Illustration: Jewish prayer in Israel
Illustration: Jewish prayer in IsraelFlash 90

A group of youth involved in the religious-Zionist Bnei Akiva program have started organized prayers on behalf of Syrian civilians who are at risk due to the ongoing civil war in their country. The prayer initiative, which began in Petach Tikva, has now spread to Jewish communities around the world.

Bnei Akiva volunteers who are doing a year of national civilian service in Petach Tikva came up with the idea of coordinating prayers on behalf of innocent Syrians.

While Judaism teaches that any individual can pray to G-d and be heard, prayers said together as a group can have special power. The young volunteers also wished to have a formal prayer to say, in order to ask for divine mercy with the best possible wording.

They asked Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, a leading figure in the religious-Zionist world and the head of the Petach Tikva hesder yeshiva, to help them find the ideal wording for their request for divine assistance for Syrian civilians.

Rabbi Cherlow suggested that Psalm 37 and Psalm 120 would be particularly appropriate for the occasion. Both psalms speak of the plight of the innocent righteous when evil men plot against them.

Rabbi Cherlow also revealed that he has written his own prayer for the Syrian people. He passed it along to the young volunteers, and told them they could share it with others.

The rabbi praised the young volunteers for their initiative.

The secretary-general Danny Hirshberg heard of the initiative and was so inspired by the idea that he decided the movement as a whole should take part. Hirshberg called on Bnei Akiva youth in Israel and around the world, and on the Jewish community as a whole, to say a special prayer in synagogues this Sabbath for Syrian civilians.

“The Israeli public needs to look beyond the screen of hate and enmity to see the pain of those civilians being hurt by the Syrian tyrant,” Hirshberg said.

A translation of Rabbi Cherlow’s prayer:
We turn to You in prayer that You may awaken in the murderers mercy and simple humanity, and the recognition that we were all created in G-d’s image, and that even cruelty has its limits. And that You appear in the world as it is written in Your Torah, ‘Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made He man.’