Laying to Rest the Question of Who Wrote the Prayer for Israel’s Government

April 24 2018

Jewish congregations the world over recite a standardized prayer for the wellbeing of the state of Israel, the text of which was promulgated by the country’s chief rabbinate and first published in the newspaper Haaretz in 1948. For years, it was generally assumed that the Ashkenazi chief rabbi at the time, Yitzḥak Halevi Herzog, was the prayer’s author, until, in 1983, an Israeli scholar produced evidence suggesting that the prayer was written by the great Israeli novelist S.Y. Agnon, with Herzog’s imprimatur. A recent discovery by the historian Yoel Rappel has now set the record straight, as Tracy Frydberg writes:

[Rappel] found his “smoking gun” only a few months ago upon the discovery of a 1948 letter from Herzog to Agnon. The letter reads: “People from various communities in the diaspora are asking me to amend the prayer for the wellbeing of the state and its leaders [said by Jews living under Gentile rule so as to include a prayer for Israel]. Our brothers in the diaspora trust me, and I trust you, because you have the proper poetry and style and you are a God-fearing person . . . ”

This letter further clarified Agnon’s role as editor but didn’t solidify Herzog as the writer. But this letter combined with the earlier discovery of an article Herzog wrote on Israel’s tenth anniversary was the final piece of the puzzle. In this piece, Herzog referred to “the prayer that I established” with quotes from certain portions of the prayer for the state of Israel [as we know it today]. . . .

“In the end, there are five words that S.Y. Agnon wrote that entered into the [final version] of the prayer,” Rappel said. . . . The now-established fact that the prayer was written by a rabbi is what gives the prayer its religious significance, Rappel added.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israeli Chief Rabbinate, Israeli history, Prayer, Religion & Holidays, S. Y. Agnon

To Today’s Cosmopolitan and “Oikophobic” Left, Israel Can Never Be Acceptable

Aug. 23 2019

On the day the Knesset passed its nation-state law last year, Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed, “This is our state—the Jewish state. . . . This is our nation, language, and flag.” This declaration, argues Wiliam Voegeli, points precisely to what the American left finds so unpalatable about Israel:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month

Register

Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Claremont Review of Books

More about: Anti-Zionism, Leftism, Nation-State Law, Nationalism