Buckingham Palace officials decided to reschedule a meeting between King Charles II and religious dignitaries that was originally scheduled for 6 PM on Friday. Shabbat candle lighting is at 6:59 PM in London, which would not have allowed Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis enough time to get to his synagogue for the Friday night prayers. The palace officials moved the meeting back to 5:30 PM.
We checked Google Maps (so you won’t have to), and discovered that Finchley United Synagogue in Kinloss Gardens, London N3 3DU, where Rabbi Mirvis served as shul rabbi before succeeding the late rabbi Jonathan Sacks (who also served as Finchley’s shul rabbi earlier). So, the distance by car between the palace and the synagogue is either 8.1 or 8.3 miles, depending on your route, and 43 or 47 minutes.
If the meeting with the king takes an hour, the rabbi’s car should get to the synagogue by 7:16 PM at the latest, which is still within the 18 minutes one is allowed to perform forbidden labors. Or labours, since it’s in London.
Now, if the good chief rabbi davens in a different synagogue these days, please disregard most of the above and the map below. We also got conflicting information about candle lighting in London tonight: the Chabad website says 6:55, the Jerusalem Post 6:50, the Jewish Chronicle 5:59. The JPost claims the meeting was pushed back to 5:00 PM. They also suggested it was the rabbi’s staff who asked the king’s staff for the favor. No one mentioned the 18 minutes’ allowance, but we, who face these dilemmas every Friday afternoon, wanted to give the rabbi a break.
The Jewish Chronicle cited a source in the chief rabbi’s entourage that said, “Of all the things the royal staff have to consider, with the crazy schedule the King has at the moment, to move things around out of respect for the Chief Rabbi and Shabbat is quite a gesture. It wasn’t like the Chief Rabbi’s office told them Shabbat would be an issue. The Palace took the initiative and phoned up and said, don’t worry about it, we have realized it will clash with Shabbat so we will move it for you. It was absolutely wonderful of them and characteristic of the King.”
The chief rabbi posted on his website following Queen Elizabeth II’s passing: “Every week in synagogue, we have prayed for her welfare, wellbeing, and wisdom, and she never let us down. We recall with much appreciation the warm relationship she had with the Jewish community, with a particular commitment to interfaith relations and Holocaust memorial.” And, “Her affection for the Jewish people ran deep, and her respect for our values was palpable.”