A group of religious-Zionist Bnei Akiva youth 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 with the Bnei Akiva volunteers who are doing a year of national civilian service in Petach Tikva, has now spread. .
While Judaism teaches that any individual can pray to God 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 wrote his own prayer, which is beautifully translated by Elli Sacks of Modi’in (be sure to give Sacks credit). Here is the original Hebrew. Read in English about story here.
Master of the universe, who makes peace on high
Though we are not accustomed to new formal prayers, we can no longer look at the slaughter taking place in Your world and fail to pray about it. Though we know that both sides in the war are guilty of wanton bloodshed, we are unable to keep silent when so many who are beyond the circle of conflict have fallen victim.
We beseech You in prayer to arouse in the killers their basic humanity and evoke mercy in their hearts, that they may recognize that we are all created in the image of God, and that there are limits even to human cruelty. May You bring to pass what is written in Your Torah: “He who sheds the blood of man, by man his blood shall be shed, for in God’s image was man created.”
Grant us the wisdom to know how to act in this hour of distress, when the dark face of humanity’s evil inclination is once again fully exposed and we are unsure how to stand against it. Enable us to act with all our energies to prevent bloodshed in Your world, above all in the Holy Land and its environs, as it is written in Your Torah: “You shall not pollute the land where you are for blood pollutes the land; and the land will not expiate the blood shed upon it, but with the blood of he that shed it.”
May God who makes peace on high, make peace upon us and upon all Israel, and let us say amen.