Having recently celebrated Israel Independence Day, I wonder why so many Jews refuse to pray for the State of Israel and for our Jewish sons and daughters who serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). There are those who salve their consciences by claiming that there are non-religious Jews leading Israel (as if we may only pray for religious Jews), and there are those who claim that they do not want to pray for the leaders who are selling Israel’s birthright. Others blame our sons and daughters, who serve in the IDF, for the expulsion of Jews from Gaza.
There are several types of Jews, and each type differs in his approach to the Prayer for the State of Israel. There are those who recite the prayer each Shabbat, and say special Psalms and Hallel on Israel Independence Day. There are those (such as certain Orthodox groups and Conservative Jews) who disagree with some aspects of the prayer and make up their own prayers. They seem to believe that despite the tradition of uniformity in prayers desired by the rabbis, their individual prayer, which separates them from the majority of Jews who pray for Israel, is better than the prayer adopted by the former chief rabbis of Israel, Rabbi Yitzchak Herzog, z”l, and Rabbi Bentzion Uziel, z”l. There are, of course, those who say no specific prayer or Psalms because they are irreligious or against the state and care little for Jewish soldiers. The children of many of these will not serve in the IDF nor do National Service, and they may not see a need for the prayers for the safety of our children who do serve.
Since the recent expulsion of Jews from Gaza, some nationalist Jews have been demonstrating their anger at the government by demonstratively remaining seated or walking out of shul during the Prayer for the State of Israel and the Prayer for the Welfare of our Soldiers. They seem to ignore the fact that the prayer is not a compliment to any of Israel’s secular leaders, but rather a prayer asking God to give these leaders of little faith more intelligence and a better understanding of Judaism and Jewish history. Why these nationalists also stopped praying for the welfare of our (and their) sons and daughters who are at war is beyond my understanding. Even if we are not happy with how our children behaved during the expulsion, we still must pray for their health, safety and victory.
We feel that those Jews living outside of Israel, whose children do not serve in the IDF and who are protected from harm, should at least pray for our children who must defend our country. How devastating it is when a child or grandchild falls in battle! The least we can do is say a weekly prayer for the safety of our soldiers. Please use the simple prayers composed by the rabbis of Israel when you pray for us.
Let us look at some aspects of the Prayer for the State of Israel – what it requests and implies. Many Orthodox Jews believe that we are in the throes of the Messianic age and that we are witnessing God’s open hand in the rebirth of a Jewish homeland. The prayer is a religious prayer and mentions the coming of the Messiah. It asks God to send truth and understanding to our leaders and guide them on the correct path. It asks that the hand of the defenders of Israel be strengthened and that we be granted true peace and everlasting joy.
The prayer seeks God’s help in gathering the exiles to Jerusalem, as promised in the Torah. It asks God to unite our hearts to love and revere God, and observe all of the mitzvot in the Torah. It asks that God speedily send the Moshiach of the House of David to redeem us and let the entire world declare that Hashem, the God of Israel, is King and His dominion rules over all. Amen. Selah.
No current political leaders are praised. Rather, we pray that they see the true light and the error of their ways. We desperately need God’s help to influence our weakly educated secular leaders who have abandoned Jewish values and Judaism. Every believing Jew should pray for the spiritual welfare of Israel.
If your gabai refuses to permit the recitation of the prayers for Israel and for our soldiers, there is nothing to prevent you from saying the prayers silently. As I have offered in the past, if your siddur does not have the prayers, send me a stamp-addressed envelope c/o The Jewish Press and I will be happy to send you a copy of the prayers in both English and Hebrew.
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