Monday, January 19, 2009

Jewish Prayers for Obama (From the Jew York Times)

The Next War President: In synagogue on Saturday, before saying the customary prayer for our country, the rabbi asked us to reflect on the fact that a new president would be inaugurated on Tuesday, and urged us to focus a little more intently than usual on the prayer. The congregants did so, it seemed to me, as we read, “Our God and God of our ancestors: We ask your blessings for our country — for its government, for its leaders and advisers, and for all who exercise just and rightful authority... [More]

The rabbis I know - all of them Haredi - have pleasantly surprised me. I admit to expecting them to preach messages of hate and intolerance. I admit to expecting them to tell us that Obama is the tainted and damaged descendant of a people tainted and damaged dating to the time of Ham. It hasn't happened.

Instead, the Haredi rabbis I know have preached a legitimately Jewish message, one that is consistent with their fundamentalist values but, at the same time, one I can support. They have all said that the heart of a king belongs to God; they have all urged us to pray for God to guide Obama; and they have all said it is our responsibility alone if Obama enacts policies we find harmful.

Praying for the government is an old Jewish custom, and one that has, alas, fallen out of favor. I don't know why Orthodox Jews have dropped it, even as we we still recite anachronistic prayers, in a dead vernacular, for the leaders of the Babylonian academies. Perhaps, after Tuesday, some synagouges will reinstate the custom.

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