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The King of kings

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This weekend, the eyes of the world will be focused on the pomp and ceremony in London, where King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla will be formally crowned king and queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. The coronation, months in the planning, will involve elaborate rites and attention to minutiae.

The ceremony follows strict protocols that are centuries old. The order of the proceedings is highly regulated as is the list of participants in the rituals. There are rules about the psalms and prayers to be recited – and the language to be used in each case. There are specific garments and regalia to be worn by all participants; the monarch himself will need to change robes, crowns, and sceptres repeatedly. An essential component of the crowning is the homage of the people, with his subjects declaring their fealty.

Being Shabbat, we will, of course, not be watching the proceedings. (Check with your local rabbi whether it would have been permissible to watch this religious service taking place in an abbey, even if it weren’t Shabbat, and about the appropriateness of viewing a recording after nightfall.) We will be in shul at that time, engaging in a coronation service of our own.

“Earthly kingship reflects heavenly kingship.” (Talmud Shabbat 58a). This is where the attention to detail, the intricate rituals, and the strict rules become a real teachable moment for us. For we, as the King of King’s subjects, have the duty to crown Him as the ultimate ruler of the world. The main coronation takes place annually, on Rosh Hashanah, when we do so formally in our prayers, even blowing a horn to add solemnity to the process.

But this isn’t just a once-a-year ceremony. It’s something we do every single day. “There can be no king without a people” is a key teaching of Jewish mysticism. Hence our role, paying homage by declaring our fealty, annually and daily.

Yes, Jewish practice is filled with minutiae. Special clothing and regalia (tallit and tefillin), a special hymn book (siddur/machzor/tehillim) and an ancient book of rules, detailing the divinely ordained 613 mitzvot (Shulchan Aruch). We dare not challenge the protocol any more than a self-respecting British royalist would question the rituals of a royal coronation.

We have the great privilege of reciting numerous brachot on any given day. We actually aim to reach the number 100. So accustomed are we to the formula, that we sometimes don’t realise what we’re saying. “Blessed are You … King of the world,” we say, addressing Hashem in the second person.

Long live the King!

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