Prayers for a Shabbat of Peace



Most days, I'm not much of a pray-er, and I don't believe in a version of God that answers prayers. But I do appreciate the power of turning your heart and your thoughts to something, someone, or someplace in need. 

On this shabbat, that place is Israel.

As we read through the book of Bereshit (Genesis) in our weekly Torah study, we are closing in on the stories of the first of our ancestors to set a place for themselves in Israel. 

Abraham purchases a tomb for his beloved Sarah. 

Their grandson Jacob will literally become Israel when he wrestles with a mysterious man in the desert. 

And Joseph, the dream-reader, will ask that his bones be returned to Israel. The Hebrews carry them with them until Joshua fulfills Joseph's wish:

לב  וְאֶת-עַצְמוֹת יוֹסֵף אֲשֶׁר-הֶעֱלוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרַיִם, קָבְרוּ בִשְׁכֶם, בְּחֶלְקַת הַשָּׂדֶה אֲשֶׁר קָנָה יַעֲקֹב מֵאֵת בְּנֵי-חֲמוֹר אֲבִי-שְׁכֶם, בְּמֵאָה קְשִׂיטָה; וַיִּהְיוּ לִבְנֵי-יוֹסֵף, לְנַחֲלָה.32 And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in the parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.

Yesterday, October 15, 2015 (3 Cheshvan 5776) Joseph's tomb was set ablaze by the fires of rage, anger, and hatred. 



So this week, I pray. I never particularly resonated with the "traditional" Prayer for the State of Israel that was part of my childhood siddurim (prayer books). It was written in 1948 by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, who was sincere and thoughtful, but no poet.

That prayer is here:

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.
 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. Remember our brethren, the whole house of Israel, in all the lands of their dispersion. Speedily bring them to Zion, Your city, to Jerusalem Your dwelling-place, as it is written in the Torah of Your servant Moses:
 “Even if you are dispersed in the uttermost parts of the world, from there the Lord your God will gather and fetch you. The Lord your God will bring you into the land which your ancestors possessed, and you shall possess it; and God will make you more prosperous and more numerous than your ancestors.”
 Unite our hearts to love and revere Your name, and to observe all the precepts of Your Torah. Speedily send us Your righteous Messiah of the House of David, to redeem those waiting for Your salvation. Shine forth in Your glorious majesty over all the inhabitants of Your world. Let everything that breathes proclaim: “The Lord God of Israel is King; His majesty rules over all.” Amen. Selah.

I offer these two prayers in its place....and a song


The first was written by Karyn D Kedar, author, poet, rabbi. We read this version at Ben's bar mitzvah instead of the traditional one above.

The second is not about Israel at all (at least on its face). It's an anti-war poem by e.e.cummings, one of the most innovative poets of the 20th century and a personal favorite of mine. Read more about him here.
1.  A Prayer for Peace and Strength
-Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar, senior rabbi of Congregation BJBE in Deerfield, IL

Holy One of blessing,
we pray for the soldiers
who are called to defend the people of Israel.
Keep them safe. 

When they are weary
give them strength.
When they are scared give them courage.
May they find strength and faith in the days ahead.

Holy One of blessing,
we pray for the people of Israel
who long to live under your canopy of peace.
Keep them safe. When they are threatened
protect them from harm.
When they are wounded and bereaved
grant them healing and comfort.
May they find strength and courage in the days ahead.

May our voices carry prayers of hope
that the people of Israel know that they are not alone.

Dear God,
give us strength
and know that there is nothing more sacred than peace.
Grant us dear God,
Faith. Courage. Wisdom. 


2. i carry your heart with me
-- e.e. cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart) 

3. Yehi Shalom, as sung by Neshama Carlebach


יהי שלום בחילך שלווה בארמנותיך
Yehi shalom becheylech shalva b'armenotayich

Peace be within your walls, prosperit​y within your palaces 





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