Welcome Message at the Memorial Service for Queen Elizabeth II
Over the past few days, we have heard an outpouring of reflections on the personal impact Her Majesty had on so many people’s lives. This, in addition to the extraordinary volume of her public duties.
The question that reverberates is how did she do it? How was she able to adapt to the changing needs of her people without compromising her real values? Surely, it was her deep faith that enabled and empowered her to take on any and every challenge.
In 1947, a 21-year old Princess declared that she would devote her whole life to the service of her people. For over 70 years, with dignity and charm, Queen Elizabeth II lived up to that promise.
We are all familiar with the quintessential princess in the Torah. Sarah. Her very name means royal. However, it is rare to encounter an individual who actually lives out Sarah’s unique qualities. Queen Elizabeth was such a person.
In appraising Sarah’s life, the Torah says she lived for a hundred years and twenty years and seven years, rather than simply 127 years. This unusual wording leads the midrash to infer that Sarah lived throughout her life on multiple levels. Charm and innocence weren’t simply a feature of her youth. Wisdom and perceptiveness were not only a manifestation of her mature years. The late Rabbi Joseph B Soloveitchik points out that throughout her life Sarah displayed the pure faith of a child, combined with the passion and energy of an adult, together with the acuity of a Sage.
Queen Elizabeth II’s uncomplicated belief in G-d was with her throughout her life and frequently came to the fore during times of crisis. From that, followed her unwavering sense of duty. When we read the bald statistics of how much she undertook throughout the 25,781 days of her reign, one is staggered at the sheer quantity and quality of her contributions – culminating in her seeing-out and seeing-in two prime ministers just two days before she died. Her ex-prime ministers who survive her, have paid tribute to her wisdom and insight. And yet, she never lost her impish sense of fun – witness her Paddington sketch just three months ago.
The Talmud declares that where you find true greatness, there you find humility – and perhaps that was her Majesty’s most outstanding attribute. For the woman who wore the crown of monarchy with such dignity, her personal tastes were simple.
May our service this evening be a fitting tribute to her memory, and may she serve as an inspiration to us all.