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Ki Teze 5782 ~ Sept. 9, 2022

It seems rather strange to me that, as I was sitting down to write my Shabbat message for the second week in a row,  a world leader who dynamically changed the world, has died. For me personally, I grew up only knowing Queen Elizabeth II as my queen.  From the day I began my first class in Jewish Day School, I remember gazing at the famous picture of her with jeweled crown and blue sash that prominently graced the front of our classroom. We began our day at school singing “God Save the Queen.”  That changed with the introduction of a changed political reality, when we began singing “Oh Canada.” However, the picture of Queen Elizabeth II remained front and center.  We were taught the respect one gives to “royalty of flesh and blood.”

In Jewish traditions there are many blessings that we recite every single day, offering our words of thanksgiving for the special, the unique and the mundane that are a part of our daily experience of life. The rabbis taught us, as well, that when one is in the presence of a human king or queen, one must recite a blessing for having been honored by God for giving you the opportunity to be in the presence of such an individual, that Hashem, had entrusted a country, commonwealth or empire to.  Upon seeing a head of state, one is to recite a blessing, the words translated are “Praised are You, Adonai our God, who rules the universe, who has given from His glory to one who is of flesh and bone.” In making this statement, we are acknowledging that ascending the throne of royalty is not only a part of God’s creation in our world to provide leadership and stability, but is also a part of a need for God’s glory to be enhanced through human royalty. It is not diminishing God’s place in our world… it is profoundly glorifying it.

I remember watching my personal friend and cantor of my childhood shul telling me how he had to prepare to meet the queen in person. He had received an invitation for an audience to sing in front of her. Hazzan Louis Danto was quite nervous. Even as a trained Italian virtuoso who sang on many a stage in Europe, Canada and America, he understood the pomp and circumstance and the honor he needed to uphold as he first was introduced to Queen Elizabeth II. Lord Rabbi Jonathon Sacks, z”l, understood that responsibility, as well. Even on Shabbat, as the Chief Orthodox rabbi, he knew that he would be required to attend the royal family celebrations and mourning, and he made arrangements to fulfill that responsibility.

Our Torah reading for this Shabbat, Ki Teze teaches us of responsibilities… to be ethical, to look out for the poor, the one captive in war, the worker, the widow of a brother, a wife who became disliked, for the rights of women, the mother bird, the donkey toppled over by a burden, just to name a few. By inference it teaches us what my teachers taught me… No matter who the person is, one must pay honor to the godly creation and dimension within each individual. That includes the honor due the woman who served as Queen of England for seventy years. And despite her foibles, the accusations of her role in the divorce and death of Princess Diana, and her never visiting the State of Israel, I will always be mindful of her being chosen as a royal, part of God’s plan for our world for these past seventy years.

We sing: “David, Melech Yisrael, Chai v’Kayam.” David is the King of Israel, and he lives on forever. We are not stating that King David is still alive. We are stating that his legacy lives on. We also pray that his descendant will become mashiach, the Messiah. We cannot hope for the same for Queen Elizabeth’s descendants. However, we can hope that her legacy will endure in a positive way.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi  K

Sat, April 1 2023 10 Nisan 5783