Praying for Israel, Part III

By | Tagged: Practices

Over the last few days, I’ve written much (I, II, III) about the Prayer for the State of Israel and Altshul’s decision to offer different versions of this liturgical component. But I’ve yet to compare the actual versions.

As mentioned, Version I was published after the founding of the State by the Chief Rabbinate; Version II was adapted from the Reconstructionist movement’s prayerbook Kol Haneshamah.

Version II begins:

Please God, bless the State of Israel. Protect it in the abundance of your love. Spread over it the shelter of your peace. Send forth your light and truth to those who lead and judge it, and to those who hold elective office. Establish in them, through your presence, wise counsel, that they might walk in the way of justice, freedom and integrity.

Noteworthy, is the fact that this alternative text is still, fundamentally, a Zionist prayer. It asks God to not only bless “Israel” but “the State of Israel.”

How does this differ from Version I?

Version I begins:

Our Father who is in heaven, Protector and Redeemer of Israel, bless the State of Israel, the dawn of our deliverance. Shield it beneath the wings of Your love; spread over it Your canopy of peace; send Your light and Your truth to its leaders, officers, and counselors, and direct them with Your good counsel.

Here we have the traditional male God-language and the assertion that the emergence of the state is part of a messianic process; it is “the dawn of our deliverance.”

Next are some more subtle differences. Version I:

Strengthen the defenders of our Holy Land; grant them, our God, salvation and crown them with victory. Establish peace in the land, and everlasting joy for its inhabitants.

And Version II:

Strengthen the hands of those who guard our holy land. Let them inherit salvation and life. And give peace to the land, and perpetual joy to all its inhabitants.

Version I’s use of the word “defenders” makes silent reference to aggressive enemies and perhaps a military conflict; and while both versions ask for the salvation of the “guardians,” only Version I asks for “victory.” While both versions then ask for peace and joy, the second version specifically asks for it for all Israel’s inhabitants.

Posted on April 17, 2008

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