Long Live The King

“You should command the Bnei Yisroel to take pure oil to kindle a continuous ner. Aharon and his sons should place it in the Ohel Moed outside the paroches which is before the aron hakodesh.”(Shemos 27:20-21).

The Kli Yakar asks a number of questions. ‘Why is this small section pertaining to the mitzva of lighting the Menora in the Mishkan written here at all? The details are all written elsewhere. Why does the posuk say here ner whereas in Parshas Behaaloscho it is written in the plural, “neros?” Why does the posuk mention that the menorah was to be outside the paroches which is before the aron hakodesh? This was mentioned already in Parshas Teruma. And finally why does it say “continuous” when the neiros only were alight during the night?” If I may add another question on Birkas Hamazon. Why do we say,” Ro’einu Ro’eh Yisroel – Our Shepherd, the Shepherd of Israel? Isn’t this a double expression?

On 20th January of 1936 King George V of England died and his eldest son, became the new king, Edward VIII. However on 10th of December of that year he abdicated the throne to be replaced by his younger brother George VI, the father of the present queen, Queen Elizabeth II. The reign of Edward was the shortest of any English monarch and it was the first and only time an English monarch had voluntarily abdicated the throne. (Edward II was removed from the throne in 1327. Charles 1 was beheaded for treason in 1649). What caused this unique abdication?

Although Edward was forty two years old in 1936, he was not married. After he became king, he expressed a desire to marry an American woman, Mrs Wallis Simpson who had been divorced once and was getting divorced from her second husband. This was not only very unpopular amongst the British public, it was also against the laws of the Church of England of which Edward was nominally its head. A huge argument ensued with powerful people supporting the king and powerful people against him. By December, the Prime Minister of the time, Stanley Baldwin told King Edward that he could not continue to be king if he married Mrs Simpson and so Edward announced his abdication. Edward and the former Mrs Simpson became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Why was Edward so determined to marry this unpopular woman who was not only non-descript but of doubtful morals, even at the cost of his monarchy? Couldn’t the King of England get a better shidduch? (“Position Available; Queen of England”). And why should we care, anyway, eighty years later?

A few years later on the morning of Tuesday 28th May 1940, Britain was facing her greatest threat since the time of Napoleon. Now it was Hitler who had Western Europe at his mercy. Holland and Luxembourg had been crushed in the previous fortnight; at dawn that Tuesday morning came the news that the Belgium army had surrendered, trapping 338,000 British troops and a huge amount of armaments. France was also on the verge of defeat. Winston Churchill, who had been Prime Minister for just eighteen days, was facing not only a military disaster but a fierce political battle. He had many opponents in his War Cabinet and in Parliament who wanted to negotiate with Hitler, a euphemism for surrender. Churchill, a staunch defender of British independence, argued against surrender but which position would achieve the majority. Surrender included, of course, the handing over of all British Jews to Hitler. Tense discussions continued with various politicians throughout the day until at twenty minutes before midnight, the decision had been made. A majority had sided with Churchill and Britain would fight on.

Churchill, in dramatic oratory, had said, “If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it only end when each of us is choking in his own blood upon the ground.” A few days later, on 4th June, after what Churchill himself described as the miraculous escape of nearly all the British troops from Dunkirk, in, arguably, his most famous speech, he proclaimed, “We shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight them on the landing ground, we shall fight in the fields and in the street, we shall fight them in the hills, we shall never surrender.”

What is the connection between these two historical series of events, the determination of King Edward to marry a morally suspect American woman which led to the one time in history that an English king had voluntarily abdicated and the refusal of Churchill to surrender to Hitler which saved all of British Jews from Hitler’s concentration camps?

To answer, we must go back to 1937 and a visit by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to Berchtesgaden, Germany, where Hitler himself was holidaying. After giving Hitler the full Nazi salute, the Duke and Duchess had a long conversation with him, after which the Duke admitted to having sympathies to Hitler’s objectives. Churchill was aware of the Duke’s Nazi sympathies and, after the war began, appointed him to be the Governor of the Bahamas, away from the war zone. After the war, a top secret file, called the Windsor File, was discovered in Germany. In it were letters between the Duke and the Nazi High Command. The letters revealed that the Nazis planned to conquer Britain, overthrow King George and restore the Duke to the throne. The Duke, for his part, encouraged the Nazis to bomb Britain relentlessly to force the Government to begin peace (surrender) negotiations.

Now we know how important it was that Edward decided to abdicate. He was clearly a strong Nazi sympathizer and had he still been king in 1940, he could well have influenced many people to pursue peace with Germany, especially bearing in mind Churchill’s slim majority to continue fighting. Edward’s early, incomprehensible devotion to Mrs Simpson is now explained. It was all orchestrated from Above.

The Kli Yakar answers his questions on the beginning of the parsha by saying that the purpose of this small section about the Menorah is not to mention the mitzva of lighting the menorah and that it was placed before the paroches, which we know from elsewhere. The singular ner – lamp which the posuk refers to, as distinct to the plural neiros in parshas Beha’aloscho refers to the ner ma’arovi – the western light which, unlike the other lights, miraculously stayed lit all night and day until all the lights were lit again. This was in spite of the fact that that the same amount of oil was put into all the neiros. The importance of this miracle, explains the Kli Yakar, is that not only was there a proof of Hashem’s presence amongst us in the kodesh kodoshim where only Kohanim Gedolim were allowed to enter, because of the letters samech and mem which miraculously stood in the air in the luchos but also, on the outer side of the paroches, all Jews will see that Hashem dwells amongst us, through the miracle of the ner ma’arovi.

Today we neither merit to see the miracle of the luchos nor that of the ner ma’arovi. But Hashem shows us that He is still amongst us, albeit in a more hidden way, through His interventions in history which have enabled us to survive. He is our King and has never abdicated; our Shepherd who still cares for us. It is normal for a shepherd to pass his flocks on to the responsibility of his pupils, (Boba Kamma 57b). But Hashem has not passed us on to any other shepherd. He is still the Shepherd of Israel. Human kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers come and go but our King will reign forever. “Long live the King.”

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