God Save The Queen - But Not The Jews?

I fondly recall our rabbi in the synagogue I attended in England solemnly and loudly praying for the welfare of the Royal Family, in English, from the bimah. The older siddurim there had the names of kings, queens and princes long departed. 

This is an ancient tradition in Jewish communities around the world, to pray for the welfare of one’s host countries and rulers, usually in the language of that country.

The earliest source is Biblical:

And 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. (Jeremiah 29:4-7)

And in the Mishna, it states (Avot 3:2; and cf. Avodah Zarah 4a):

Rabbi Hananya the Deputy High Priest says: Pray for the welfare of the Kingdom (=Rome), for were it not for the fear of it, a man would swallow his neighbor alive.

Rabbi Hananya lived at the end of the Second Temple period. He is saying that the Jews should pray for the Roman government for, if not for them, there would be chaos and anarchy in society.

I have therefore never understood why only dati leumi/National Religious communities (in Israel) publicly say a prayer for the welfare of the State of Israel and for the safety and success of our soldiers, whereas most/all of my Hareidi brethren and communities do not.

Of course, I am aware that the National Religious enthusiasm-to-fervour over the theological importance of the State’s foundation and existence, and the focus on Yishuv HaAretz (the commandment to settle the Land of Israel) as perhaps the most defining mitzvah of our generation, has left many of our Hareidi brethren cold.

However, anyway-you-cut-it, The State of Israel exists, Baruch Hashem, and is the flourishing home to over 6 million self-governing Jews.

So, regardless of whether the State of Israel is an event of theological significance (the beginning of redemption) – or is simply a self-governing country filled with millions of Jews - it does seem wholly appropriate to pray for its safety and prosperity.

I am totally at a loss therefore why so many fellow religious Jews apparently don’t feel/do this.

As for the prayer for the Israel Defence Forces….

I find this tefilla (prayer) a moving example of hakarat hatov (appreciation/gratitude for good deeds) together with simple human concern for our Jewish sons and brothers who put their lives on the line, constantly, against our many vicious, villainous, murderous enemies. Without the IDF, the over six million Israeli Jews would not be able to live in Israel. Fact.

It is one thing to avoid sending yeshiva students into the army (a discussion for another time), but quite another to (apparently) mix that decision, with caring and praying for the welfare of Jews who do serve in the Army and by so doing put themselves in danger to protect the whole country, including the yeshivot.

It seems to me that not saying the Prayer for the State or the Prayer for the IDF may be due to this chain of illogic:-

1. I don’t ‘recognise’ the theological aspect of the establishment and existence of the State of Israel
2. I will not (publicly) pray for its wellbeing
3. I will not (publicly) pray for the safety and success of our soldiers.

Of course, this is a non-sequitur. There are no such logical connections between these three separate concepts. (At most, there is an emotional school-yard level sequence: I don’t approve of you, therefore I do not wish for you to be protected from harm; and nor should anyone who protects you be protected from harm).

Such an approach seems illogical, ungrateful and uncaring - and very far from the true feelings of my hareidi friends. I simply don’t get it. 
Can someone explain?


  1. There are two separate issues:
    1) The Prayer for the State of Israel is not merely the Israeli counterpart of the British, American or Canadian prayer for the welfare of that country. Those prayers simply state: "Dear God, make sure things are well run in these here parts. Thank you." The Israeli version, however, is very much a Dati Leumi prayer from its start where it refers to Israel as the first flowering of the redemption to the end when it uses psukim discussing the ingathering of the exiles at the end of days. It's no mystery why the Chareidim don't use this prayer. However, I've also been in Chareidi shuls over here (North America) where no prayer for the welfare of the state is said either. Which brings me to my second point:
    2) The prayer for the Tzahal is also ideologically a Dati Leumi prayer in that it uses psukim to refer to the army not just as any old old that happens to be defending the locals but a Jewish army to which those verses might apply. Again, no mystery as to why the Chareidim avoid this but there's another reason. If one looks at how Chareidim, as mentioned above, often don't say the prayer for the welfare of the state they live in outside of Israel, there develops a clear aspect of avoidance of hakaras hatov. They just don't want to say thank you, possibly because that would imply that the state, not God directly, is responsible for their well-being.

  2. Hi Garnel - I'm not getting down to the level of what words to use or not to use in these prayers.
    But why they don't say ANY prayer for the State of Israel or the IDF?

  3. 1) Tzahal - I can't speak for many countries but how many Jewish communities in golus pray for the local army's success? Of course, the counter-argument is that none of those countries are in existential danger of being wiped out if the army screws up.
    2) The country - it's the warped "no hakaras hatov on principle!" The community which survives on government money refuses, on principle, to show any gratitude to that government. Why? Ask them because it makes no sense to me.

  4. 1. Do you know of shuls abroad which say a misheberach for the host nation but not for the State of Israel? (In my experience it's either both or neither.)

    2. What you're pointing out is a basic flaw in human nature, and we Jews are all too human. It should be that halacha and morality help us arrive at a set of community norms. Instead, we tend to work backwards, starting with a set of norms that we hold sacred (and identify with, cling to) and then post-facto we use halachic and moral talk merely to justify those norms. That's why reasoned argumentation rarely works - it's a challenge to people's identity.

    But don't think for a minute that this characteristic of human nature is limited to the charedi world. If you presented a flawless, objective analysis (halachic and moral) as to why *not* to say the misheberach, do you suppose dati leumi shuls would stop saying it all of the sudden? Not a chance!

  5. An absence of leadership such as Rav Moshe Feinstein (the last of a breed) that unites all Jews pretty much illustrates that nobody can favorably influence the masses. Those thugs make up their own religion, such as throwing rocks at defenseless female adults babies in cars driven by women or hang black flags on yom ha'atzmaut to demonstrrate their "love" for Torah. The avot and imahot would be sickened by the dysfunctional behavior. Mishpacha magazine made a huge mistake to portray toldos aharon miscreants as nice people. They start many anti-Jewish, anti-Israel riots and lead in other criminal activity. I wouldn;t be surpised to learn that the miscreant who put drugs in the suitcases of those yeshiva boys in Japanse prison is anti-Israel too.

  6. It is futile to try to find any logic in the chareidi stand on the issue of the prayer for the state and tzahal. The kfiyut tovah is unconscionable. They are blind to the fact that the State and they army make it possible for the Torah world to flourish as never before. Meileh they do not participate in the milchemet mitzvah, but not to acknowledge the sacrifice of those who do is a shanda

  7. Question...and I'm sorry to bring up the sticky subject of "that" shul. If BTYA actively encourages support for Moshe Feiglin ( Zionist and strong supporter for army service), why don't they say the prayer for Israeli armed services? Obviously by following Feiglin and not Gimmel, they are stating that they are somewhat Zionist. By supporting Slifkin, they are not following the mainstream Haredi leadership, so why no prayer? Why have events for the release of Pollard and not for Gilad Shalit? It's all very confusing. can anyone shed light on this? See, David, no one mentioned the Rav even once!

  8. What got to me was when I davened in a Charedi shul that said a special prayer for the boys in Japan but not Chas Vesholom for Shalit or any other missing soldiers...

  9. I would like to give on reason.

    The State of Israel is meant to not exist forever and we pray every day for Moshiach to come which will mean the end of the State of Israel and will B"H go back to being a land run by the laws of the Torah which is Malchus and not Democracy. Why pray for the continued existence when it goes against the way Hashem really wants it to be?

    I do think davening for soldiers, in fact davening for every Jew is important at all times.

  10. PART 1

    I've been thinking about it more over this past Shabbos and I appreciate you David for providing a platform where issues can be discussed in a non-attacking way. I hate labels, but if I was given one I guess it would be American Charedi. My derech is one of Chareidi and I hold and follow the Chareidi derech. That being said I do not judge my fellow Jew whether they are religious zionists, not religious at all, Chasidish or any type of Jew. No Jew today has the right to judge.. forget about right.. no Jew today has the knowledge and Tzidkus needed to judge another Jew. I love all my fellow Jews and seek nothing but peace between them. I have even said more than a few times that it would be my biggest honor if one of my daughters married a Religious Zionist as long as he was an Emes dika Ben Torah and was serious about getting close to Hashem.

    That being said I do feel there is a lot of misunderstandings between the Chareidi ways and that of the Religious Zionist ways. Where as in the article in comments you state that you simply have no understanding of how we think a certain way, you should also understand that we also don’t understand a lot of your ways. Having this open dialogue is a good way to at least hear each other’s point of view and even have a healthy debate.
    The one thing that is not up for debate is that there is no wrong or right way between those that serve Hashem. I think both camps agree or should agree that as long as you follow the laws of the Shulchan Aruch and live your life everyday as one seeking to get close to Hashem then we should love and respect each other’s ways of doing so. There were 12 tribes after all.

    So let’s get to it. Keep in mind that I mean no disrespect, but if I do tend to be a bit forward.

    First off, on my comment posted Erev Shabbos, I realized that it is more than just the State of Israel that will disappear, but religious Zionism itself will disappear. Think about it, when Moshiach comes and the land of Israel is governed by Malchus and the laws of the Torah, what will be the point in religious Zionism? In fact, do you think people will still celebrate Yom Hamatzmiut? By religious Zionists davening for the Geula you are in fact davening for your own demise as religious Zionists and the end of the State of Israel.

    Now another issue you bring up is the lack of davening for Gilad Shalit, may he be released in good health today! Or for other captured soldiers. But this question goes both ways. Please name me the Religious Zionist shuls that have been davening for the bachurim in Japan or for Reb Shalom Rubashkin.

  11. Part 2

    When talking about the soldiers it becomes a very sensitive subject and I want to try and tread carefully.

    Let’s start by quoting something that David says above: “Without the IDF, the over six million Israeli Jews would not be able to live in Israel. Fact.” You state this as fact, but it is simply not true. If Hashem wanted us to survive and be well I believe he can do it without the help of the IDF. I don’t put my faith in the IDF for really anything (I do daven for their welfare as I do all the Jews worldwide) my Emuna is only in Hashem. Do you really think if Iran Chas V’Shalom would send nuclear missiles against us I would feel safe because of the IDF? Or if there is another war and missiles are coming at us from Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and the West Bank that I’m going to feel safe because of the IDF? Come on? The real answer why we are safe and still exist surrounded by enemies is only because of Hashem! Don’t believe me? I was in Israel during the Gulf War when 39 scud missiles hit Israel and only one person died from the impact of the missiles and that was a farmer who was bringing pig into the country. I saw myself and heard of hundreds of miracles that happened. Now is not the time to go through them, but it was only Hashem’s mercy on us and love for us that thousands were not killed which should have happened Al Pi Derech Hateva. Let me ask you something. Was it the IDF that did anything to help us in that war? Was it the IDF we turned our eyes to? They did absolutely nothing as there was nothing they could do.

    Do you want to take a look at the Yom Kippur war? Have you read the news lately? If you want to hear the Chareidi response to the Yom Kippur was and understand our feelings then I strongly advise you to read this article: http://www.mishpacha.com/getPdf/1/329/8/0/3
    I believe Religious Zionism puts to much faith in the IDF.

  12. Part 3

    In another comment above someone says: “They are blind to the fact that the State and they army make it possible for the Torah world to flourish as never before. Meileh they do not participate in the milchemet mitzvah, but not to acknowledge the sacrifice of those who do is a shanda.” A couple of problems with this. 1. As I wrote above it is not the State and Army that makes anything possible, it is just Hashem that makes things possible. 2. How can you say that what is going on today is Milchemet mitzvah? Do you know all the halachos to say that whats going on is considered Milchemet Mitzvah? For the benefit of the doubt, lets say it is a Milchemet Mitzvah. If it was then we would be better off if 95% of the IDF would stay home. When you look in the Torah for the laws of the army, Hashem states that anyone who has built a home and not yet lived in it is patur, anyone who is engaged but not yet married is patur, anyone who builds a vineyard but not yet ate from its fruits is patur and then the most astounding is anyone who is afraid is patur. What does it mean someone who is afraid? It means that someone who has done aveiros and is afraid he would die in battle because of these aveiros. Hashem only wants Tzaddikim in his army and it’s the Tzadikim that can win the battles. Look in this past weeks Parsha. Avraham Aveniu won the war against the 5 kings by throwing sand. Or how about the Macaabees. It was the Tzaddikim that went out to battle and won the wars.

    Now to say anything about the Cheareidim not serving in the army (which I don’t think was brought up above) well the Torah learning and the Chesed that goes on amongst all types of Yidden in Eretz Yisroel is really what keeps us safe.

    Now one last comment as I know or hope there will be some response. The question being asked in essence is why don’t the Chareidim follow the ways of the Religious Zionists in terms of prayers ( and really in terms of anything having to do with the State).
    The main answer could be that Chareidim can trace their lineage and ways of following Torah directly back to Moshe M’sinai where as Religious Zionisim is only what, about 80,90 years old and as mentioned above is not meant to last forever? It is hard to ask someone that has been following tradition for thousands of years to change certain ways of doing things based on something that has not been around all that long.

    One last point and then I’ll end with a quote. There were Charaidim living in Eretz Yisroel long before and through the founding of the State of Israel. They were there first. Is it fair to force them to follow laws that are not coming from the Torah? Force them to keep the secular laws of the State of Israel? To force them and their descendents to go into the army? To change their ways of living that has been passed down for thousands of years? Not really right is it?

    Just want to end with this quote: “But I want to say something else: Without the chareidim, without the people who for the past 2,000, 3,000 years, faithfully kept our religion – none of us would be here today. Everyone understands this, everyone must understand it. Therefore, we have tremendous respect for you. Why are we here? Thanks to you.” Stanley Fischer, Bank of Israel Governor and recently ranked as the number one banker in the world.


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