My surreal Shabbat at the Palace

UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said the royal household studied Jewish law to prepare for his Shabbat stay at King Charles III’s residence the night before the coronation.

“Our every need was taken care of,” he told The Jewish Chronicle. “The palace staff had studied the laws of Shabbat and made sure that everything we needed was provided for. 

“If there was an automatic light that turned on somewhere in the palace, there was always someone who happened to walk ahead of us.

“They really took care of everything. They had really learnt all the rules of their own accord.”

The King invited Rabbi Mirvis and his wife Valerie to stay at Clarence House, the King’s London residence, so they could walk to Westminster Abbey and attend the coronation last Shabbat.

Rabbi Mirvis said it was a regal yet surreal experience. “My wife and I had been wondering, was this the very first time that Shabbat candles were being lit within such a regal context and surroundings?

“Kiddush being made, Havdalah being recited, Zemirot being sung, the Shabbat table together with traditional Shabbat food specially prepared and kept hot in a traditional Shabbat way?” he said. 

Rabbi Mirvis and Rabbi Joseph Dweck, the Senior Rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, Britain’s oldest Jewish community,  were the Jewish community’s representatives at the coronation.

Rabbi Mirvis joined faith leaders from the Sunni and Shia Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Bahá’í, and Zoroastrian community who played a part in the procession and greeted the King at the end of the Christian service, which named the King as defender of the faith of the Church of England. These innovations bookending the service were designed to acknowledge the UK’s increasingly diverse society.

Watch Rabbi Mirvis conduct Havdalah at St James Pace after the coronation.

Watch Rabbi Mirvis’s post coronation message

Photo:  Prince Charles with  Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis during his visit to Yavneh College, an Orthodox Jewish School, in north London, in 2017  (Reuters/Toby Melville)