We haven't got a prayer

We are beseeching God to intervene and grant our soldiers victory, yet our own rules of military engagement subvert that prayer. Op-ed.

Ann P. Levin ,

First Sergeant Barel Hadarya Shmueli
First Sergeant Barel Hadarya Shmueli
Israel Police

As the High Holidays approach, we think about the hours we will spend praying. The services of Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur follow a sound legal and psychological strategy.

First, we praise God lavishly to "soften him up" hoping to heighten his responsiveness to us, but this reason is superficial. This expression of gratitude also prepares us for doing the work of repentance. Most mentally sound people instinctively return good for good. This keeps the wheels of our civil society turning. Dictators try to wreak havoc on this dynamic and create out groups and scapegoats to grab power. A society that has lost man's natural grace to man, and relies on the police power of the state, is a tyranny.

To emphasize our good will to God, we recite a long litany of favors that God does for us so that we want to walk in His ways. We praise God for clothing the naked and straightening those who are bent. We acknowledge He renews the Universe daily and creates cures for our ailments. We observe that He has compassion for his creations; is slow to anger, and rewards those who fear Him and obey Him.


I would submit that taking God's name in vain means giving lip service to something in prayer while sabotaging any actual chance of it happening on the ground.
Besides the abundant praise, we remind God of the merit of our fathers and the covenant He made with them. We do this with the shofar and prayers throughout the High Holidays.

After "prepping the bench" in this manner, we beg on our own behalf. We pray for quite a lot, starting with the merit to live for another year. We plead to God to spare us from fire, sword, famine, thirst and plague.

Exodus Chapter 20, verse 6 is part of the Decalogue (Ten Commandments). This verse tells us not to take the name of God in vain, for God will not forgive those who take His name in vain. Taking God's name in vain dictates that we avoid using the name of God in small talk or profanity.

The sages say it means that if you look like a devout, observant person, you better act the part. Unethical behavior by pious looking people violates this commandment. Others say it means not to commit evil in the name of God, as the Catholic Church did during the Spanish Inquisition.

I would also submit that taking God's name in vain means giving lip service to something in prayer while sabotaging any actual chance of it happening on the ground.

For example, if you consider yourself a religious Jew and have the means to make Aliyah, and you keep praying that God gathers his exiles to Zion, knowing you have zero intention of ever living in Israel under any conditions, you risk taking God's name in vain with your insincere prayer.

Similarly, you are frustrating your own prayers if you pray for good health while ignoring medical advice.

Here in Israel, before the Shofar blowing ceremony, most congregations recite the "Prayer for the Peace of the State of Israel". The prayer states in part, "Strengthen the hands of the defenders of our holy land, and please, our God, give them salvation and crown them with victory".

We are beseeching God to intervene and grant our soldiers victory, yet our own rules of military engagement subvert that prayer.

St.-Sgt. Bar-el Hadaria Shmueli of blessed memory succumbed to his injuries this week. He sustained wounds while guarding the Gaza border when Palestinian Arab rioters, aka terrorists, came close enough to our border to shoot him. His family and many commentators suggested that our convoluted rules of "purity at arms" contributed to his premature death.

MK Nir Barkat of the Likud is demanding an investigation whether soldiers' lives were intentionally risked and sacrificed so there would not be any Palestinian casualties while PM Bennett met with President Biden. This is a serious charge. If true, it would be an egregious exploitation of our soldiers.

Why did our military allow these rioters to get within shooting range of our border fence?

How did the rioters get close enough to grab at the soldier's gun?

Why did he feel he had no permission to shoot into the mob to protect himself?

Our current rules of engagement hamper our soldiers' ability to protect themselves in combat, and they prevent the victory we request in our prayer. The lovely tweets and condolences to this fallen soldier's family by Netanyahu, Gantz, Bennett, Herzog, or any other politician, will not change the fact that our government's policies are costing Jewish lives.

We who recite the "Prayer for the Peace of the State of Israel" must demand that our elites correct our misguided rules of military engagement; otherwise, despite our elaborate High Holiday strategy, we haven't got a prayer.

Ann P. Levin is a former criminal and family law litigator, and is a legal writing instructor at several law schools in Israel. She is the author of Burning But Never Consumed: The Hebrew Bible in Turbulent Times, now available in Kindle and Paperback on Amazon. You can write to her at TanachDefense@gmail.com.






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