Shmuly Yanklowitz, an Open Orthodox rabbi and author, listed by The Daily Beast as one of the 50 most influential rabbis in America, posted on his Facebook page that “starting this week, I can no longer recite or say amen to the Shabbat prayer for the success of the US President.”
The prayer for the well-being of the gentile ruler (His Highness the Kaiser, His Highness the Czar), and in Israel the prayer for the state and its president and ministers, is inserted in most Orthodox Jewish services after the reading from the Torah and before the prayer of Mussaf.
The common text in today’s sidurim (prayer books) goes:
“He who gives salvation unto Kings, and dominion unto princes, He who delivered his servant David from the sword of the Enemy, He that made a way in the Sea, and a path in the strong waters, may He bless and keep, preserve and rescue, exalt and magnify, and lift up higher and higher, our Ruler [insert here: the Pope, Emperor, Kaiser, Czar, King, Duke, President, or any other potentate under whom the Jews are living]. The King of kings defend him in his mercy, making him joyful, and free him from all dangers and distress. The King of kings, for his goodness sake, raise up and exalt his planetary star, and multiply his days over his Kingdom. The King of kings for his mercy’s sake, put into his heart, and into the heart of his counselors, and those that attend and administer to him, that he may shew mercy unto us, and unto all the people of Israel.”
It should be noted that these prayers, which first appeared in the early 14th century, have been served up for some awful rulers, including openly anti-Semitic Spanish kings, Russian Czars, German Kaisers, and even, as documented in Makor Rishon recently, in many German synagogues, for Kanzler Adolf Hitler – at least until 1938.
Is the good Open-Orthodox rabbi suggesting President Trump is worse than, say, Czar Nicholas I, creator of the pale of settlement (never mind AH)?
Yanklowitz, who, clearly, misunderstands the purpose of the prayer of “He who gives salvation to kings,” wrote this week that he had “drafted a new prayer that I will plan to recite each Shabbat morning. If you also feel it’s important to pray for the US government but also feel you cannot pray for the success of this President.”
He noted that he “felt that it was not enough to simply avoid the US President in the prayer for the government but to remind myself of the billions of vulnerable people who are at risk under his rule, and challenge myself each Shabbat to build up the strength for another week of spiritual resistance.”
Yanklowitz’s alternative prayer is lengthy and self-righteous and pompous, just as you would have expected. Read it here and enjoy, if you’re curious. It’s got a lot to say about protecting citizens fortifying the bonds between liberty and justice, and fair treatment under the law, and expanding welfare.
So we searched the text of this socially conscious, alternative prayer, and discovered it has no mention of three words: “Jews,” “Jewish,” and “Israel.”