Published in The Jerusalem Post on September 20, 1998
Fools are absolutely confident in themselves. They think there is nothing to pray for. But in reality, our health, happiness and security are subject to whim, miscalculation, passion, the sudden, unexpected and absurd. We’re not really in control.
So here are a few items we all might want to include in our prayers this Rosh Hashanah:
Pray that you’ll make it home from work alive and healthy throughout every one of the next 52 weeks of the year, without becoming one of the more than 500 annual traffic fatalities.
Pray that you’ll have a car to drive to work. Over 46,000 unlucky Israelis unwillingly had their vehicles pressed into Palestinian Authority police service or otherwise stolen this past year.
Pray that we suffer less than 20,000 cases of violence within the family over the next year; less than 10,000 other assorted assaults; 60,000 burglaries; 14,000 drug related offenses; 192 non-terrorist murders; and rapes that take place on average once every 12 hours.
Pray that you’ll be granted the wisdom to gently guide your children away from video games of destruction and science fiction fantasy, trance parties or Internet-based pornography – and towards volunteerism, intellectual creativity and good works. Pray that your kid will grow-up *believing* in something and wanting to contribute. Pray for the strength you and your spouse will need to succeed in this formidable task.
Pray for leaders who will end the propagation of needless hatred and eschew inflammatory, seditious demagoguery. Pray for the marginalization of political scoundrels who seek to fan base anti-religious passions. At the same time, pray for the *teshuva* of rabble-rousing rabbis whose sharp tongues and all-too-often dishonest dealings in government desecrate God’s name and drive people away from their heritage.
Pray that Bibi Netanyahu develops more honesty and consistency in conducting foreign policy. (Does he intend to redeploy or not?) Pray that Ehud Barak finds his spine, and Ezer Weizman a muzzle.
Pray that Bill Clinton will bring rapid closure — one way or another — to the political-moral morass he’s sucked us all into, sapping the power of America in a world requiring authoritative leadership.
Pray that the Arrow anti-missile defense system works. Iran’s nuclear program is speeding ahead, and there’s little doubt they’ll have access to North Korean ballistic missile technology, so brazenly demonstrated last month by Pyongyang. Pray that Iraq, India and Pakistan can be reigned in, as well, before they detonate on each other, or lash out at third-parties like us.
Pray that Arafat’s unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood next spring doesn’t lead to bloodshed and unending tragedy – for both sides. Pray for the Israelis in Judea and Samaria, who will soon have Jibril Rajoub’s heavies encircling their homes.
Pray for our soldiers lying in ambush in the Hezbollah-infested valleys of Lebanon. Pray that the IDF’s string of fumbles and operational errors has come to an end, and that we’ll regain our lean, mean deterrent posture. And pray for peace.
Pray that the war about to break out on the Iran-Afghanistan border doesn’t engulf the region. Pray for an end to the bloodletting in Indonesia, Albania, Algeria, Serbia-Kosovo, Nagarno-Karabach, Sudan, Zaire, etc., etc.
Pray that the complete collapse of Russia’s economy — $200 billion is owed to foreign banks — doesn’t lead to widespread winter starvation for millions or occasion a western economic failure. Pray that the disintegration of Asian markets doesn’t drag down the economies of Latin America, or crash the markets in Tel Aviv.
Pray for a quiet year.
Pray for Jewish continuity and peoplehood: that American Jews don’t evaporate into a haze of assimilated, amorphous nouveau-non-identity; that Orthodox Jewry doesn’t lock itself away in virtual ghettos of splendid isolation or retreat into simple-minded obscurantism.
Pray that Israeli Jews discover there is more to being Jewish than composing folk ballads in Hebrew or serving in the infantry. Pray that faith and modernity can be woven into a new tapestry uniting us all.
Pray that we can reenergize our national spirit, with a little historical perspective that allows us to see the positive in this country and recognize our achievements.
Pray that we can halt the vulgarization of our society; the unbridled, untamed confrontation in which we all harshly judge and stereotype each other. Pray that we can successfully re-introduce moderation and reasonableness as behavioral standards, and give each other the benefit of the doubt; overlooking, instead of emphasizing, our differences.
Pray, if you can, like Rabbi Yishmael Ben Elisha the High Priest, who according to legend was granted an audience with God and asked to bless the Almighty. “May it be your Divine will”, intoned the priest, “that your mercy overcomes your anger, that you treat your children with compassion and forbearance, and that you judge them with leniency”.
Were we to apply these standards to ourselves and our neighbors, it indeed would be a radiant new year.