There is a blessing you say when you meet a non-Jewish Queen or a King:
My mother grew up in Toronto singing “God Save the King.” I grew up every morning singing “O Canada” and “God Save the Queen.” Yes, Canada is part of the Commonwealth, and every classroom I knew had a framed picture of Queen Elizabeth on the wall.
One day my mother told us that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles were visiting Toronto and we were going to see them. So off we went to Avenue Road and Wilson, where she knew their motorcade would be passing by. We waited a very long time, and then it happened, they drove by, and we waved and clapped. Actually, my strongest memory was that when we went back to the car, someone had hit it, and we had to deal with that challenge.
The television series “The Crown” helped illuminate her story of coming to the throne under challenging circumstances. Her father, the King (who my mother sang about), had died, and her uncle was becoming King. But shockingly, he abdicated in order to marry a divorcee, and Elizabeth, in her 20s, ascended to the throne.
She reigned for over 70 years, meeting 13 of the 14 American Presidents beginning with Harry Truman (LBJ being the exception), and 15 British Prime Ministers, beginning with Winston Churchill.
A friend of mine, David Kovlar, who grew up in England and now lives in Israel, always speaks of her in glowing terms. He told me that her annual speech around Xmas time is not to be missed– and that she was a lady of calm strength who led with dignity and unwavering trust in G-d.
She was not just the head of a country and of a Commonwealth but also a family. I always say that every family is dysfunctional; it’s just to what degree. I felt bad that her family’s dysfunction played out in the public realm– imagine if yours was?
Elizabeth embodied the concept of “duty,” which is not something we speak of these days, at least not in a positive way. Her duty was her commitment to a moral obligation to lead. It is something we could all use a lot more of.
She was a “working mother” beyond us all, juggling family with national and world obligations, and did it all as a true lady. They are in short supply these days, as most have left this world. Perhaps she was the last of the ladies.
In very few days, it will be Rosh Hashana, a day we crown G-d King, inserting “HaMelech” (“The King”) in our prayers. G-d gave us a world where we have mortal Queens and Kings, living examples of leaders whose very presence demands pomp, circumstance, and reverence for power and authority. Trumpets will blare at Buckingham palace for Charles when he is crowned King of England, and soon we will blow the shofar for Hashem.
I regret that when I saw Queen Elizabeth all those years ago, I didn’t know the concept of saying a blessing. Perhaps one day, I can say that unique blessing if I get to see Charles, but in the meantime, I will try and concentrate more on the blessings I say each and every day to the true King of the world.
Long live the King and the King of Kings.