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

Jan. 18 2017

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.

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Read more at Lehrhaus

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

Maintaining Security Cooperation with the PA Shouldn’t Require Ignoring Its Support for Terror

In accordance with legislation passed last year, the Israeli government has begun to deduct from the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) an amount proportional to what the PA pays to terrorists and their families. Last year, a similar law went into effect in the U.S., suspending all payments to the PA so long as it continues its “pay-for-slay” policy. The PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, has retaliated by refusing to accept any tax revenue collected by Israel—raising concerns that the PA will become insolvent and collapse—while insisting that payments to terrorists and their families are sacrosanct. To Yossi Kuperwasser, Abbas’s behavior amounts to mere extortion—which has already worked on the Europeans to the tune of 35 million euros. He urges Israel and the U.S. not to submit:

Abbas [believes] that influential Israeli and European circles, including the security establishment, view strengthening the Palestinian Authority, and certainly preventing its collapse, as being in Israel and Europe’s best interests. They will therefore give in to the pressure he exerts through the creation of an artificial economic crisis. . . .

[T]he PA leadership’s insistence on continuing wage payments to terrorists and their families, even at the price of an artificial economic crisis, shows once again that . . . the Oslo Accords did not reflect a substantive change in Palestinian national aspirations or in the methods employed to achieve them. . . . If paying wages to terrorists (including the many terrorists whose attacks took place after the Oslo Accords were in force) is the raison d’être for the PA’s establishment, as Abbas seems to be saying, . . . one cannot help asking whether Israel has to insist on maintaining the PA’s existence at any price.

True, Israel cooperates on security issues with the PA, but that serves the interests of both sides. . . . The short-term benefits Israel gains from this security cooperation, [however], are of less value than the benefits enjoyed by the Palestinians, and worth even less when measured against the long-term strategic damage resulting from Israel’s resigning itself to the constant incitement, the promotion of terror, and the political struggle against Israel carried out by the PA. Israel should not do anything to hasten the PA’s breakdown, because it has no desire to rule over the Palestinians and run their day to day lives, but it also should not feel more obligated to the PA’s continued existence than do the Palestinians themselves, thereby leaving itself open to continuous extortion.

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Read more at Israel Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: Israeli Security, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror