Lessons the Royal Wedding

Forget Alistair Stuart and other TV commentators. Avid followers of mine on Twitter and Facebook will have seen my running commentary throughout the Royal nuptials. One woman even reported her husband reading out my tweets as they were coming through while she was watching the proceedings.

So what lessons have I learnt watching this history in the making?
1) Church services can really be as boring as people say they are. And then they wonder why there is dwindling attendance. I don’t know how many speeches, readings and hymns were recited in all, but suddenly Shul doesn’t seem so bad after all. The Queen ought to have considered little l’chaim cups on trays for the end of service. Maybe next time – by Harry – if he doesn’t get to them all first. Seriously, priests need to start thinking a little out of the box and figure out how to beef up services. Religion is good for society. If you can get more people through the doors and inspire them with a religious message, it would engender more stability when they step back out into the world.

2) Notwithstanding the dragged out service, I could not help but notice that everyone remained perfectly quiet throughout. How come we can’t manage that at any point throughout our services – other than perhaps during the Rabbi’s sermon – and then mostly because many are sleeping anyway. How can you tell who is Jewish and who is not at a Bar Mitzvah service? The gentile will be the one not talking. The great eighteenth century scholar, Rabbi Yonasan Eybeschutz was said to have explained to a Bishop who taunted him about the decorum in Synagogues in comparison to churches, “we feel more at home in our Synagogues.” Perhaps so, but a little more decorum will go a long way.

3) Following on the previous point, it was also important to observe how everyone wore appropriate attire within the confines of the Abbey. I still don’t know why some women feel the need to go sleeveless in Synagogue or some simply choose to leave their hats on their laps. These same people would never dare contravene the dress code of a church service or walk inappropriately into a mosque. But on their own turf…? Perhaps again, it’s because they feel more at home. Still, no excuse.

4) The cameras did zoom in more than once on Elton John in attendance with his boyfriend. So the church has taken a more liberal leaning toward those who don’t necessarily conform to fundamental religious beliefs. Some years ago I lectured to a large group of military chaplains in Portsmouth. At their encouragement I spoke about gays in the military. This was later reported in the Daily Mail and prompted someone to call me and inquire whether I would allow him, as a Jewish gay naval officer, to attend Synagogue with his boyfriend. To his surprise I answered in the affirmative. All places of worship ought to be warm and welcoming to all walks of life irrespective of what might otherwise go on, on the outside. When several years ago a rehabilitated sex offender was denied entry into a Synagogue to recite the kaddish for his late mother I was the lone voice in the wilderness decrying the stance. So long as there is no risk posed, and respectability within the confines of the house of worship is upheld, G-d looks to welcome everyone into His ethereal embrace.

5) Something of course must be said about marriage itself. It was a fairytale wedding. But there’s no such thing as a fairytale marriage. It’s easy to play prince and princess on the day, but behind closed doors they are a husband and wife like everyone else, dealing with the usual ups and downs of every ordinary couple. A quick glimpse into several Royal marriages will prove the point. What is it about the transformative power of a Chupa, such that he walks in Dr. Jekyll and emerges Mr. Hyde – or she walks in Snow White and emerges Attila the Hun? The point is too many people think you ‘get married’ and everything else happens by itself. At running the risk of regurgitating an old cliché, “marriage is like a flower which needs watering every day.” The ancient Sages often use marriage as the analogy when describing the giving of the Torah at Sinai, with G-d being the groom and the Israelites being the bride. It occurs to me therefore, in the same way that we are supposed to perceive the Torah as though given anew each day (“every single day it shall be as new in your eyes”) that is the same attitude we should take toward marriage as well.

6) Finally, it was noticed that the Queen did have a quick natter with Prince Philip during the last part of the service. Was he asking her what page they’re up to? Was he asking, “When is this over?” Did he moan about being hungry – “what’s for lunch?” Whatever it was, it was refreshing to catch them off guard. It proves that no one’s perfect and at the core we are all after all equal.

Two billion people paused to watch the Royal Proceedings. How compelling that such an uplifting event can unite a third of the world. For that one hour or so I am sure crime rates ped, people bickered a little less and everyone was a little more relaxed. There was a feel-good factor all around. It just goes to show, does it not, that we could all do with taking a step back, taking some time out, pausing long enough to consider what’s really important in life. To all the cynics out there, that one hour proved more than anything that this world really could be so much more of a better place.