Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
I first heard the following story from attorney Or Alon, the husband of Tzipi Hatovely, Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom, after the couple met with the queen of England. I was reminded of the story this week in connection to our Torah portion with its details of the laws of kashrut that have dictated which plates and eating utensils we put on the table, as well as which foods we are allowed eat, for thousands of years.
"A rabbi was once invited to a function of the British royal family. In preparation for the event, he brought with him to the palace a plate, eating utensils, and his own food, in order to adhere to the laws of kashrut. He organized everything in his assigned place. But then, when everyone was about to eat, it was suddenly announced that all the guests must change places in order that everyone should get to know everyone else. So he picked up his plate and utensils and began carrying them to his new seat.
"There was a Jewish friend of his there who laughed at him: 'Why are you moving your plate and utensils? Kashrut is confusing, primitive, and you are embarrassing yourself in front of the queen.' And then, as the rabbi was going to his new place with his kosher plate and utensils, Prince Phillip stopped him and said: 'Sir, it's not necessary, there are utensils there, too.' The rabbi answered him: 'No, I am a Jew, we keep kosher.' This aroused Prince Phillip's curiosity, he asked questions, and then he called to the queen and said to her: 'You must hear this.' The Rabbi began to repeat everything to the queen, while she and the prince stood in rapt attention listening to his explanations. Suddenly the Jew who had mocked the rabbi saw that he was speaking with the queen, approached in order to see what was going on, and said to the royal couple: 'You know, I am also a Jew.' The queen looked at him and said: 'So where's your plate?'"
Or Alon said that he was reminded of this story many times during the couple's diplomatic mission: "We do not always have to try to be like everyone else. People admire our uniqueness. Our heritage is not something to downplay or conceal, but rather something in which we can take pride.”