Our beloved monarch Queen Elizabeth II, for whose health and prosperity we pray each Shabbat in synagogue, will become the longest-reigning monarch in British history next week.
What does the Torah say about the longevity of kings and queens?
Longevity of kings is the theme of several blessings which emerge in the early scriptures. A long reign is known as the long-lasting lamp which shines, such as Nir David, the Lamp of David.
Kings are anointed by the prophet, and tradition states that if the prophet uses a small cruse to pour oil on his head, he will reign a short time, but if he uses a long horn he will reign for many years.
Ironically, the famous royal hail, Long Live the King, is a mistranslation of the book of Psalms. Owing to a regrouping of the original Hebrew words by early Christian theologians, the last phrase of Psalm 20 was construed to read: ‘Long live the King, He will answer us on the day we call’ instead of the Jewish rendition: ‘God will save, the King will answer us on the day we call’.
A long-lived king is not always a reassurance of a spiritually satisfying reign. The longest ruler on a Jewish throne was Menashe, son of Hephzibah and Hezekiah.
In contrast to his saintly father Hezekiah who, according to a Talmudic opinion, was the Jewish Messiah, his son is discredited with the introduction of idol worship into Judea for more than 20 years.
Although he repented from idolatry, and his prayer is recorded in the Apocrypha, the damage done meant that he was not buried with his ancestors in the city of David.
The most important facet of a long reign in Judaism is not the number of years, but the quality of attainment, spiritual and temporal, during the reign.
Therefore, King David’s 40 years were glorified by his uniting the tribes of Israel under one banner.
Queen Elizabeth has led the nation with sensitivity and compassion in the post-war years, through times of plenty and recently austerity.
Her most recent pronouncements about the dangers of religious radicalisation demonstrate her leadership is important for the conscience of the nation.
Although she is not a monarch with absolute power over life and death, her constitutional status carries the weight of moral authority. We wish her many years to come of health and to reign for as long as God wills.
• Ariel Abel is rabbi at Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation