Praying for the Welfare of the State of Israel

While following a tradition of praying for the government, this prayer has some significant differences.

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"Unite our heart to love and revere Thy Name, and to observe all the precepts of Thy Torah. Shine forth in Thy glorious majesty over all the inhabitants of Thy world. Let everything that breathes proclaim: The Lord God of Israel is King; His majesty rules over all." Amen.

This is much more than a prayer for the government. It is a proclamation of belief that:

1)      the establishment of the State of Israel is a divine event and that this event is the fulfillment of God's promise to the Jewish people and part of the divine plan to redeem the world;

2)      the maintaining of the state and its defense is a matter for God's intervention;

3)      God will bring all Jews to live in Israel from the Diaspora.

The ideology that is the basis of the prayer is expressed best by Rabbi Yehudah Amital, a former government minister and leading religious leader in Israel. He writes that Zionism is "…the Lord's vehicle for preparing Israel for its redemption. The habitation of the Land of Israel by a group of its children, transforming wastelands into gardens, and the establishment of independence within its borders, are stages in the process of redemption…and even though they are accompanied by suffering and tribulation, the strides are certain and the course is clear…"

The authorship of the prayer is unclear. Some say it was written by Chief Rabbis Yitzhak Herzog and Ben Zion Uziel with the assistance of other rabbis. Others suggest that the prayer was revised by the rabbis after suggestions made by Nobel Laureate Shmuel Yosef Agnon, one of the pioneers of modern Hebrew literature. Still others are convinced that Agnon wrote the prayer himself and that it was later adopted by the Chief Rabbinate.

Community Acceptance

A prayer for the State of Israel is recited in synagogues of most religious streams in Israel and the Diaspora (outside of the ultra-Orthodox communities). In Israel, most use the text of the Chief Rabbinate, although there are congregations that use their own versions and variations. In the Diaspora, there is even less conformity, and while many communities use the text of the Chief Rabbinate, many utilize other prayers.

There are many reasons why all congregations haven't adopted the Chief Rabbinates prayer.

Most of the arguments surrounding the prayer concern the Messianic role of the state.  The first line of the prayer pleads, "Bless Thou the State of Israel which marks the dawn of our deliverance."The belief that the Jewish state is the first step in redemption is seen by Rabbi Amital as "certain" and "clear," but the fact is that not everyone is certain and clear on this point.

For most haredim (ultra-Orthodox), no matter where they live, redemption will not be brought by the establishment of a secular state, but by the observance of Torah. Although the vast majority in this community are deeply connected to the state and are proud of it in many ways, they do not see the state in Messianic terms.

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Rabbi Ed Snitkoff

Rabbi Ed Snitkoff is the Director of the Ramah Israel Seminar and lives in Jerusalem.