About 20 years ago, I had the privilege of being schooled by a group of elderly ladies who passionately loved and supported Israel. Weekly, they would gather to pray for Israel’s protection and for all Jews, but especially for those who lived in Israel. One of the things they suggested when praying for Israel was that when you don’t know how to pray for Israel, pray scriptures. I’m asking you to do that with me; to pray scriptures (posted at the end of this blog) for Israel starting today as the new moon enters the constellation Leo.
If you follow real news then you know that those in Israel who hate the Jews and have a desire to kill them have been incited even more so lately to carry out that desire. Let’s believe, and act on that belief with more intensity, that our prayers could actually play a role in Jews being protected from terrorists. I’ve been convicted to quit acting with “casual urgency” regarding the situation in Israel.
The month of Av/August is an auspicious time to pray for Israel to stand strong and unapologetically in its sovereignty. Before getting to the scriptures to pray, I’ll try to explain just a bit about why this month, that’s represented by the constellation of Leo, is a good time to pray about Israel standing in its sovereignty.
Even though the tribe of Yehudah (Judah) is represented by the symbol of a lion, Shimon (Simeon) is the Tribe of Israel that corresponds with the month Av/August connected to the sign of a lion, Leo. Both tribes embody the strength and essence of a lion.
Yehudah embodies the majestic strength of a lion which is expressed through decisive leadership collectively and individually. Like a lion, Yehudah does not back down from his sovereign and rightful stance in the Land of Israel. I’m not a psychologist, but it’s easy to see how the diaspora (Jews living outside of Israel) negated Israel’s Yehudah essence of sovereignty. The afflictions, aggression, and abuse that Jews endured throughout history, that culminated with the horrors of the Holocaust, unfortunately, but understandably caused Jews’ inner sovereignty to almost be snuffed out. But the flame of majestic sovereignty that never completely quit burning is being fanned back to life by survival instincts and hatred, which are natural and necessary reactions to evil. But most of all, the flame is and needs to be fanned by a love of life and by the God-given mission that Jews carry to bring redemption to the world, collectively and individually. And this is where the lion aspects of Shimon come into play.
Shimon embodies the energy of a passionate defender; the kind of defender who unapologetically and unabashedly destroys those who would want to destroy him. But Shimon is a constant reminder that the most effective defender is one who is driven most of all by a zeal and passion for life, rather than being fully driven by one’s hatred for his enemy. The noblest fighter destroys evil, but he/she ultimately fights with the intent of preserving the precious gift of life.
As Nechama Sarah G. Nadborny said in The Twelve Dimensions of Israel, “Just as a mother instinctively will summon up remarkable strength when anyone and anything wants to injure her child, so the Jewish people in their homeland must summon the courage to confront and challenge those individuals and groups whose ideologies attempt to destroy her and undermine her eternal expression and indisputable claim.”
It is time for all of Israel to feel righteous, virtuous, honorable, upright, decent, moral, ethical, dignified, proud, and majestic in their role, mission, and duty to defend and save themselves by destroying their enemies, who are enemies of all who prefer and value life over death.
In the division of the land of Israel to the 12 tribes, Shimon inherited his portion within the larger portion of Yehudah (this is the only instance that one tribe inherited its portion within another.) One thing that the portion within a portion represents is that the sovereignty of the kingship that Yehudah represents is dependent upon having Shimon (the passionate defender) within.
Yet, what has to be mentioned during the month of Av is the sin of the spies that was committed during Av. The root word for “Shimon” is “shemah” which means to hear. One of the biggest roles in everyone’s journey in life is to be a part of “tikkun,” which means to repair the world from damage caused by past mistakes. The month of Av is a very auspicious time for us all, but especially Israel, to be unlike the spies and those who believed their negative report, and instead see, hear, and draw conclusions based on faith rather than on negative reports or situations we are prone to perceive as negative. What it boils down to is that despite what the situation seems like in Israel, the Jews need the strength and faith to believe what God has promised them: the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews, despite what the world says; the Jews will live peacefully in their Land, despite what the present circumstances seem to convey; Jews will eliminate their enemies through their God-given strength and intelligence, despite how many nations and peoples rise up to destroy them; and Israel will usher in peace and redemption, despite how people ironically try to destroy the very vessel, Israel, through which peace and redemption will come.
Lastly, the zeal and passion represented by Shimon to destroy that which would destroy him will lead to peace, not disaster, only if that zeal and passion are based in humility. Israel’s greatest leader thus far, Moses, was known for his humility. It was through his leadership that Israel experienced deliverance. I believe that strength based in humility will lead to Israel’s deliverance once again. I also believe that strength based in faith will lead to Israel’s deliverance as we are reminded in Zechariah 4:6 that says, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, saying: ‘Not by military force and not by physical strength, but by My spirit,’ says the Lord of Armies.” Whatever means Israel uses to defend itself will be lacking without God’s might and strength.
The “lion” month of Av/August brings to mind one of my favorite passages in the Bible from the Book of Joel. It says, “And God will roar from Zion, and from Jerusalem He shall give forth His voice, and the heavens and earth shall quake. The Lord is a shelter for His people and a stronghold for the children of Israel.”
Two things happen when a lion roars. First, the roar draws the lion’s pride to him, and second, the roar serves as a warning to anything that seeks to hurt any members of its pride. It seems like a very good time for the God of Israel to roar. Yet, it also seems time for Israel to reflect that aspect of God and roar for itself.
Isaiah 31 also uses the analogy of a lion to describe God’s defense for Israel. It says, “Just as when a lion roars over his prey and when a gathering of men assembles against it, and it is not frightened by them, so shall God, Master of Armies, descend to do battle upon Mount Zion and its hill. God, Master of Armies, will protect Jerusalem, protecting, rescuing, passing over, and delivering.”
God is described as acting like a lion. Israel embodies the boldness and majesty of a lion. So may we too, at least in our prayers, emulate the traits of a lion. After all, one of Israel’s most beloved sages wished that people would communicate and interact with God with the boldness of a lion. “You may be good, pious people, but that was not my intention. My intention was that you should be the kind of people who roar out to God for entire nights, like animals in a forest,” Rabbi Nachman.
Along with prayers for Israel collectively and Jews individually to stand in their sovereignty, please join me this month in roaring theses scriptures for Israel. May our intentions help defeat Israel’s enemies and help hasten peace and redemption.
Psalm 35 As David prayed, O God, fight my adversaries, battle those who do battle with me. Take hold of a shield and rise up in my defense. Draw a spear and bar the way before my pursuers, say to my soul, “I am your salvation.” May they be shamed and disgraced, those who seek my life; let them retreat and be humiliated, those who plot my harm. May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord thrusting away. May their way be dark and exceedingly slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them. For without cause they have hidden for me the snare of their net, without cause they have dug pits to kill me. May disaster come upon each of them unaware; and may his own net which he concealed ensnare him instead, may he fall into disaster.
Psalm 59 As David prayed, Rescue me from my foes, O God; over those who rise against me raise me high. Rescue me from evildoers and from bloodthirsty men save me.
Psalm 83 O God, don’t be silent, for behold Your foes are in an uproar and those who hate You have raised their head. Against Your people they plot deviously, they take counsel against those sheltered by You. They say, “Come, let us cut them off from nationhood so Israel’s name will not be remembered any longer!”
Psalm 140 As David prayed, Free me, God from the wicked man; from the man of violence preserve me, who devise evil schemes in their hearts who assemble daily for wars. Guard me, God, from the hands of the wicked ones, from men of violence preserve me, those who have contrived to cause my steps to slip. You are my God! Listen to the sound of my pleading. Lord, God, Might of my salvation, You protected my head on the day of armed battle. Grant not the desires of the wicked; do not grant their conspiracy fruition.
Psalm 143 As David prayed, with Your kindness cut off my enemies and destroy all who oppress my soul.
Psalm 144 As David prayed, Blessed is God, my Rock, Who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war. My Benefactor, my Fortress, my Stronghold, my Rescuer, My Shield; in Him I take refuge.
And so it is.