Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have announced that they are stepping down from their roles as senior royals. So, what might the Torah tell us about backing out of national duties?
Curiously, the first “royal” to back out of his duties in the Bible was Onan, the son of Judah. He refused to consummate his relationship with Tamar.
The reason given was that, “Onan knew that it was not unto him that the seed would be given.”
Since he was second in line in the household of Judah, Onan knew he would not inherit the House of Judah and chose to avoid taking his dead brother’s wife in marriage.
God was displeased with this, as what really mattered was doing the right thing, rather than measuring this in terms of personal benefit.
In fact, Onan could have become the ancestor of the Jewish royal line, but instead became the byword for masturbation – onanism.
In this case, their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex,
do not wish to shirk their duties to the Royal Family merely to wound them, but rather to focus on their own new family.
Should we judge them for doing this? Jonathan, son of King Saul, was the heir apparent and saw himself as David’s loyal subject, even during his father’s lifetime.
His father was very angry with him for this, as it appeared that Jonathan was giving up his royal status to David, and Saul even tried to kill his son over the issue.
However, since Samuel had anointed David, Jonathan’s choice was not deemed contrary to God’s word.
Therefore, where a prince is not immediately in line to the throne, or even second in line, it does not appear contrary to God’s law of kings to give up his royal seniority of status for personal reasons.
- Rabbi Ariel Abel CF serves Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation and is padre to Merseyside Army Cadet Force