’s way to see royalty, because in being impressed by the way the way they are held in awe by mortals, one should realize how much more the King of kings should be revered.

This might have been true once upon a time when kings and queens were absolute rulers with the power to make or break, reward and punish every one of their subjects. Jewish post-Biblical law gave kings the right to put anyone to death if they felt that would preserve or protect the realm. Thank goodness that no longer applies in civilized countries; but unfortunately in the barbaric ones which account for most of the world’s current population it does. So if a blessing were to be relevant now on this issue it should be to thank God we live under these defanged royal ciphers rather than under bloodthirsty murderers who think nothing of shooting, torturing and raping their own citizens.

Yet I have a problem with all this royalty fuss. I have met the queen several times. She is indeed a gracious lady, but massively underwhelming. She has an unenviable task: to be gracious and calm all the time, to treat the hundreds of thousands of people she meets as if they are important and matter, when in reality it can only be a formality. I have seen her at work (for it is her profession) at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh and Buckingham Palace in London, at tea parties where thousands wait patiently in line for her to pass and smile and nod and pick out someone here and there to enquire of or comment to, and smile again and move on. It is one of the amazing gifts of the royal family that they can make someone feel for a second or two that he or she is the only one who matters in the world and whatever it is that they do is so significant and interesting. And I have met her at receptions at which once again she approaches, smiles, asks a question or two and moves on. On several occasions when I had a chance to engage her, the mask remained fixed, the polite “how interesting” betrayed cold professionalism, and the only subjects she responded to with animation was when I mentioned that I had just seen her at Ascot where her horse had won, or enquired of her corgis. Otherwise, even praise for her son elicited a blank stare as if I had been guilty of disrespect. Helen Mirren gave an incredibly accurate portrayal of Her Majesty in The Queen.

It is hardly surprising, having to go through the public rituals she does and maintain the exterior she must, that she is emotionally restrained, constantly aware of position and obligation rather than emotion, and has brought forth emotionally stunted offspring. But she does nevertheless represent the earthly symbols of rule, even if she is powerless. It is a beautiful and impressive charade and one that attracts millions of tourists, worldwide interest and fascination. But the fact is that nowadays the royal family is no more than a branch of show business. It feeds the insatiable appetite of those who live dull and boring lives for gossip and “personality”.

There was a brief interlude in history when the royal family behaved and believed as if it ought to set an example, morally and religiously. But that is no longer the case. The excessive and irrational personality cult of Princess Diana was for someone of intellectual limitation (albeit more than compensated for by a humanity and concern) and sexual indiscretion. She was a “star”.

I was able to observe Prince Charles when he spent a day with us at Carmel College in 1974, to celebrate our 35th anniversary. He was incredibly impressive in the way he had clearly learnt his role, to seem interested in everything and everyone and be excessively polite and friendly. He was an impeccable professional. But at the same time his entourage was busy picking up signals from him of which attractive females to proposition and invite onto his royal train. It seemed as though he had a royal procurer, unofficial of course. In this he was no different from almost all other royals and aristocrats who comprise the fabled Eurotrash jet set. What about him, or indeed his siblings, commands respect? The fact that one day he would inherit the title “Defender of the Faith”? Or his oft expressed wish to be the “Defender of Faiths”?

I am not arguing for the abolition. It is harmless enough and gives a sense of history and national identity, which is disappearing at a rapid rate as the United Kingdom descends to its own bland version of a multicultural, multiethnic society, preserving prejudice as it bends over backwards to indulge. It is not as if other models of national figureheads are any more satisfying or exemplary.

My lack of interest in a mediocre couple of human beings getting married, has repercussions on my attitude to our daily prayers in which we call for the restoration of the Davidic monarchy. Do I really want to empower a human, however special, with powers of life and death, or even of mundane legislation? So I translate it in my mind into nostalgia for a misty autonomous past and an expression of hope for future perfection.

As for this royal family, I see no evidence of power or moral splendor, just the banality of personality worship and human credulity. Why should I make a blessing when I see no particular reason to? Mazaltov nevertheless, and LeChayim.

14 thoughts on “The Royal Wedding

  1. Don't knock it, Jeremy, they bring in a great deal of money to the UK. As I write at 7 o'clock on the morning of the wedding, there are thousands of people here from abroad, spending their all. For myself, I couldn't get out of London fast enough.

    You're right, they are the last vestige of national identity and we should wish them well in the face of
    overwhelming odds. Mazaltov, Mabruk and Good Shabbos.

  2. How does it come that the UK economy is so bad? Prices increase every day and housing has not improved. Benefits for people with children in particular are reduced. Students have to pay from their own pockets as benefits are not longer available for full-time students. I am not for the queen either. I have more the impression they cost money rather than bring money in. I was told that the queen has vote in parlament. I don't know how significant it is. An article in the newspaper said that Diana claimed that the royal family did not like Jews. If they don't like us I do have problem giving any of them a vote in parlament.

    Sabine

  3. After seeing the splendour of the Royal Wedding where a million people had smiles on their faces, I went to visit a friend in an old age home. The residents there had been enchanted by the TV coverage of the wedding and had enjoyed this example of what the British do best. It was the highlight of the week, no… more than that; it brought smiles to their faces too.

    The Queen is the hardest working 85-year old I know. She knows what the word duty means. The rest of the world looks on in envy.

    Judy at The Armchair Kitchen
    http://www.lookitcookit.tumblr.com

  4. Yes Judy, you are absolutely right and its a great spectacle and a wonderful example of Show Business and Ruritania rolled into one and no one else does it as well as the Brits. My point is that one should separate the spectacle from the individuals who in themselves are simply very ordinary human beings.
    I object to any form of personality cult, civil, religious, show biz, financial or statist because to devalues simple humanity and distracts us from valuing genuine goodness and moral achievement.
    J

  5. Spot on R, Rosen…!
    though I will admit that having once met the Queen of Denmark (who was a guest at the Middleton's "do" ) – somewhere in France – that she is a personal "star" and I also find any flypast by an Avro Lancaster a comfort ; recalling that applied & costly cruelty is sometimes better advised than cringing-weakness (as well as sounding pretty good too)….

    I was once inspected (1976) by Princess Margaret – standing at attention with eyes forward – I have no recollection of seeing her….I do however recall having to dye the grass green prior to her visit as there had been a drought that summer!

    Graham

  6. Hi Jeremy. Only just got around to reading this now.

    Your comment "But the fact is that nowadays the royal family is no more than a branch of show business." reminds me of King George VI's comment in The King's Speech:

    "If I'm King, where's my power? Can I form a government? Can I levy a tax, declare a war? No! And yet I am the seat of all authority. Why? Because the nation believes that when I speak, I speak for them. But I can't speak."

    Also, there's an earlier conversation in which his father laments about how his role in the new world of wireless is reduced from that of wielding real power to that of an actor.

    Clearly, this is a common theme!

    I understand that the Masorti movement in Britain has recognised that the Queen is only notionally in charge of the country, by taking the eminently sensible step of replacing the prayer for the royal family with a prayer for the government. I wonder if it would take anything short of a revolution for orthodoxy in the UK to do the same. Hey, there's an idea!

  7. Youve raised an interesting point about 'Orthodoxy.' In my experience in the UK only United Synagogue/so called Centrist Orthodoxy has formal prayers for the Queen and indeed the State of Israel. Most of the Right Wing Charedi shtiebelach/synagogues recite prayers for neither nowadays!!!

    The only revolution in Orthodoxy nowadays I fear is that led by the Taliravs! Having said that there is a powerful groundswell of non conformist thinking orthodoxy that wont raise its head or lead a revolution but gives hope for sanity nevertheless.

    J

  8. Great post (as usual) Rabbi Rosen! Interesting, I thought that you might remark on the fact that Chief Rabbi Sacks was at the wedding at Westminster Abbey (<<<forgive if I misspelled that, I'm an American!). In the discussions in my circle (which include gerim and baalei teshuva) we were pretty surprised. Gerim especially are admonished to not attend any family events like weddings or funerals that take place in a church. A good FFB friend of mine who is pursuing a Ph.D. in history struggled with going into churches for even an academic pursuit. However there was Rabbi Sacks…at this wedding. Now the prior explanations (i.e. endorsing avodah zarah, marit ayin…perhaps a chillul Hashem) seem to not hold water.

  9. Rishona:

    I agree that attending religious services in a Church or any other religious House of Prayer is problematic ( although I do not object to going in for secular reasons). I did not watch the Wedding so I did not see whether rabbis were there. I would not have gone had I been invited but sadly the Chief Rabbi of Britain seems to have other considerations that doubtless he can live with.
    But on the other hand I do think that Gerim and Baalei Teshuva should attend the purely celebratory parts of marriage and other family celebrations and not cut themselves off from their families for a whole range of reasons.

    Perhaps I will adress that issue shortly.

    J

Leave a Reply