July 10, 2024
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So You Want to Do Something to Defeat Islamic Terrorism?

Picture the following scenario, heaven forbid: A close relative of yours is critically ill and you desperately want him to recover. The doctors have told you, “He is in God’s hands. We’ve done all we can.” You would probably turn to God and start saying Tehillim, and certainly the paragraph of healing the sick in the amidah would take on a more profound and personal meaning. Your focus and concentration would be fully on beseeching God to heal your loved one. You would be saying every word as if his life depended on it.

But there is someone with whom your ill relative has had bad dealings and who feels great hostility towards him. He is praying as well, for the demise of your close kin. A few days later, the doctors tell you the good news—this beloved person for whom you’ve been davening is out of danger and his condition has markedly improved. You cannot be certain that it was the power of your prayers that brought this about, but it is surely a real possibility.

Today we are in a predicament where our people are being attacked by an enemy that claims to believe in a deity and whose adherents adamantly insist they are following their interpretation of his commands. They pray for their success several times a day to the same God as we do. They refer to Him as Allah; we know Him as Hashem. Who will win God’s favor?

I believe it behooves all of us to come to shul with this crucial question in mind. Shortly after 9/11, Rabbi Yissachar Frand put it in these stark terms. “Who will win the battle for God’s favor, the descendants of Ishmael or klal Yisrael?” Many commentators (meforshim) agree on Yishmael being endowed with the power of prayer, as evidenced by God’s name in both “Yisra-el” and “Yishma-el.”

I have never been inside a mosque but something tells me that when they pray to Allah, they are focused, they say every word of their text, and concentrate on their objectives, which are largely inimical to ours.

Our Sages allowed us to petition our God with our requests, both as individuals and as a people, three times a day. How do we approach Him? Do we enunciate the words, are we focused on our goals? Moreover, do we even know what we’re saying? Do the words even resonate when the text in the Amida and Tachanun refers to our salvation? I ask these questions neither as a rebbe, nor as a rabbi and not even as a Talmudic scholar. I am none of these, just a rank and file member of am Yisrael.

After many years of mouthing pertinent requests in the Amida for the sustenance of our people and occasionally thinking abstractly about what I was saying, it recently hit me: Here I am beseeching God to please stop the murder of my fellow Jews. The words in Sim Shalom took on a whole new meaning for me. Saying Shomer Yisrael in the Tachanun prayer became so much more relevant. Take a look at Psalm 83. It is as if King David wrote it for this very day.

My intent here is surely not to criticize or patronize. You are no different from me. We are on the same religious plane. By honestly posing the questions above to myself I have come to realize the potential we all have to change the horrible situation facing our fellow Jews.

Many consider prayer a personal matter. Today it is so much more than that. Each time we open our siddur, each of us becomes a part of a powerful anti-terrorist weapon as well. Using it effectively could be the difference between our salvation or, God forbid, the opposite.

David Hes lives in Teaneck.

By David Hes

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