Torah For Today: Prince Philip
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Torah For Today: Prince Philip

 Rabbi Ariel Abel reflects on the life of the late Duke of Edinburgh

Rabbi Ariel Abel

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

Duke of Edinburgh (Photo credit: Hannah McKay/PA Wire)
Duke of Edinburgh (Photo credit: Hannah McKay/PA Wire)

Prince Philip was a gentleman I regret never having had the privilege of meeting, yet his impact reached many dozens of millions, including myself. Preparing for the Duke of Edinburgh Award at Bronze and Silver level remains part of my best school memories.

The Torah, as echoed in the Book of Samuel, holds in the highest esteem such an award scheme, in part to promote fitness, as a supreme value: “To teach the children of Judah Qesheth, behold it is written in the Book of the Yashar”. 

Taken to refer to the Book of Genesis, Yashar contains the sterling example of fitness in our ancestor Abraham and his household, able to self-harness at will to perform rescue missions such as that which saved Lot’s life from marauding invaders. 

Qesheth refers to an entire system of self-defence relying on physical and spiritual fitness, preserved by the Habbani Jews of Yemen into the 21st century. 

Prince Philip had the most active schedule of all the royals. Hardworking, he won the respect of the people and set the highest example of personal devotion to industriousness; he emerged from a childhood beset by family troubles to meet hard-won greatness. 

Once again, our ancestor Abraham comes to mind, who left a troubled past behind in Ur, and, according to the Midrash, travelled the distance of the entire fertile crescent before settling on the Canaanite land south of Tyre, Phoenicia, on account of the industriousness of its inhabitants. 

Like Abraham, Prince Philip became the nation’s grandfather figure, without official royal appointment as consort to his wife.

Abraham was called ‘Father to the Nations’, while his wife alone carried the royal title ‘Sarah’ meaning ‘Princess’. 

Thanks to HRH Prince Philip, Britain developed a great tradition of meritocracy. May his life’s work be an inspiration to maintain the same.

  •  Rabbi Ariel Abel CF, Liverpool

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