Published in The Jerusalem Post on September 15, 2002
The eleventh-hour prayer proffered by the High Priest towards the end of the Day of Atonement, in the Temple that stood on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, focused on the unpredictable in life. Standing in the Holy of Holies, he knew, as should we today, that man is never really in full control of life.
Our health, happiness and security are subject to whim, miscalculation and passion. The finest people and best-laid plans are vulnerable to the sudden, unexpected and absurd. Capriciously, we are buffeted by the evil or grace of others.
So as you settle back this Yom Kippur to contemplate life, take a moment to re-read the text of that evocative prayer (found in all standard prayer books). Here is my contemporary interpretation of the High Priest’s finale, *Yehi Ratzon*, “May It be Your Will, O Lord…”:
* That this be a year in which You open before us Your storehouses of beneficence and excellence*: In our days, more than anything else, we cry-out for quality national political and spiritual leadership. Pray for prudent, far-sighted national leadership, with perhaps a little Divine guidance, who can chart a clear political course for Israel; leadership that will be prepared to level with, and inspire the confidence of, the people of Zion.
*That this be a year of gathering in Your Temple*: Pray that the Wakf’s malevolence and our government’s gross malfeasance do not bring down the fragmenting Temple Mount walls. Pray that we find the national backbone to reassert our sovereignty on the holy Mount in the face of increasingly flagrant and destructive Palestinian encroachment – despite the international condemnation that is sure to ensue, whatever we do.
*That this be a year of atonement for our sins*: Like the sin of giving and/or selling arms to the Palestinians. Like the mega-sin of allowing Yasser Arafat, in these very days right before our own eyes, to re-build the Palestinian Authority — instead of eliminating it. Like foolishly jumping with joy as if the Messiah had arrived when a couple of Fatah hacks push Arafat to appoint different ministers and perhaps a Palestinian Prime Minister too — as if such PA politicking was a sign of redemption or the harbinger of an end to Arafatian terrorism.
*That this be a year in which You bless the fruit of our wombs*: I’m all for Eli Yishai’s re-convened National Demographic Council. Time to encourage a return to larger families, through education and tangible incentives. Pray that Yishai also has the political grit to continue expelling illegal workers and to finally bury Oslo’s dangerous “family reunification” provisos (which allowed tens of thousands of Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank to obtain Israeli citizenship by marrying Israeli Arabs).
*That this be a year in which you bless our comings and goings*: Which means that Israeli residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza manage to make it to work and back home safely every day this year. That the IDF be given the freedom to operate extensively enough to guarantee that YESHA residents cease being sitting ducks to picked-off one by one by roving Palestinian snipers.
*That this be a year of salvation for our community… May Your mercy overflow upon us*: May God continue to grant George W. Bush the bold determination necessary, despite all odds and nay-sayers, to sweep-away Saddam Hussein and his menacing regime, without the military operation incurring severe costs to us, or undue losses to US forces. May He protect us from mega- and mini-terrorism alike. May we suffer no more suicide bombings. May He calm the rising tide of anti-Semitism that threatens to engulf the Jews of the Diaspora.
*That this be a year in which You will carry us up to the Land of Israel, in joy, settling-in forever*: Keep those American and Canadian, and Argentinean, Brazilian and French and…. immigrants coming! Expand and strengthen settlements, especially in areas of national consensus like the Jordan Valley, around Greater Jerusalem, along the mountain ridge overlooking Gush Dan — and in the Galilee and Negev too.
*That this be a year in which the People of Israel not be dependant on other nations*: Protect us from the global riff-raff and their corrupted international institutions, such as the UN Human Rights Commission and the new International Criminal Court, that would try our leaders for “war crimes”, boycott our academics, and impose sanctions on our trade.
*That this be a year of good life before You*: Pray that we can reenergize our national spirit with a Zionist and Jewish values; and with historical perspective that allows us to see the positive in this country and to recognize our achievements. Pray that we learn to 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”. Amen.