Jewish World Review Feb. 18, 2003/ 16 Adar I, 5763

Rabbi Avi Shafran

STORM THE HEAVENS | Whatever your plans may be for the afternoon of Thursday, February 20, please set aside some time to help protect the civilized world and the Jewish people.

A group of esteemed rabbinical figures in the Orthodox world -- the Council of Torah Sages -- has asked the Jewish community to unite in prayer that afternoon, in light of the world situation in general and, in particular, the specific threat to Jews, here in the United States, in Europe and in Israel.

The members of the council, the highest rabbinic body of the Orthodox movement Agudath Israel of America, are highly respected throughout the Orthodox world, and other Orthodox organizations, like the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America, have followed suit and asked their affiliated congregations and rabbis to take the call to spiritual arms to heart. Members of non-Orthodox and Jewish public service groups who heard about the declaration have also declared their intention to join the effort. Every heartfelt prayer is invaluable.

What the Council has asked is that Jews gather in their synagogues -- or simply take the opportunity at home or work -- to pray Mincha, the traditional afternoon service -- and then to recite several Psalms (the request specifies chapters, 13, 43, 44, 79, 80, 83, 102, 121,130 and 142) and the special "V'hu rachum" --- "He, the Merciful One" prayer traditionally recited on Monday and Thursday mornings, in a heartfelt manner. Those who are unable to pray in Hebrew should pray in whatever language they speak. Those who are able, they suggested further, should fast from the morning until approximately 1:00 P.M. (the "Mincha Gedola" time, the earliest time for the Mincha service, which varies somewhat in different cities).

Word of the request spread electronically since the 11th, when it was made; its text has already appeared in several Jewish weeklies, and Jewish leaders and institutions across the country and around the world have expressed their intention of being part of the mass "prayer-gathering at a distance."

The rabbis' request begins with words from Maimonides, stressing the importance of crying out to G-d at times of danger. To do less, the great Jewish thinker explains, is "cruel-hearted," because prayer evidences our belief that G-d rules the world, and so refraining from prayer implies the opposite. And, as G-d tells us in His Torah: "If you walk with Me with indifference [the attitude that all is happenstance, the commentaries explain] - then I will walk with you. in the same manner [leaving your plight as if to happenstance]. (Leviticus, 26)."

Thus, the Council beseeches us: "At this hour, with the danger of war hovering over us, and powerful evildoers threatening the remnant of the Jewish People in Eretz Yisroel and in the Diaspora, and the entire civilized world. how can we not tremble and our hearts not melt? How can we not raise our prayers in supplication to our Father in Heaven?"

There are precious few opportunities with the potential to unite Jews of different walks of life, political beliefs and congregational affiliations. But prayer - for ourselves, for our fellow Jews and for the world - is certainly one of them.

According to our religious tradition, the time of the Mincha prayer - the afternoon - is a special one, particularly auspicious for effective intercession with the Almighty. Let us all, wherever and whoever we are, storm the heavens on February 20.

And may we successfully merit G-d's compassion and forgiveness.


Appreciate this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America. Comment by clicking here.

02/04/02: The right question
12/26/02: Spiritual misguidance
11/22/02: Most valuable players
11/06/02: Of ethics and ironies
10/25/02: Whose Abraham?
09/11/02: Twin teachings
09/06/02: A time to cry
08/13/02: Rescued from the depths
05/31/02: Them and us
05/16/02: Shavuos: Custom-made for American Jews?
03/27/02: What's with the fours?
02/26/02: Fighting Iron with Irony
01/29/02: Confessions of a Jewish fundamentalist
10/25/01: An unabashedly biased book review
08/09/01: Getting biblical
07/11/01: History abuse
07/11/01: Reminded by science
06/18/01: Mastering McVeigh
05/02/01: Bless Peter Singer's soul
03/01/01: Poisoned pens
02/13/01: Survivors
02/02/01: Gifted
11/04/00: The shofar shoes
08/10/00: A Tisha B'Av memory
06/08/00: Question and Answer
04/18/00: The man on the bimah
01/12/00: Friendly words from a surprising place
12/03/99: The original spin on Chanukah
11/09/99: Heart and soul
10/26/99: Recidivist parents
07/17/99: Wake Up Call?
06/14/99: A Remarkable Reform Manifesto
03/26/99: Message In A Bottle
03/09/99: The Times and The Timeless
01/20/99: Black Hats, Bad Guys
12/10/98: Bringing Wall Street Wisdom To the Quest for 'Jewish-Continuity'
7/06/98: Jaded
7/01/98: Full disclosure

© 2002, Am Echad Resources