So that its peace will become peace for you (Jeremiah 29:7)
The Prophet’s advice in his letter to the exiled Jews in Babylonia is clear.
Rabi Chaninah, the deputy High Priest (Mishnah, Avot 3:2), said: “Pray for the welfare [literally: the peace] of the government [literally: the kingship] for were it not for the fear of it, people would eat each other alive. It means that the worst government is better than no government, anarchy.
Yet, in the same work (Avot 1:10), we are warned by the great converts Ahemayah and Abtalyon: “Seek no intimacy with the ruling power.”
And also (Avot 2:3), Rabban Gamliel, under the cruel Roman prosecution, understated: “Be wary of the ruling power, for they only befriend a person when it serves their needs. When it is to their advantage, they appear as friends, but they do not stand by a person in his hour of need.”
Winston Churchill famously said: “Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried.”
My grandfather, may G^d revenge his blood, used to say: “Communism is the best system except for one flaw: it needs to be executed by people.
All consider the present Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Warren Goldstein, like many of his predecessors, a wise and great leader of Jews. His opinions carry much weight. He has just called to the SA rabbis no longer to specify in the prayer for the government the political leadership because, after the massacre, it has proclaimed its support to Hamas. I don’t understand this position unless he can’t say it any longer for being so revolted by the backers of the largest slaughter of Jews in one day since the Holocaust.
Changing the prayer is no big deal. That’s not the issue.
But this prayer doesn’t bless the government. It asks the Good G^d to give it good guidance. That should be a good thing to happen.
Under Hitler, so I’m told, Jewish communities in Germany prayed ‘for the régime,’ wishing good council on the one who orchestrated the Holocaust.
A great rabbi once approached a Cossack leader who was about to lead his bunch of murderers to launch another pogrom on the Jewish community.
“What do you have to say for yourself?”
“You should know that we pray for you thrice a day.”
“You do? What do you say in those prayers”
“We ask G^d to bless those who do good, and destroy those evil to us.”
Reportedly, he canceled the pogrom.
I might not have written about this if it weren’t for the following. Under the former reform-bent Israeli government, the rabbi of my shul refused to pray for it. And then blamed it for not being wise. How silly can you get it?
To avoid this trouble, maybe we could alter the text from praying for leaders’ wisdom to an appeal for radical democracy. That can’t go wrong.