Praying for the Government

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61 Responses

  1. L. Oberstein says:

    Rabbi Korobkin is absolutely right. I feel that there is a much greater problem than simply reciting a rote prayer, something done in the shuls I frequent. There is a sense of alienation, a disconnect from being an “American”. We have lost the unity that we had on 9/11 and replaced George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s vlues with Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh. How can a “wise and understanding nation” lack so much sense. Rabbi Korobkin dosn’t go deeper into the real disease that infects our community. Hatred of the other and distrust of the other and identification with reactionary trends that are a danger to our nation’s wellvbeing.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    This decline in patriotic thinking may also be a spillover from the similar trend in general society since the 1960’s.

    One of these days, our leaders in Washington will be worthy of our prayers for them; saying the prayers may bring this time closer.

  3. Jewish Observer says:

    ” If you daven in a shul where the Tefilla LiShlom HaMedina – the Prayer for the Welfare of the Government is not recited, respectfully approach your rabbi. Ask him: What is the basis for our not reciting it, if the Avudraham, the Magen Avraham, Rav Yisrael Salanter, et al, all did?”

    – Did the Chasidishe oilam also always recite it? I think the basis for many of the customs of those who managed to stay frum until now comes from the nusach sefard world which was significantly more successful at staying frum. A mundane example – why has it become almost standard for yeshiva type people to wait with boys’ haircuts until age 3?

  4. Yossie Abramson says:

    Good luck. I asked a rav and gabbai in town why the shul doesn’t say it. Their response was lacking. If I want to say it, I can say it.
    Bottom line is that it is no longer considered yeshivish to say it and people will lose street creed if their shul says it.

  5. Nachum Lamm says:

    Just wondering if you’d apply this to Jews living in Israel too.

  6. mb says:

    Bravo! When I first saw the Artscroll Siddur, I was shocked at its omission.

  7. JoelG says:

    Dear Editors:

    This is an excellent piece and the comments should directly address the author’s points. Please don’t allow things to descend into a political discussion as has been the case lately; that’s what Talk Radio is for.

    Thank you!

    – Joel

  8. Bruce says:

    There may have been a comment like the famous vort, “America stands for ‘Am Reika’ – an Empty Nation.”

    This is exactly right, imposed by design, and a good thing.

    America is a pluralistic country. Many people of many different beliefs live together and form a civil society. The only way this work is if American laws are limited to those of general social concern, like criminal law, property law, contract law, etc. Social mores are not legislated, and in fact are not even enforced by social sanction.

    Instead, America presupposes that people will form smaller communities where such social mores are enforced by social sanction, but not by force.

    So American law broadly protects freedom of speech, and truth is always a defense in a defamation suit. But Congress has not declared that offensive or harmful speech is good; only that it is not illegal. The Jewish community promulgates and enforces the rules of l’shor hara by education, social sanction, and social pressure. And other communities in America may have other standards, some good and some bad.

    But it is simply wrong to infer from the lack of American social or moral laws that America as a whole condones anti-social or immoral behavior.

  9. lacosta says:

    while a nice column, i can’t see that this hasbara piece will have any influence at all. i think the anti-secular-institutions orientation is too ingrained. government is just there to get in the way of haimish practice– whether making one pay taxes, limiting housing size, not letting you put a matza bakery in the backyard etc. i think many if not most people see frum jews arrested as being anti-semitism. the hassidic
    and israeli haredi experience is anti-government bichlal.

    i think the counter argument would be that those rishonim probably had to put these tfillos in to avoid pogroms.

    i was taught by rebbeim who said ‘ tora umada? tora vavoda? tora pepsicola!!’ ie tora and nothing . that mindset cannot pledge allegience to anything but Hashem…..

  10. cvmay says:

    I purposely chose a shul in Flatbush where the tefillah for the US government and IDF soldiers are said, this enhances my kavanah and sets my focus straight.

    (#3 As a child of parents who were architects of the Young Israel movement and daveners of nusach ashkenaz (the nusach of litvash bnei yeshiva), I do not believe that your statement about nusach sefrad % ‘staying frum’ has any accuracy.)

    “The Kol Bo, Magen Avraham, and Aruch HaShulchan all cite the custom to pray for the government.[2] The great 19th century rabbinic leader, Chasam Sofer, using unusually forceful language for a halacha responsum, states emphatically that a Jew has an even greater obligation to show respect for the government than his non-Jewish counterparts. He goes so far as to say that someone who does not honor the king is like someone who doesn’t don tefillin![3]”— DOES THIS APPLY TO RESIDENTS OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL, and showing respect & honor to its government?

  11. aron feldman says:

    There is a sense of alienation, a disconnect from being an “American”. We have lost the unity that we had on 9/11 and replaced George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s vlues with Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh. How can a “wise and understanding nation” lack so much sense. Rabbi Korobkin dosn’t go deeper into the real disease that infects our community. Hatred of the other and distrust of the other and identification with reactionary trends that are a danger to our nation’s wellvbeing.

    Comment by L. Oberstein — September 15, 2009 @

    R”Elchonon,

    It wasn’t Rush or Glen Beck who made such choice comments about America after 9/11.Does the name Jeremiah Wright ring a bell? Or since you idolise one of his parishioners,he was obviously misquoted or deserves a free pass?

  12. Oren says:

    Though I agree with the author’s observations regarding the lack of recognition of the great host country America has been during this long golus (exile)and it is worth discussion, I don’t necessarilly see the direct correlation between this and the recent criminal scandals. I also dont think that adding the prayer for the welfare of the government is where we should be putting our energy to try and address these ills that have developed in our midst (fyi, my shul happens to say it!).

  13. Ori says:

    L. Oberstein: There is a sense of alienation, a disconnect from being an “American”. We have lost the unity that we had on 9/11 and replaced George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s vlues with Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh

    Ori: People who take the time to argue for Rush Limbaugh, or for President Obama, are acting as Americans. Maybe silly Americans with really bad ideas(1), but Americans who want to see this country do well.

    The problem Rabbi Korobkin discusses is people who are alienated from America. Those are people who don’t care about Rush Limbaugh or President Obama, except in the sense of “how can I get the most from the Goyim, while giving back the least”.

    (1) At least one member of {Rush Limbaugh, President Obama} has really bad ideas. Let’s not argue over which one here, unless the Torah tells us one or the other.

  14. Bob Miller says:

    I have an old Hebrew Publishing Co. Ashkenazic siddur (Hebrew-only text and instructions) that has the names of William Howard Taft and his VP, transliterated into Yiddish, in its prayer for the US government. Also, I have a Sephardic siddur from London that mentions the current Queen Elizabeth by name.

    As for the American unity on and after 9/11/2001, that only lasted until a certain party found it useful to trash the sitting President.

  15. observer says:

    Excellent point. Although I’m not sure why you didn’t quote the key source: the Gemara in Avoda Zara 4a (רבי חנינא סגן הכהנים אומר הוי מתפלל בשלומה של מלכות שאלמלא מוראה של מלכות איש את רעהו חיים בלעו).
    One can fulfill this gemara by oneself and without a set nussach, but the general requirement is an integral part of Torah sh’ba’al pe.

  16. Daniel Shain says:

    I also have wondered about the shuls in the LA area that don’t say a tefila for the government. However, I’m not sure about the extension to the Pledge of Allegiance or to displaying the flag. These don’t seem to be the same thing as the halachic obligation to pray for the welfare of the government. Isn’t there a tshuva from Rav Moshe zt”l about displaying the US flag in shul (I don’t have my Iggros Moshe handy at the moment). I’m not really even sure what it means to pledge allegiance to the flag….

  17. Nachum Lamm says:

    “replaced George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s vlues with Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh.”

    Who’s to say their values aren’t identical?

    Jewish Observer: Your claim has no merit. The facts are at least partially due to the fact that the Nazis invaded Hungary years after they invaded Lithuania.

    Bruce: You need to get out of the blue states more. Lots of Jews do.

  18. Mr. Cohen says:

    My synagogue stopped praying for the government during the presidency of Jimmy Carter (1976 to 1980). We felt that he was obviously prejudiced against Israel. Since then, Jimmy Carter has provided abundant evidence of his fanatical hatred of Jews and Israel.

  19. Reb Yid says:

    All American siddurim, regardless of denomination, were very patriotic until the 1960s. Check the pre-Artscroll RCA edition (DeSola Pool) for a beautiful prayer about America and the world, using phraseology like “Sim Shalom Al HaOlam”.

    A lot of this had to do with generations that truly appreciated America…they remembered all too well what life was like in Europe. A lot also had to do with the fact that Jews volunteered in very large numbers during World War II. America was seen as the good country fighting the good war.

    Vietnam changed all of that. While most denominations still have prayers about America, the patriotic nature isn’t quite as strong as it once was, particularly as American Jewry becomes more and more removed from its immigrant roots.

    The other issue since the 1960s is the increasingly sectarian nature of large swaths of Orthodoxy, including those who publish the siddurim used by nearly all Orthodox Jews.

  20. great unknown says:

    In my shul, I have made the following modifications, which allow me to continue saying the relevant tefillot:

    הנותן תשועה למלכים וממשלה לנסיכים, מלכותו מלכות כל עולמים, הפוצה את דוד
    עבדו מחרב רעה, הנותן בים דרך ובמים עזים נתיבה, הכורת את אויבי עמו ישראל ומעביר רשעה וזדון מן העולם, הוא ישפיל וידכא ויכרות את כל שונאי ישראל, ויברך וישמור וינצור ויעזור וירומם ויגדל וינשא למעלה את אנשי הממשלה הישרים שאינם שונאי ישראל …

    אבינו שבשמים, צור ישראל וגואלו, ברך את מדינת ישראל, שתהא ראשית צמיחת גאולתנו, הגן עליה באברת חסדך, ופרש עליה סכת שלומך. ושלח אורך ואמתך לראשיה שריה ויעציה, ותקנם בעצה טובה מלפניך. ואת אנשי הממשלה, הביטחון, ומערכת המשפט שדוגלים נגד היהדות ומדינת יהדות, השפיל והסיר משלטון עד שיקבלו עליהם עול מלכותך…

    The tefillot, of course, continue as usual after the modifications.

    I have also taken out the location indicators in the tefilla for Zahal, and replaced them with the more universal בכל מקום שהם

    I explained the modifications to the tzibbur the first time I invoked them, and the general consensus is approval.

  21. Adamchik says:

    I thought that the point of the prayer was to pray that the leaders of the country “deal kindly with us and with all Israel.” Whether it is Taft, Carter, or Bush, how can this ever be considered a problem or controversial?! To be so absorbed in learning that this prayer feels irrelevant seems to border on nihilism.

  22. Ori says:

    Mr. Cohen: My synagogue stopped praying for the government during the presidency of Jimmy Carter (1976 to 1980). We felt that he was obviously prejudiced against Israel. Since then, Jimmy Carter has provided abundant evidence of his fanatical hatred of Jews and Israel.

    Ori: Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for divine guidance and wisdom for somebody who shows such a lack of wisdom?

  23. Jewish Observer says:

    “Jewish Observer: Your claim has no merit”

    – Reb Nochum, Don’t I get partial credit for trying? 🙂

    “The facts are at least partially due to the fact that the Nazis invaded Hungary years after they invaded Lithuania.”

    – How does that negate what I said? (that the nusach sefard world had better success at staying frum)

  24. tzippi says:

    To 18: why stop because of an incompetent president? There are still two other branches of government, and perhaps those prayers are needed to hope they exercise their abilities of damage control.

    One famous story not mentioned in the article: around the turn of the twentieth century a shul was ransacked in Lodz, the excuse given that the holy books such as the Talmud were replete with anti-gentile rhetoric. The rav (known as “the detective rabbi” in one story anthology), Rav Elya Chaim Meisels, combed through the torn papers till he found a paper. As a formal case was made against the community, Rav Elya Chaim vindicated the community with his exhibit A, the prayer for the government found in every prayerbook, said at the most important weekly time of prayer.

    Now surely any rav would have loved to have amended or eliminated the prayer under the cruelty of the times of the tzar. It is a testimony to just how great a malchus shel chessed the US is that Mr. Cohen’s congregation could so freely do away with it.

  25. Harry Maryles says:

    There may have been a comment like the famous vort, “America stands for ‘Am Reika’ – an Empty Nation.” Or, perhaps it was just the emphasis on the tum’a (spiritual impurity) of the secular world that left me with a negative attitude toward my gentile countrymen and America in general.

    This – my friend – is what passes for Chinuch these days. And to prove this point I challenefg anyone herew whop davens in a shul that does not say the Tefilla L’Shlom HaMedina toget them to change that. There are two chances of that happening:

    1) Slim
    2) None

    It’s too late. The indoctrination is complete. The sad irony is that by teaching Jewish values in this way it actually undermines them. Mr. Korobkin is right about this attitude contributing to some of those who rationalize that cheating the government is just fine.

    In order to change this now entrenched mindset we have to do more than talk to a Rav of a Shul. We need to completely change the ‘anti America’ paradigm in many Yeshiva high schools. This can only be done with the help of the rabbinic leaders of Agudah and Torah U’Mesorah.

  26. aron feldman says:

    One reason IMO why the Tefilah for the Government went by the wayside in UO/Yeshivish style minyanim,is because during the 50’s the standard O services resembled that of a Church service,unfortunately the prayer for the Government was considered to be in that category

    Another theory is that the prayer for the US is lumped together with Tefilah La Medina,which due to it’s presumptuous
    tone,has never taken off in Yeshivish/UO shuls.From what I gather,the TLM has fallen out of favor in more DL type shuls as well in the past 10-15 yrs

  27. Charles B. Hall says:

    The following prayer was recited, in English, in the (one) synagogue in New York City, on November 26, 1789, on the occasion of the very first Thanksgiving Day proclaimed by President George Washington. (That congregation still exists as an Orthodox congregation, Shearith Israel.)

    May he that dispenseth salvation unto kings, and dominion unto princes; whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; that delivered his servant David from the destructive sword; that maketh a way in the sea, and a path through the mighty waters: Bless, preserve, guard, assist, and supremely exalt to the highest degree, the President and Vice-President of the Union, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America; the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and People of this State represented in Senate and Assembly, with the Judges and Magistrates of this city; and all Kings and Potentates in alliance with these States.

    May the Supreme King of Kings, through his infinite mercies, preserve them, and grant them life, and deliver them from all manner of trouble and danger. May he fix and establish them in their several departments in peace and tranquility. May the Supreme King of Kings implant among them amity, brotherly love and peace. Let not their lips speak evil, nor their tongues utter deceit.

    May the Supreme King of Kings, through his infinite mercies, impart his divine wisdom to the Rulers of these States, and grant them a spirit of just counsel, so that they may be enabled to support their determinations with wisdom and judgment; and may peace ever subsist between them and the Kings and Potentates in alliance with them; and establish to them a covenant of peace until time shall be no more, so that nation shall not lift up their sword against nation, neither shall they make war any more. Amen.

    Grant it thus, O Lord! for the sake of thy great and ineffable name, and for the sake of thy people, and thine inheritance, who offereth up their supplications to thee whose seat is in heaven, invoking thee to hasten and let thy tender mercies anticipate our prayers, for we are greatly deficient and undeserving; incline thine ear and hearken, and do not despise our unworthiness nor our cry unto thee.

    We beseech thee, O most gracious father and merciful King, to whom peace pertaineth, that thou wilt long cause us to enjoy a firm peace and tranquility; and as thou hast been pleased to establish us in peace, so spread over us they tabernacle of peace everlasting, and speedily effectuate, that among us may be heard “the voice of him who bringeth glad tidings,” announcing that “the redeemer cometh to Zion.” So be it thy will, and we will say Amen.

  28. Natan Slifkin says:

    Rabbi Korobkin, your article is superb. Growing up in England, my shul (black-hat, kids mostly going to charedi yeshivos) said the prayer for the Royal Family. It’s a little strange in England, where the Royal Family has no power at all, but at least it demonstrates respect, hakaras hatov, and the concept of being a good citizen.

  29. Meishiv K'halacha says:

    I heard that in Russia there were shuls with the tefilla for the Czar on the wall. However, there are numerous prayers that are not popular anymore (Mi shebeirach for Behab, and the one composed by the Tosfos Yom Tov (I believe) following tach v’tat. Lets be consistent, and if requesting that tefillah be said, insist the others be said as well.

  30. S. says:

    While it is a good article and I myself have had those very same thoughts and observations, it’s a complicated topic, because paradoxically, the US doesn’t require or ask or even necessarily want flag-waving patriotism, at least not all of the time. Or if it did 50 years ago, it doesn’t today. While certainly it behooves all of us not to be traitorous and slanderous of America, what exactly about America in contemporary thought and culture that is not of the Fox News variety, should compel yeshivaleit to conform to specific patterns of patriotism?

    While the prayer for the government is very, very traditional, it is designed for the kinds of governments Jews really prayed for: strong and tyrannical, the only kinds of governments they were tolerated under. In fact, the texts of the prayers and praises of the sovereigns of earlier times are almost comical, and not a little sad, in their fawning.

    I don’t think I’m really articulating what I mean so well. Hopefully someone will get it. Praying for the US government may or may not be a lovely gesture, but it is not exactly the same as praying for a “sultan adir.” Furthermore, there are good points about American culture, but American materialism wasn’t exactly first noticed by Chareidi rosh yeshivas or bachurim.

    I think what we’re looking for is balance. But that’s what is lacking in many areas in the society in question. Far better than encouraging saying the prayer, in mind, would be encouraging people to become educated about the issues of concern in America, to vote, to volunteer, and to become civic-minded (as many Orthodox Jews of all varieties already do and are).

  31. JZ says:

    Presumably the format and content of tefillos in this country’s great yeshivos have received a stamp of approval from the gedolim who founded and led these yeshivos: Rav Ruderman, Rav Aaaron Kotler, Reb Moshe Feinstein, Rav Gifter, Rav Hutner, Rav Pam, etc.

  32. Michael Mirsky says:

    “great unknown”‘s version of Tefilla for the government is very watered down and parve. “Hashem bless all the countries who don’t oppress us”. Is he too embarrassed to pay tribute to them by name? (Reminds me of the line in the movie Fiddler about the blessing for the Tzar – May G-d keep and bless the Tzar – far, far away from us!).

    And as far as the Tefilla for State of Israel, I can understand that not all accept the state as ראשית צמיחת גאולתנו
    so adding שתהא
    is reasonable. But the diatribe that follows against the government and judicial members who are against Yahadut and the Jewish state negates the initial blessing. Better to omit the entire tefilla if this is the only acceptable way to say it.

  33. S. says:

    >Presumably the format and content of tefillos in this country’s great yeshivos have received a stamp of approval from the gedolim who founded and led these yeshivos: Rav Ruderman, Rav Aaaron Kotler, Reb Moshe Feinstein, Rav Gifter, Rav Hutner, Rav Pam, etc.

    That ends the discussion, doesn’t it?

  34. LAWRENCE KAPLAN says:

    Rabbi Slifkin: To the contrary. Precisely because the Queen has no power and is the head of State but not the head of the goverment, she stands above politics and represents the country of England. In the US, by contrast, the president is both the head of State and the head of government. Therefore if one strongly disagrees with the president’s policies, it becomes difficult for one to pray that God should exalt him.

  35. great unknown says:

    Michael Mirsky (#32):
    a) It’s not “bless all the countries that don’t oppress us,” it’s “bless all the members of this government who are righteous [and] who are not anti-Jewish (which includes anti-Israel)”

    b) Why does the “diatribe” [of a form found many times in other tefillot and in Tehillim] against the anti-Yiddishkeit members of the power structure of Medinat Yisroel negate the initial blessing? Are you implying that by eliminating them from the tefilla, there is nobody left to bless?

    I personally feel that only a minority of the oligarchy in Eretz Yisroel qualify for this special opprobrium, although they have grasped power far beyond what their number would justify. If you, on the other hand, feel that there is nobody beyond those who who are “against Yahadut and the Jewish state” worth praying for, you are indeed correct that it is better to omit the entire tefilla – with or without my modifications.

  36. Reb Yid says:

    #30–Your points are well taken.

    The whole point about the Prayer for the Government, at least in America, is that it symbolizes American Jewish attitudes about being diaspora Jews.

    For many Jews, America is, indeed, different. The “traditional” prayer you correctly referred to has words and phrases like “rachmanut” that denote passivity, mercy and subservience…those were the first phrases that were edited out of the American version of this prayer over the years…again, you can see this across the denominations.

    I suspect that compared to 50 or 60 years ago there are fewer synagogues that have the American flag on the bimah or in the auditorium. And part of this is as you say….because our society does not demand this of us anymore (it’s also because Jews feel a LOT more comfortable about their status as American citizens…it’s simply taken for granted).

    While I agree that saying the prayer in and of itself should not be a “litmus test”, its evolution over time (including periods where some decide to omit it) is certainly telling from a historical and sociological perspective.

  37. cvmay says:

    TEACH PATRIOTISM plus more:
    The ‘Hidden Curriculum’ which consists of the many subjects (& hashgafa)that are NOT taught or specified during Chinuch hours are the sole responsibility of PARENTS.

    Parents stand up and be heard, teach your children about the holocaust (great idea of Project Witness & others of Torah Umesorah yet it has not hit any mesivta curriculum yet), visit Holocaust museums, meet survivors, tour American sites (Intrepid, West Point, Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Pentagon, Betsy Ross house, etc.), find interesting books, film strips and resources to educate them about early life in America compared to Jewish life in any other European country.

    If you are holding out and waiting for these subjects (including Emunah & hakaras Eretz Yisroel)to be taught in schools……..then you are/will be disappointed.

    That is one reason that I am a major advocator of the long summer recess, time to get my children/teens out of the rigid school routine to explore, research and enhance their education in different venues.

    Hatzlacha Rabba to all.

  38. Nachum Lamm says:

    JO:

    “Don’t I get partial credit for trying?”

    Sure!

    “How does that negate what I said? (that the nusach sefard world had better success at staying frum)”

    Since more Hungarians survived overall, their percentage of the frum world is also greater.

    Don’t fool yourself: While there were many secular Litvaks (many of whom did, however, maintain some kesher to Judaism through Zionism, the Haskalah, or the like, while many dropped all connection to Judaism for Communism and so on), there were many, many non-religious Polish (see, for example, much of the Fourth Aliyah) and Hungarian Jews. The latter, when they were secular, tended to go all the way and become completely assimilated, although there was of course a Reform movement and Zionism in Hungary.

  39. Bob Miller says:

    We (and other Americans) ought to resume flying flags in front of our homes on national holidays. This was common when I grew up, and also right after the 9/11 terrorism, but is now seldom seen in many neighborhoods.

  40. Charles B. Hall says:

    #30 Lawrence Kaplan wrote:

    “if one strongly disagrees with the president’s policies, it becomes difficult for one to pray that God should exalt him.”

    I think that it is precisely when there is a President with whom I strongly disagree that I need to say the prayer.

    We were willing to make korbonot in the Beit HaMikdash for Caesar Gaius Caligula. Does anyone really believe that either George W. Bush or Barack Obama are comparable to Caligula?

  41. Daniel Korobkin says:

    Thank you for all your comments to the article. If I may, two points:

    1. While for some, saying the pledge of allegiance and displaying a flag in our schools may be trivial, are not the corpus of our mitzvos designed with the same idea in mind, that is, to use external – and sometimes seemingly trivial – devices to motivate us to specific emotional and psychological states? I know this readership is quite an educated one, so all I need do is remind you of the Chinuch (16), that “ha’adam nifal kefi pe’ulosav” – “man is driven by his behavior.” Those trivial behaviors such as saying a prayer for the govt., I believe, will go a long way in changing our collective attitudes and behaviors.

    2. As I stated in the article, an anti-American sentiment within our yeshivos is only one contributing factor to recent criminal behavior, in my opinion. I also think (and this may make for a future article) that we need to look at broader sociological trends, as many of the bloggers have observed. I am reminded of Max Weber’s famous discussion of the “Protestant work ethic” (which is really the Calvinist work ethic), that drove earlier Americans to save their money and live humble lives instead of blowing their paycheck every weekend on big screen TV’s and exotic vacations. America in general is not what it used to be, and therefore American Jews are not what we used to be. Combine a voracious appetite for indulgence with the high cost and pressures of the Orthodox lifestyle and a good “Gemara kopp” that knows how to beat the system, and you have a toxic combination.

    Kesiva vachasima tova to all. May this year be filled with Kiddush Hashem’s aplenty.

    Daniel Korobkin

  42. S. says:

    >We were willing to make korbonot in the Beit HaMikdash for Caesar Gaius Caligula. Does anyone really believe that either George W. Bush or Barack Obama are comparable to Caligula?

    You say it like it’s a kal ve-homer, but I think it’s the exact opposite, homer ve-kal.

    Caligula had his fist around our throats; Bush and Obama, thank God, come and go every 4 or 8 years depending on the will of the American people (or the states), Jews as much as anyone else, included. In a meta sense “America” is good to the Jews, but not the president, not the current government. It’s more of a grand sweep of history thing. The traditional prayer was for the sovereign, not for the culture, which is really what has been good for Jews.

  43. Yoel B says:

    The occupant of the Oval Office may be a disgrace to his office or a credit to it. In either case, he or she will face reelection after the first term, and will serve two terms at most. The succession has been peaceful since George Washington stepped down. We can reasonably expect it to be peaceful the in 2012 or 2016; when through illness or assassination a President has died in office his successor has taken office peacefully, in an orderly fashion dictated by law. The President is not an absolute ruler.
    Those facts alone should be enough to have Jews praying for the welfare of the government..

  44. Ori says:

    S.: The traditional prayer was for the sovereign, not for the culture, which is really what has been good for Jews

    Ori: That’s a good point. It used to be that the ruler was the state. Now that is no longer the case.

    We should probably pray for the good of the US, and for God to give wisdom to the President. A wiser(1) President is obviously good for the US.

    (1) Not necessarily more intelligent, intelligence can be used for good or evil.

  45. Aaron says:

    And if your community has a Jewish Boy Scout/Cub Scout troop, support it.

    I’m fortunate and privileged to be a Cub Scout den leader at a kosher and shomer shabbos pack in Los Angeles in which some of Rabbi Korobkin’s students are scouts.

    The affiliated Boy Scout troop got its first Eagle Scouts last year. The activities are wholesome and practical. We’ve had amazing camping trips where we’ve taken a sefer Torah for services. When I go to the local scout store to pick up supplies or patches or whatever, the response is overwhelmingly positive, “You guys do this AND you have those constraints? Wow!” Shabbos camping always has an eruv and there’s a renewed opportunity to develop a of hakaras hatov for our modern luxuries (A/C, refrigeration, indoor plumbing) that even royalty 150 years ago didn’t have. Do we really know what it was like to make Shabbos in Slobodka 200 years ago? It was probably closer to living in a tent than in our contemporary homes.

    I wish scouting was more encouraged. I also wish that there was more encouragement for adults in our community to seek training to become scout leaders.

    “If not now, when?”

  46. Aaron says:

    Oh, and if your community doesn’t have a Jewish Boy Scout troop or Cub Scout den, consider forming one. Ours is starting its ninth year.

  47. Z. says:

    The leadership is not going to re-institute this practice because regular people ask for it. The shul’s that do not say the Tefilloh will only start if instructed by their own Rabbonim. Until then this will not happen.

    In addition, I am not sure that it’s wise for people to raise this point as it will serve to bring unnecessary controversy.

    Last year I was in Shul one Shabbos and the Rabbi gave a strong and impassioned Drosho before Mussaf about our need to Daven to Hashem to ensure that we lived in a safe country. He said “talking politics on the way to work is not good enough!” and that we must actually Daven to Hashem and recognize that everything is up to Him.

    When the speech was over, I turned to the person next to me and asked “So why not say the Tefilloh for the Government?” The person looked at me and smiled.

    After Davening I went over to the Rabbi as he was walking up the stairs from a Kidush back into the Main Shul. To the best of my recollection, this is what happened:

    Me: Excuse me, may I ask the Rav a question?
    R: Yes
    Me: Based on the Rav’s drosho today, how come the Shul does not say the Tefilo for the Government?
    R: Shemona Esrai is not good enough for you?
    Me: But….
    R: Tell me, what does “H’Mvoreich Es Amo Yisroel BaShalom” mean to you? Why do you need something else?
    Me: But then why do we make a special Mi Shebeirach for Cholim, when we say “Rofey Cholei Amo Yisroel?”
    R: (raised voice in front of a crowd of people in the Shul) Did Rav Moshe say it?! You think you know better than Rav Moshe?!
    Me: I don’t know if he did, or did not, but…

    At that point the Rabbi simply turned and walked away and started talking to other people nearby. I looked around, a little embarrassed and feeling very inadequate and left. Looking back, I am proud that I stood up for myself, but I have also resolved not to do that in my own Shul. Why do I need the aggravation? Why would I want to risk my child being degraded in Shul or Yeshiva, when I know that the Rabbi wont listen anyway?

  48. Charlie Hall says:

    “Caligula had his fist around our throats; Bush and Obama, thank God, come and go every 4 or 8 years”

    Fortunately, Caligula only lasted four years.

    “It used to be that the ruler was the state. Now that is no longer the case.”

    I found a 1765 prayer said in New York for the ruler:

    “May he that dispenseth Salavation unto Kings, and Dominion unto Princes, whose Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom, that delivered his Servant David from the destructive Sword, that maketh a Way in the Sea, and Path through the mighty Waters; Bless, preserve, guard, and assist, our most Gracious Soveriegn Lord, King George, our gracious Queen Charlotte, their Royal Highnesses George Prince of Wales, the Princess Dowager of Wales, and all the Royal Family. May the supreme King of Kings, through his infinite Mercies preserve them, and grant them Life and deliver them from all Manner of Trouble and Danger. May the supreme King lf Kings aggrandize and highly exalt our Sovereign Lord the King, and grant him logn and propserously to reign. May the supreme King of Kings inspire Him and, and his Council, and the States of his Kingdoms, with Benevolence towards us, and all Israel, our Brethern. In his, and our days, may Jehudah be saved, and Israel dwell in Safety. And may the REdeemer come unto Tzion; Which God of his infinite Mercies grant; and let us say: Amen.”

    That prayer didn’t prevent the British occupation army from sacking the synagogue in 1776; a few years ago the remnant of a Sefer Torah that had been partially burned by the British Army was on display in the lobby of Shearith Israel.

    Last summer while visiting Dublin, Ireland I heard a prayer said in shul in English for the President of Ireland and her ministers.

    “I wish scouting was more encouraged.”

    We now have shomer Shabat Boy Scout and Girl Scout programs in my neighborhood. Maybe there should be a Jewish Scouting Jamboree somewhere sometime soon?

  49. Aaron says:

    In LA we have an annual “Kinnus” where local Jewish troops gather.

    At the real Jamboree, the next one is in June or July of 2010, an eruv is erected and Boy Scouts can keep Shabbos. Some from our troop will be there.

    See also http://www.jewishscouting.org/

  50. Mordechai says:

    “Did the Chasidishe oilam also always recite it? I think the basis for many of the customs of those who managed to stay frum until now comes from the nusach sefard world which was significantly more successful at staying frum. A mundane example – why has it become almost standard for yeshiva type people to wait with boys’ haircuts until age 3?

    Comment by Jewish Observer”

    Do you know what the roshei teivos of the word frum stand for, according to an old quip, known to and recited by Hassidim? Fil rishus, veinig mitzvos (much rishus & few mitzvos, for the Yiddish impaired). In fact, that community has not been spared many scandals. Do you call that significantly more successful at Yiddishkeit? Be more wary of equating outer appearance with religiosity.

    The haircut thing has spread , due to people not realizing the problematic roots of the custom, which was and is opposed by gedolim like the Steipler and Brisker Rav.

  51. Elliot Pasik says:

    I daven in shuls where the tfila for the government is not said, and based on R Korobkin’s article, I will do something about it, bli neder. Those of us in the US actually live under two sovereigns, the US, and our State. Should the standard text be revised to include both the President and Governor?

  52. Tzurah says:

    To Z. — September 17, 2009 @ 2:54 pm (comment #47)

    Congratulations. The fact that the rabbi got worked up probably means that you had a good point.

  53. Moe says:

    The Agudah in Baltimore, under the direction of Rabbi Moshe Heinemann Shlit”a, recites a Tefilah for the government, out loud, from the Bima (and I believe holding the Sefer Torah) every Shabbos and mentions the US President and Vice-President by name in the Tefilah. If there’s any Shul representative of the bastion of Yeshivish culture in Baltimore, it’s this Agudah. Maybe Baltimore is considered somewhat out of town, and the Baltiore/Ner Yisroel mentality of balancing the ideal with the sensible have much to do with this, but I’d say that’s a strong precedent for all Shuls who hesitate to institute this Tefilah. I’ll also mention that I witnessed *Satmar* Shuls in New York reciting this Tefilah immediately after 9/11, although that didn’t last very long.

  54. Yossie Abramson says:

    The usual prayer, includes “all officials in the land” so that should include your Governor.

  55. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    The “Ama Reika” thing, claiming that the US is an empty nation, as far as I know was said by Rav Zvi Yehuda Kook zt”l. He refused to call the US “Artzot Habrit” saying that only we have the Brit. He said America, and he may have said the thing about Ama Reika, but I don’t know. He also used non-Hebrew words in place of other modern Hebrew vocabulary which he considered inappropriate.
    RZYK also had a vort about the Tfila L’Shlom Malchut in Chutz La’aretz (Hanoten Teshua Lamalelachim). He pointed out that the prayer uses selected parts of verses from Psalm 144, which in its entirety deprecates the kings of the goyim and looks forward to the kingdom of Mashiach ben David. The prayer praises the king or government while expunging the derogatory parts. In other words, when Jews say that prayer they are sort of winking. My understanding is that in this last generation before the Geula people have trouble being subtle anymore.

  56. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    Sorry, I wasn’t clear about “Ama Reika”. I am pretty sure that I heard it from talmidim of RZYK and I heard it decades ago. At the time I associated it with extreme Zionism rather than a hareidi point of view. I’ll try to track it down bl”n.

  57. Bob Miller says:

    If the underlying idea of the public prayer is Divine protection from harmful government actions and Divine encouragement of helpful ones, who could oppose it?

    Orthodox Jews who support Israel clearly have little direct influence or leverage on our current President, so prayer is the one effective method now to protect ourselves from him.

  58. L. Oberstein says:

    Orthodox Jews who support Israel clearly have little direct influence or leverage on our current President, so prayer is the one effective method now to protect ourselves from him.

    If you start with that assumption, you wont have influence on anyone. Smart people have worked to influence the leaders of various governments and ,over the centuries, have had some successes and some not. Don’t give up too soon. Have more emunah and bitchon that the One Above influences the leaders.

  59. Jewish Observer says:

    “The haircut thing has spread , due to people not realizing the problematic roots of the custom”

    – what do you mean by “problematic roots”?

  60. Yitz Turner says:

    Orthodox Jews are just as affected by culture as any group living in the Unitized States. Since the 1960’s there has been a general decrease in patriotism but this is not the reason we stopped saying the tefilo for the government. For whatever reason the yeshivas have stopped or never started the “minhag beis hakneset” such as making kiddush, havdalah etc. The majority of frum Jews have a stronger connection to their yeshivas than to the shuls they where raised in. Therefore when they leave yeshiva they wish to continue the atmosphere which formed and strengthened their yiddishkite.
    There is definitely a culture of bitul re: American pop culture which unfortunatly spills into individual non-Jews and the government which needs to be addressed.

  61. Bob Miller says:

    L Oberstein,

    I agree that people have to do what they can. Under the current circumstances, prayer is essential—even to achieve success in our work on the ground.

    It’s clear to me that the Jews who now have Obama’s ear are solely those on the far political left. If there is a strategy to change that, I’d love to see it and help it along.

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