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Message To The Rabbis Rewriting Prayer For Success Of New US President

With Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration almost upon us, there are plenty of people already writing him off as a total disaster of a President (Many of these people happen to be those who are also able to write-off President Barack Obama’s many failures as president, but not all).

There is a sub-group of these people I want to address in this post – the Rabbis who have publicly taken it upon themselves to rewrite the Jewish prayer for the success of the new President.

Rabbis like this guy.

Jews have been praying for the welfare of the governments they live under for hundreds of years.

But what happens when they lose faith in the individuals elected to lead those countries?

That’s the dilemma faced by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, an Orthodox rabbi who is president and dean of Valley Beit Midrash in Phoenix and founder and president of Uri L’Tzedek,an Orthodox social justice organization. Saying he “cannot pray for the success of this President,” Yanklowitz has written a new text that, without naming President-elect Donald Trump, prays to “Guide the incoming leader of this country away from his basest instincts, thwart his plans to target certain groups and strengthen white supremacy.”

The idea of a Jewish prayer for a successful government harks all the way back to the prophet Jeremiah, who advised the Jews who were taken by the Babylonians: “Seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you and pray to the Lord in its behalf; for in its prosperity you shall prosper” (Jer. 29:7). The first official Jewish prayer for the welfare of the state and its governing officials was introduced in prayer books in the 14th century.

The prayer currently found in most Orthodox prayer books calls on God to:

bless The President, the Vice President, and all the Constituted Officers of Government of this Land. The King who reigns over Kings in his mercy may he protect them from every trouble, woe, and injury, may he rescue them and put into their hearts and into the hearts of all their councilors compassion to do good with us and with all Israel, our brethren.

Nathan E. Weisberg, writing earlier this month on the Orthodox Union website, recognized that some may be uncomfortable praying for the welfare of a president with whom they deeply disagree. Nevertheless, he wrote, “It is not for us to judge whether or not a leader is worthy of our prayers (although it is for us to judge whether or not they are worthy of our vote) — and, indeed, if we feel they are unworthy, then it is for us to pray all the harder

Yanklowitz presented his new prayer earlier this week in a Facebook post. “I felt that it was not enough to simply avoid the U.S. 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,” he wrote.

His prayer reads in part:

May agents of hate who stray from Your holy vision of love and justice, found within and outside our country, be averted. May all of Your creations be handled mercifully. May all to whom You have given the sanctity of life awaken and fulfill their calling to bring love, justice, and kindness to all corners of Your world.

This Rabbi does not speak for me or my religion.

I’ll preface my remarks by reminding everyone I have not been a fan of Donald Trump’s boorish and misogynistic behavior during the election. Had I been an American citizen, I am not sure I would have voted for him (but am sure I would not have voted for Hillary Cllinton).

I think it is unfair to be judging Donald Trump before he has even set foot in the office of the President. Imagine if G-d had adopted the same approach with Moses, before he became leader of the Jewish people, when he tried to back out of the responsibility (as appears in this very week’s Torah reading).

To take the Moses analogy further, our sages tell us that even when Moses was dealing with Pharaoh, announcing the impending plagues, he showed him the respect due to the office of the king. And I am not for one second suggesting Donald Trump is akin to the evil Pharaoh.

Besides all of this, it is never a good idea to be politicizing religion. No good ever comes of that.

I understand people’s concerns about Donald Trump (in addition to the very positive things we are so far seeing, including the pledge to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem). But just like there are those who say “Give peace a chance”, I say give President Trump a chance.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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