Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Question for SERIOUS Discussion

I was approached by a congregant this past Shabbat evening, who had a pressing concern to share. His concern revolved around the wording of our prayer for those serving our country overseas. As one with a background in the Armed Forces himself, his concern (if I understood correctly and am doing it justice here) was that we may not be as sensitive, in the wording of this prayer for our own, to the concerns and needs of ALL who are endangered by our military presence in foreign lands as we might be.

I respected his concern, and see where he might have a valid point. Together, we agreed to post the question here, along with the text of the prayer, and let others chime in. My request is that, regardless of whether you agree or disagree, you offer concrete suggestions for how to improve this prayer to make it truly reflective of the Jewish sensibility regarding peace, and Temple Solel's own commitment to tikkun olam b'sheim Adonai -- improvement of our world for the sake of God's name.

For Our Soldiers and Civilians Overseas

Our prayers go out to the men and women who, whether by desire or by direction, are now, or soon will be, in the midst of conflict and battle.

O God, gather them together under the protective shadow of the wings of Your Shechinah. Protect them, guard them, and keep them from harm. O God Who gives life and values life, bring them back soon and successfully, whole of mind and body, to all those who love them. May the honor and courage that You have placed within them guide them as they serve our nation. Amen.


  1. I would be very careful about using the expression "all" since armed forces are meant to do harm to someone, hopefully those who are evil. So, if we must change the prayer, add something to the effect that innocents are spared.

  2. I think all prayers are imperfect, but it's good to say them anyway. Do we pray that we're the good guys? That we only kill bad guys?

    I love this prayer as it is, but yes, it doesn't address the fact that we are killing people and perhaps that's not the best reflection of God's will. Fortunately God hears and understands our flawed requests.

    I pray that if world peace is too much to ask for, that there might be an end to cruelty.

  3. I think praying for a speedy return to the peace of God on the land they are serving in and that they may be brought home quickly and undamaged.

  4. Finally -- a discussion! David, I assume your concern is with my use of "all" in my comments before the prayer, rather than the one, fairly innocuous usage IN the prayer itself. If so, that is EXACTLY the point my friend was making -- how do we pray for someone's speedy return if in order to achieve that end might require unnecessary suffering for others.

    Ann -- as usual -- I love your point, even if I am NOT completely sure that I agree with it. Certainly all human-written prayers are likely to be imperfect, as they are, by definition, the product of imperfect humans who do not have access to the total understanding of God's plans for us and our world. However, because they are Divinely inspired, I would hope that some day God will once again place inspiration into an imperfect human to create a perfect prayer. I say once again, because I believe the Priestly Blessing" found in Numbers 6 pretty much IS perfect -- and I will leave the debate over whether it is Divinely written or "merely" Divinely inspired to others! I am also not compoletely comfortable using the necessity of human imperfection as an excuse to quit trying to improve.

    And Lou -- if you are out there -- I am waiting for you to weigh in on this, my friend!

  5. Good day to everyone...sorry Rabbi that it has taken me a while to get going on this being as I started the question. Here's my thinking:

    At this season of Passover, I am reminded that even in our giving of praise to God for our deliverance from bondage, we remember that someone had to die for us to be free. As I said to the children today, we celebrate our freedom but must remember that it was paid for by the blood of some of God's children. After 21 years of service to our country, I find that I am one that prefers peace rather than war. I believe that war brings nothing other than more war. We can look at our history and see that we are in a war now due to our policies of the past. Although this is a discussion that may be outside of this conversation, the question that I would have is shouldn't we be praying for a peaceful conclusion to the hostilities and the successful return of everyone that might be away from their loved ones?

    Before Rabbi started using this prayer, we only prayed together for peace. Although I do pray that our sons and daughters, wives and husbands, all come home safely and securely, I hate to think that we are not aware that the mission is to eliminate the terrorists either by death or capture. The mission of the military is to get the enemy to do your will. Wouldn't it be better if we did God's will?

    All I'm asking is to add something like, "Please God, put an end to all hostilities in our homes and in other lands." (of course, I'm not a Rabbi so the wording could be much better!)

    Thanks for listening.


  6. Well stated -- as I knew it would be when you finally got here :) Well dear readers, your input?