Rosh Hashanah is the time, on the Jewish liturgical calendar, when our thoughts go out to humanity. Our core prayer on Rosh Hashanah is for God’s kingdom to reign, for God to be known by all. “Let every creature know you have created him and let all that breathes declare the Lord of Israel is King, and His kingdom reigns throughout”.
Affirming God’s kingdom on Rosh Hashanah is not a case of saying we are right, they are wrong. Rather, it is a prayer for deeper knowledge of God to penetrate all sectors of society, all aspects of life, all nations, all communities, all religions.
What is the test for the knowledge of God? Rabbi Nachman of Breslav teaches us that da’at¸ the knowledge of God, is inseparable from compassion. If one knows God and one prays for His kingdom, one is, in fact, extending an attitude of compassion to all beings and asking for compassion to be the guiding power in all human relations.
In this light, I would like to offer the following prayer on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, addressing the most recent crisis of suffering caused by lack of compassion, the crisis of the Rohingiya people. They are said to be the most persecuted people on earth. They have no country they call their own. They cannot freely travel or get employment. And now they are facing persecution that has been described by international bodies as ethnic cleansing and as close to genocide. The resonances with our history as Jews are apparent. At a time when we pray for God’s knowledge and compassion to spread over humanity, recalling the suffering of a people who share in a lot we are all too familiar with, is appropriate. Offering prayers for their well-being is the least we can do, as we pray to fix, heal and redeem the world in God’s kingdom. The following prayer is offered in the hope that it will serve individuals and communities, especially during the coming Days of Awe.
Our God and God of our Fathers,
As we pray for your kingdom to be manifest in the world and for knowledge and compassion to spread in the world, we recall the suffering of the Rohingya people.
May your kingdom manifest in people of all religions and nationalities through the basic virtues of love and compassion. May these allow everyone to overcome the narrowness of self-interest, ego and cruelty of heart that allow one human being to harm another;
May political leaders, political systems and governing powers, in Myanmar and elsewhere, not lose sight of the common virtues of compassion and love that should be the ultimate yardstick by which we seek to measure all our actions in your eyes;
May we always recall the value of every human person, created in your image, and may we seek to always act in ways that uphold the full dignity and value of the human person;
May all benefit from education, freedom of action and freedom of mobility;
May all have a sense of home, belonging and the dignity of self-group affirmation;
May the hatred in the hearts of communities that are in conflict give way to compassion and understanding. May all parties involved in struggle in Myanmar and elsewhere choose the path of dialogue, deep listening and sharing, over violence and hatred.
May all those who help fuel conflict by means such as sales of arms and other financially motivated support, recognize the suffering to which they contribute and turn away from further support to acts of hatred and violence;
May we all be instruments of compassion;
May our hearts remain open to the plight of the Rohingiyas, as well as of all refugees and may your wisdom and guidance shine through our open hearts for the well-being of humanity and all living beings.
For you are our loving and compassionate King and your Kingdom extends to all
*Note: the above prayer is reworked in a Jewish context from a prayer issued by the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders’ Muslim and Buddhist leaders.