Praying for Trump: The Traditional Jewish Prayer for Statesmen

This has easily been the most bizarre election in my lifetime, a contest between an unscrupulously mendacious life-long New York liberal Democrat at the head of the Republican ticket, and a former Goldwater Girl turned Leftist ideologue at the head of the Democratic one. From the foregoing, you may surmise — correctly — that I was a “neverTrumper.” I was also adamantly opposed to turning my beloved country over to a woman who had been so cavalier in handling its highest secrets that as many as five foreign intelligence agencies were reading her not-very-encrypted e-mails. A woman who arguably bears the responsibility for the descent into chaos of Syria and Libya, and all that has resulted from it.

But what to do? For better or for worse, Donald J. Trump has won the election, and only the formality of the Electoral College, set to convene on December 19 of this year, and the swearing-in ceremony remain before he is president of the United States.

What traditional-minded Jews do is pray.

Every Sabbath morning, as part of the shacharith service in many synagogues across the country, a prayer which begins with the words Hanothén tëshu‘oth (“He Who grants salvation”) is recited. In many synagogues in this country, it is the only prayer actually recited in English. A commonly used English version of the prayer reads as follows:

He Who grants salvation to kings and dominion to rulers, Whose kingdom is a kingdom spanning all eternities; Who releases David His servant from the evil sword; Who places a road in the sea and a path in the mighty waters — may He bless the President, the Vice President, and all the constituted officers of government of this land.

The King Who reigns over kings, in His mercy may He sustain them and protect them; from every trouble, woe, and misery, may He rescue them; and put into their heart and into the heart of all their counselors compassion to do good with us and all Israel, our brethren in their days and in ours, may Judah be saved and may Israel dwell securely, and may the Redeemer come to Zion. So may it be His will. (Excerpted from the Siddur Qol Ya‘aqov, p. 450)

The traditional Jewish concept is that G-d runs His world and that it is G-d Who is conducting human affairs. The imminence of G-d in history is one of the major ways in which we can perceive His Presence, and is the reason why the most overtly historical books of the Hebrew Bible — Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles — are generally classed as prophetic works. For it takes the skill of prophecy to discern the “invisible hand” of G-d, as it were (borrowing a phrase from Adam Smith), moving behind the scenes, setting the stage of each successive act of human history.

And it has been “arranged,” by the King Who reigns over kings, that Donald J. Trump should be our next head of state, for good or for ill. It therefore behooves all of us — those who supported Mr. Trump, and those who thought someone else was better qualified, more fit for the office — to pray to the King of kings and beg that He grant wisdom and discernment in guiding our national affairs.

King Solomon recorded in his collection of Proverbs:

Lév melech bëyad Ha-Shem, ’al kol asher yachpotz yattennu — “The heart of a king (and also a president) is in the hand of Ha-Shem, however He wishes He turns it (Proverbs XXI, 1).”

As the Talmud observes, commenting on this verse, a king — and therefore any national leader — is in special need of Divine mercy (Bërachoth 55a) because of the vast responsibilities he bears for the welfare of his nation.

We were granted input in choosing a national leader, and now we must pray that our choice has been a wise and prudent one, and that Mr. Trump will prove to be a better president than many of us fear he will be.

May it be G-d’s will.