Praying for the Government

Should the Prayer for the Welfare of the Government, “May He who gives salvation to kings…” be recited on behalf of the government of the United States of America, even by those who are not happy with the results of the election?

The wording of the prayer is as follows:

May He who gives salvation to kings and dominion to princes, whose kingdom is everlasting, who delivers His servant David from the evil sword who makes a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters, bless and protect, guard and help, exalt, magnify and uplift the President, Vice-President and all officials of this land. May the supreme King of kings in his mercy put into their hearts and the hearts of all their counselors and officials, to deal kindly with us and all of Israel.  In their days and in ours, may Judah be saved and Israel dwell in safety, and may the Redeemer come to Zion. May this be His will, and let us say: Amen.

The origin for the Prayer for the Government comes from Yirmiyahu’s instruction to the Jewish people at the time of the Babylonian exile (Yirmiyahu 29:7) “Seek the peace of the city to which I have carried you in exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because in its peace, you shall find peace.” Since the Jewish people could not govern themselves, they asked God to guide their foreign leaders. Abudraham introduced a form of the prayer into the siddur in the 14th century.

Neither the Prayer for the Government nor the Prayer for the State of Israel was established because the Jewish people love their politicians. In fact, it is often the opposite. We pray that God will give them guidance to do the right thing.

Not every synagogue, even in the Modern Orthodox community recites the Prayer for the Government. The synagogues that I attended when I lived in New York never recited the Prayer for the Government of the United States, yet they recited the Prayer for Israel.

Maybe this would be a good time for the congregations in the United States who are worried about the new government to add the prayer.

The Prayer for the State of Israel (as opposed to the Prayer for the Government) is a much longer prayer. It includes a prayer for Israel’s leaders (“Send Your light and truth to its leaders, ministers and counselors and direct them with good counsel before you”) yet goes beyond by praying on behalf of the defenders of Israel, focusing on the ingatheing of the exiles and the return of the Jewish nation to the Land of Israel.

In this week’s Haftara, Yishayahu 27:12-13 we also read about the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel: “It will be on that day that God shall thresh from the surging river to the Brook of Mitzrayim and you will be gathered up one by one, Children of Israel. And it will be on that day that a great shofar will be blown and those who are lost in the land of Ashur and those cast away in the land of Mitzrayim will come and prostrate themselves to God on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.”

Now that we have a Modern State of Israel where Jews can govern themselves, the Jews in the Diaspora who are dissatisfied can follow the words of the prophets and one by one return to the Land of Israel.