Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Praying for the community welfare

Yesterday we explained that at the end of Sukkot, the first day of Shemini Atzeret, we begin reciting the prayer mashib harucah morid hageshem, in which we mention that God is the ultimate source of rain and livelihood (see here).

We also explained that mashib haruach is a prayer in which we do not ask for rain, but rather, we acknowledge God as the One who controls rain and the weather system at large. Knowing that in the land of Israel, Jews needed rain immediately after Sukkot, why don't we ask for rain in Shemini Atzeret ?

The answer is both, simple and inspiring: to celebrate Sukkot, the Jews came to the Bet haMikdash (in Jerusalem) from all the cities of Israel. After the Holidays, they had to walk back home. Some of them lived as far as two-weeks-walking away from Jerusalem. The rabbis did not want that a Jew in Jerusalem would be asking God for rain, knowing that his brothers will be absolutely bothered by the rain, while walking back home. So, they established that the prayer for rain, barekh alenu, will be said two weeks after Sukkot. To give everyone the opportunity to get back home safely.

Rain is an example of an element which for some is a blessing and for others is a problem. Many times there are conflict of interests in prayers. This is the reason we always pray in plural. For example: in the prayer where we ask God for our parnasa (livelihood) we don't say: bless "ME". We say: bless "US". In a sense, we are asking God to help even our competitor next door, the one that sells the same merchandise to the same customers I sell to!

Praying in plural strengthen our consciousness of community welfare, and reinforces our emuna (belief) that HaShem Almighty provides for everyone according to His infinite wisdom.

Two nights ago, we had the pleasure to host in our community Dr. Mordechai Kedar from Bar Ilan University. Dr. Kedar delivered a very informative lecture about the unknown aspects of the Gil'ad Shalit deal between Israel and Hamas.

The audience who attended the lecture expressed that most of what Dr. Kedar explained, was completely new for them, and could not be found in the Israeli or international media.

Dr. Kedar's vast knowledge in Middle East politics allowed us to understand the complex situation of Israel in the new Middle East reality and how that new situation played a role in the release of Gilad Shalit.

We have decided, with Dr. Kedar's authorization, to share this extraordinary lecture (without the Q&A session) with all members of our community.

By Dr Mordechai Kedar

We want to thank Dr. Kedar for his lectures and I'm sure everyone will find this lecture extremely interesting, fascinating and illuminating.