Prayer during the Gaza war

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi,

I wish I could be in Israel doing something more to help out with the war effort or help with the displaced families but, unfortunately, going to Israel is currently not a possibility for me. Monetarily, I have donated about as much as I can. Is there more I can be doing from here, in a spiritual way? I’m not an observant woman, although I strongly believe in God and am very proud to be Jewish. Is there an observance I could be doing that could help?

Suzi K.

Dear Suzi,

It’s important that we realize, as Jews, that our wars are fought on two fronts, on the ground and in Heaven. On the ground is obvious, but the spiritual realm is harder to understand. Nonetheless, we are taught this in the Torah.

When, in the desert, the Jews were to fight the war against the Midianite kingdom, G-d told Moses to organize an army, “… a thousand per tribe, a thousand per tribe” (Numbers 31:4). The redundancy is quite obvious; why the repetition? The Midrash explains that Moses was being told that for every thousand going out to war, there needed to be another thousand whose job was to stand in prayer for the others going out to fight!

Although we can’t all be out on the battleground (and besides donating, contacting elected officials, etc.), we can all join the “second thousand” and pray from the bottom of our hearts for the success of the Israel Defense Forces fighters, that they should all come home safely and soundly, and for the redemption of all the hostages.

It is the sincere voice of the Jews that G-d is waiting for. The Torah says, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau!” (Genesis 27:22). The Talmud comments that if the voice is truly the voice of Jacob, that can be heard loudly and clearly in the study halls and the synagogues, then the “hands of Esau” have no grip upon us. The “voice of Jacob” is present whenever Jews everywhere beseech the Heavens for a need the Jewish people have.

There are special Psalms that are good to say in this situation. I will enumerate some of them here: Psalms 6, 13, 20, 30, 79, 83, 121, 130, 142. Better to say less with true feeling and dedication than to say more in a hurry. After praying with the words of the Psalmist, King David, that is a special time to say your own private, heartfelt prayer to the Al-mighty for this situation.

Another powerful thing you can do is, if you don’t yet do so, begin to light Shabbos candles. We’re living in a time of darkness, surrounded by hatred from every corner, besides the war going on specifically in Israel. The IDF are our messengers to be fighting this war of good versus evil, light versus darkness. We can add much to that light by kindling the Shabbos candles. When they are lit properly in the proper time (about 18 minutes before sunset on Friday), with the appropriate blessing, there’s no telling what an outpouring of light emanates from those candles in the spiritual realm. That’s why it’s a very special time for a woman to pray, right after lighting, for all those things her heart truly desires. This would be a unique time to add Psalms and prayers for our soldiers, captives and all of Israel from attack.

The most important thing is to do this deeply from the heart. Then, who knows, perhaps it is your prayers G-d is waiting for to tip the scales and bring a redemption for all that’s going on!

Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried is dean of DATA-Dallas Area Torah Association.

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