Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What information is there on the Prayer for Israeli Soldiers?

The prayer for the Israeli soldiers, which we say each shabbat at the end of the Torah reading was written by the Rav Ha Rashi of Zahal, Rabbi Shlomo Goren. There is no date attributed to this prayer but it is referred to in 1959 in an article on “New Israeli Prayers" by Pinhas Peli in Mahanayim, the journal of Zahal. Peli describes 12 new prayers which were writen and encorporated into the liturgy since the establishment of the state of Israel. Most of these prayers are related to the Zionist experience and to Zahal, the IDF. They include the prayer for the state; the prayer for the soldiers; prayers for going to war, for paratroopers, for going in a submarine, for the fighter pilot; memorial prayers for Israeli soldiers and for victims of the Holocaust, for world peace, for raising the flag on Yom Haatzmaut and a prayer for children.

This prayer, according to the Zahal rabbanut is to be said each Shabbat. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, former Chief Sefardi rabbi and spiritual leader of Shas, according to an article in the Jerusalem Post (August 2006) called for the prayer for the well-being of IDF soldiers to be said not only on Shabbat, but also on Mondays and Thursdays, days during which the Torah is read during the morning service.

"Our soldiers, the Israel Defense Forces, contribute themselves selflessly, enter the lion's den... how they need to be blessed. Had it not been for them, would we have time to study the Torah? To turn to the books?"

However, is not without controversy within the Ultra-Orthodox community. Shmuel Poppenheim, editor of the weekly Ha'edah, the mouthpiece of the Edah haredit, a virulently anti-Zionist group of haredim, called for that mass prayer vigils reciting Psalms for “peace and protection of all Jews everywhere” to support the war in Lebanon during August 2006. – He was sure to say that “we do not pray for the IDF, Zionist soldiers” because it causes a blurring of vision as if we were advocating a body that is not based on Torah ideals. People might get the wrong impression. "But we do pray for the safety of every Jew including a Jewish soldier."

The structure of the prayer is as follows:

Traditional Mishaberach opening. He Who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob-- may He bless the fighters of the Israel Defense Forces

Prayer for the soldiers – with geographic boundaries, who stand guard over our land and the cities of our God, from the border of the Lebanon to the desert of Egypt, and from the Great Sea unto the approach of the Aravah, on the land, in the air, and on the sea.

A traditional prayer – that God should protect them, etc. May the Almighty cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down before them. May the Holy One, Blessed is He, preserve and rescue our fighters from every trouble and distress and from every plague and illness, and may He send blessing and success in their every endeavor.

Then a special section for Zahal – about the enemies. May He lead our enemies under our soldiers' sway and may He grant them salvation and crown them with victory

and finally brings the quote from Deuteronomy. And may there be fulfilled for them the verse: For it is the Lord your God, Who goes with you to battle your enemies for you to save you. Now let us respond: Amen.

As a final note, in 2004 the Chief Rabbinate of Israel updated the prayer to include “kokhot bitakon” in the first sentence and added that they should be protected “be kol makom shehem.”


  1. NAOMI,

  2. the ou and yad rav herzog (the research institue publishing the talmudical encyclopedia- encyclopedia talmudit published a book on this subject. see the review on the ou website:


    here is a link to the americna jewish university worldcat page for this book which gives publication information and which libraries hold it. unless there is a worldcat error, it is not held at JTS