The Traditional Hebrew Prayer for the Government, and Its Hidden Meaning

Jews over the centuries have recited many different public prayers for the governments under which they have lived, but the most widespread in modern times, which remains standard in Orthodox congregations today, is Hanoteyn t’shu’ah lam’lakhim (“He Who Gives Salvation to Kings”). Although this prayer seems like a statement of undiluted patriotic devotion, Jonathan Sarna suggests that it lends itself to esoteric interpretation:

Hanoteyn t’shu’ah itself is in many ways a subversive prayer. Its manifest language exudes Jewish loyalty and faithful allegiance. At the same time, its esoteric meaning, presumably recognized only by an elite corps of well-educated worshippers, hints at spiritual resistance, a cultural strategy well-known among those determined to maintain their self-respect in the face of religious persecution. So, for example, the prayer begins with a verse modified from Psalm 144:10: “You who give victory to kings, who rescue[d] His servant David from the deadly sword.” The next line of that psalm, not included in the prayer but . . . deeply revealing in terms of the prayer’s hidden meaning, reads: “Rescue me, save me from the hands of foreigners, whose mouths speak lies, and whose oaths are false.” . . .

[F]ollowing the American Revolution, the [text of the] prayer was radically depersonalized in the United States, based on the idea that the new nation honors “the office,” not “the man.” From then onward most American synagogues have prayed for the nation’s officeholders without naming them (“the president,” etc.), a totally different practice from that in other countries (including Great Britain and tsarist Russia) where kings and queens are (or were) commonly referred to by name. In the very first post-Revolutionary American siddur, printed in 1826, a distinction was even drawn between how Hanoteyn t’shu’ah should be recited “During the Sitting of Congress” and “During the Recess,” as if to underscore that members of Congress are only special (and worthy of being included in the prayer) when Congress is actually in session; otherwise, its members are fellow citizens along with everybody else.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: American Jewry, Judaism, Prayer, Religion & Holidays, Religion and politics

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security