Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What to Pray for During Times of War, and What Not to Pray For

As the Gaza War continues, I've made two short lists of what to pray for, and what not to pray for.

What to pray for:
1. The safety, success and victory of our soldiers
2. The health of the injured
3. Praying for individuals who I know of: I have been slowly gathering names of relatives of people who I know are in Gaza. The son of a coworker (אלון בנימין בן שרון), the husband of a vendor (יואב בן יהודית), the son of a coworker's neighbor (חגי בן חנה). It helps me when to pray not only for "everyone", but when I know that these are sons, fathers, husbands, with real names.

What not to pray for:
1. Peace
What? Not pray for peace? How is that possible?
The Minchat Elazar
In Rav Rafi Shtern's weekly email (contact him directly sternr111 at gmail dot com if you'd like him to add you to his list), he included a quote from the responsa Minchat Elazar from Rav Chaim Elazar Shapira, the second Rebbe of Mukatch, who was asked about what to pray for during the first World War. He wrote,
"לאשר אנו רואים כי אלו המלחמות הם חבלי משיח... העיקר להתפלל על הגאולה שלימה במהרה בימינו, לא כן ההמון שהטעו אותם שצריכים להתפלל עתה העיקר רק על 'שלום העמים' ושעל ידי זה יופסק המלחמה ישוב למצרים הוא הגלות המר... ומאריכים הגלות ומעכבים הגאולה... וכמ"ש בספר הזכרון להגאון החת"ס זצ"ל (מהד' תשי"ז עמ' נג) כי אם נתפלל על השלום הרי זה עיכוב הגאולה וכמו שאמרו חז"ל 'מלחמה נמי אתחלתא דגאולה הוא... רק שנרבה בתורה ובתפלה... נתפלל רק על הגאולה ולא נחוש על המלחמה כלל, עכ"ל החת"ס...." (ועיין דרכי חיים ושלום עמ' רי"ג ואילך).
As we see that these wars are the birth pangs of the Messiah...the essence is to pray for Complete Redemption quickly in our days, not like the masses who have been misled to think that the essence of what we must pray for now is, "Peace among the nations". For through this the war will stop, and we will return to the anguish of the bitter exile...and those people extend the Exile and delay the Redemption...as it is written in the Sefer HaZikaron of the Chatam Sofer (5617 edition page 53). "For if we pray for peace, this hinders the Redemption, as our Sages said, 'War is also the beginning of the Redemption...' Rather, we must increase prayer and the study of Torah...and we must pray for the Redemption and not concern ourselves with the war at all."
It's not enough to pray for peace. We pray for the Ultimate Peace. Praying (or working)  for an "immediate cessation of hostilities", doesn't make things better. It just delays the peace for which we truly yearn.