UK Chief Rabbi on Shabbat with the King: ‘I wasn’t prepared for how powerful it would be’

“When you see human royalty, it reminds us of how great God is. And obviously the King of Kings is of a far superior nature.”

By World Israel News Staff

The UK Chief Rabbi, Sir Ephraim Mirvis, recalled his “Shabbat like no other” at the palace of King Charles III on the day of his coronation, calling it “very, very special.”

“The Talmud says that royalty of flesh and blood is a reminder of royalty of the heavens, meaning that when you see human royalty, it reminds us of how great God is. And obviously the King of Kings is of a far superior nature,” he told the London-based Jewish News.

“But when I saw, literally in front of me, the King and Queen with their crowns on, at that moment — it was something very, very special. There was an aura about it, it was palpable, it was just there, and you could sense it. And that was something I wasn’t prepared for: it just came, and was very powerful. So it was an enormous privilege for me to be there at that moment, to represent our community.”

Rabbi Mirvis was invited to stay at St. James Palace so that he could walk to Westminster Abbey by foot. He also prayed Shabbat morning services at 6am at a nearby synagogue in order to make the coronation on time.

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He was full of praise for his palace hosts, whose staff, he said, “had really done their homework” and had gone out of their way to make things comfortable for the chief rabbi and his wife, Lady Valerie. For example, Rabbi Mirvis told the newspaper, there were some rooms in which a light came on automatically when a person walked in, thereby preventing the transgression of Jewish law, which forbids turning on lights on the Sabbath. “The palace ensured that there was always someone to walk ahead of us so that we played no part in triggering the light”.

He said he had “a sense of deep privilege for the respect being shown to the British Jewish community. I felt enormous appreciation for our gracious hosts.”

“Yes, it was a Coronation — but it was also Shabbat,” he said.

“The last time there was a Coronation on Shabbat was 1902 [for King Edward VII] and Chief Rabbi Herman Adler attended. The Palace wanted me, literally, to walk in the footsteps of Chief Rabbi Adler”, so the route was planned and copied accordingly, after Sir Ephraim had made kiddush at St. James Palace.

The Chief Rabbi told the Jewish News that alongside the Christian liturgy in the Coronation service, there were several references to Judaism — including a blessing made by the Archbishop of York, which is a direct repetition of the blessing of the priests — “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace”.