Judaism: Praying for Peace in the Vatican
The much heralded public prayer for peace and reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority took place this week at the Vatican in Rome. The event was hosted and sponsored by Pope Francis and included the participation of religious leaders and official clergy of the three main monotheistic faiths. But the main stars of the event were Shimon Peres, Mohammed Abbas and naturally, the Pope himself.
What makes this entire public event somewhat questionable is the fact that neither Peres nor Abbas are well-known for participating in either public or private religious prayer. As all of us are well aware, public prayer is a very delicate matter. Sometimes it is too public at the expense of meaningful prayer itself.
I don't know if it was possible, but if the Pope could have gotten Abbas and Peres alone in a room without media and fanfare and their true prayer would have been offered, perhaps the entire event would yet have proved to be of benefit. As it stands now, very little positive accomplishment is on the horizon from this overly advertised event.
Jews pray three times daily for peace. It is the final blessing of the amidah, the central prayer of the ritual prayer service. The reason that it is the final prayer of that service is because it encompasses all of the blessings, hopes and longings that the other preceding texts of prayer expressed.
But even though we ask Heaven on a regular basis for this blessing of peace the truth is that the fulfillment of that blessing, as perhaps of all other blessings in life, is dependent upon us. We are taught in Psalms that we are to search for peace and pursue it. Peace is made on earth by human effort and Divine blessing. Heaven has created peace on high without the necessity for human aid and intervention. However, peace on earth also requires Heavenly guidance and encouragement but as in all matters here on earth what human beings do and decide has influence and consequence.
Nevertheless, I do not want to be the one to cast cold water on the Pope’s initiative for praying for peace. Many times what we initially and even halfheartedly pray for becomes what we actually later desire and work toward. So this public media event at the Vatican can bear fruit if the parties involved internalize the wish for peace and pursue it.
Again, I believe that prayer without the trappings of undue publicity and media notoriety is the most effective way of invoking Heaven’s blessing upon us. I hope that all of the parties involved in this week’s prayer session did so in sincerity and will truly pursue the search for the ways of peace needed so desperately.