Fools think that there is nothing to pray for. They are absolutely confident in themselves and convinced that they are in control of their lives. But in reality, our health, happiness and security are subject to whim, miscalculation, passion, the sudden, unexpected and absurd.
So here are a few items we all might want to include in our prayers this Rosh Hashana:
Pray that you’ll make it home alive and healthy throughout every one of the next 365 days of the year, without being in any of Israel’s 92,000 annual traffic accidents or becoming one of the 73,000 people injured or 380 people killed in these accidents.
Pray that you’ll have a car in which to drive to work. Over 20,000 unlucky Israelis unwillingly had their vehicles pressed into Palestinian Authority police service or otherwise stolen this past year.
Pray that you never have to walk into a pediatric oncology hospital wing. Pray for friends and strangers alike who spend their days and nights in these tragic places. Ask God to keep you and your children out of emergency rooms, cardiac units, and psychiatric wards.
Pray that you’ll be granted the wisdom to gently guide your children away from violent science fiction video games, trance parties, or Internet-based pornography – and towards volunteerism, intellectual creativity and good works. Pray that your kids 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 that the so-called Arab Spring doesn’t become an Islamic radical winter, bringing hostile regimes to our borders with Egypt, Syria and Jordan.
Pray that leaders on both sides of the world find the correct, decisive way to degrade Iran’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, and bring about Iranian regime change. Add a prayer for regime change in Turkey, as well.
Pray that Iraq and Afghanistan don’t fall into the Iranian orbit after President Barack H. Obama withdraws the bulk of American troops from these countries next summer. Pray that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons can be absconded by the US before they fall into radical Islamic hands, too.
Pray that the dangerous deterioration of American prestige and power in the world under Obama will come to a halt.
Pray that Abbas’ attempts to have ‘Palestine’ unilaterally declared a state don’t lead to bloodshed and unending tragedy – for both sides. Pray that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sticks to his self-declared red lines with regards to the Palestinians.
Pray for a quiet year. Pray for Gilad Shalit.
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 anti-religious passions, and for the rejection of religious zealots who use faith to provoke unnecessary conflict.
Pray for Zionism, which is under assault by revisionist educators, post-Zionist politicians, a cynical media, and a public that is just plain tired. Pray that the “intellectuals” who would question Israel’s morality and just achievements do not succeed in corroding our patriotism. Pray that we can reenergize our national spirit, to teach our children pride in the accomplishments of Zionism along with a sense of responsibility for its continuation.
Pray for Jewish continuity and peoplehood: that American Jews don’t evaporate into a haze of assimilated, amorphous nouveau-non-identity; that secular 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 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”, he intoned, “that your mercy overcomes your anger, that you treat your children with compassion and forbearance, and that you judge them with leniency”. Amen.
* To be published in Israel Hayom, today, Erev Rosh Hashana, September 28, 2011.