Letter: Pray For Our Leaders!
A significant number of Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora, are quite unhappy about Israel’s newly elected government. Some rabbis have chosen, as a result, to change the wording of the traditional “Prayer for the State of Israel.” One rabbi, whose words, I’ve abridged below, explained it as follows:
“I’ll never cease supporting the cultural, social and spiritual richness of Israel’s beloved Jewish society. In fact, we should intensify our support for Israel. We should visit Israel. We should redouble and re-triple our efforts to know our Israeli brothers and sisters. We should support them in their very real challenges.
“But we should shun the incoming government of Israel. It deserves whatever small protest we can offer from afar. Here is mine, ‘We will continue to pray that Israeli society succeeds. But we will not pray that this new government succeeds.”’
The opening sentences of the prayer the rabbi and others find unacceptable is reprinted below. I’ve italicized the two sentences they reject:
“Rock and Redeemer of the people Israel: Bless the State of Israel, with its promise of redemption. Shield it with Your love; spread over it the shelter of Your peace. Guide its leaders and advisors with Your light and Your truth; help them with Your good counsel…”.
I, many rabbis, and many supporters of Israel – both Jewish and Christian – utterly disagree with the decision to alter the traditional prayer for Israel. We find it misguided and ill-advised. The prayer for the modern State of Israel, inspired by the age-old Jewish “Prayer for the Government,” is a prayer for the welfare of the country. That is to say, in praying for the heads of state, we pray that those who govern make decisions aligned not with their own biased interests, but with biblical values – values that urge them to promote the welfare of all the country’s inhabitants. Indeed, we’ve all invoked the Prayer for America during administrations we both liked and disliked. Yet, the opening paragraph of that prayer, found in many Jewish prayer books, still remains: “We ask Your blessings for our country, the United States of America – for its government, for its leaders and advisors, and for all who exercise just and rightful authority… May they administer all affairs of state fairly, that peace and security, happiness and prosperity, justice and freedom may forever abide in our midst…”.
Well, shouldn’t that hold true with regard to our prayers for Israel’s government? Shouldn’t we pray that her leaders “administer all affairs of state fairly, that peace and security, happiness and prosperity, justice and freedom abide in Israel’s midst?”
And speaking of the welfare of Israel and all her inhabitants, don’t Israel’s leaders need our prayers now more than ever? The sense of divisiveness in the Jewish State these days is, in some ways, even deeper than the divisiveness we currently experience here in the United States! To my mind, there’s no better time than now to collectively pray: Guide Israel’s leaders and advisors with Your light and Your truth; help them with Your good counsel…”
Which is why we continue praying for Israel’s leaders at our congregation!