Rabbi Wein.com The Voice of Jewish History

Rabbi Wein’s Weekly Blog
 Printer Friendly


 The Talmud recommends that we should make every attempt to view royalty along with its pomp and circumstances whenever we can. The Talmud explains that by seeing and visualizing the honor and deference paid to human beings of royalty, we can then gain a glimpse of understanding regarding the honor and deference that we should pay to the royalty of heaven itself.

I remember that when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in the 1950's there were many rabbis and heads of yeshiva, those who never possessed a television set or even watched television, who visited homes that had television so that they would be able to witness the coronation ceremony which was being broadcast live.
It must be said that no one in the world does royalty, pomp, and circumstance, as well as the English. It was a five-hour ceremony and was meant to signify not only the honor due to the new Queen, but it also was meant as a testimony to the long history of British royalty and tradition. This was brought home to me recently when someone sent me a link to the BBC coverage of the coronation of King George VI of Great Britain which took place in 1937.
Well, we certainly are in a different world than the world of 1937. Even then, England was heading towards a bitter and protracted war with Germany. But it did the coronation undaunted by the future events that were to take place. I listened to the entire presentation – approximately three hours in length – and grasped fully what the rabbis of the Talmud meant when they encouraged us to observe such proceedings.
As an American, the pageantry and subservience to royalty seemed very strange and in fact discomforting. However, now in my elderly years, I can identify with a feeling of admiration and emotional attachment to such events. Since Queen Elizabeth II has been on the throne for almost seven decades, this generation has had really no experience with such a pageant and exhibition of royalty. Though I am not a fan of any form of monarchial government, I felt an emotional uplift and even a spiritual tinge when watching and listening to the coronation of King George VI.
Our generation currently has little respect for government and governmental leaders. Politics, which has always been divisive and bitter, has sunk to a new low level of vitriol, personal attack and mindless protest and violence. Democracy and its forms of government have been so successful in overturning ideas of royalty that, in many cases, it has led to anarchy and lawlessness. But what has really happened is that a new form of royalty has been formed – one determined by wealth, social connections, powerbrokers, and so-called experts in all fields of human endeavor.
This new form of royalty is in many instances, much more oppressive than the old form of royalty of kings and queens and nobles. It has fostered a class of elitists who really care very little about society, or even about the groups and constituents that it so loudly proclaims to defend. It is a much more selfish form of royalty, because it does not contain the element of duty and responsibility – noblesse oblige – that the old form of royalty possessed. Our new royalty is much more selfish, self-centered, and ignoble.
There are many factors that have caused this to happen, and society cannot under any circumstances return to the world of 1937. However, I feel that it would be instructive to view the video of the coronation of the King of England in 1937, and to show it to today's generation, far removed from that time and even its value system.
The words of the rabbis of the Talmud have always proved to be unerringly true. They knew what they were talking about when they said that one should view human royalty to understand the concept as represented in the Torah, Jewish tradition, and scholarship. We could use a little more awe, wonder and even pomp in our lives and in our society. In a remarkably interesting way, it would prove to be humbling and beneficial in a world that is devoted to anarchic freedom and narcissism.
Shabbat Shalom
Berel Wein

Subscribe to our blog via email or RSS to get more posts like this one.