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Chief Rabbi changes prayer for the country




“Bless us with a President who is morally worthy of this nation of heroes, a President and government of integrity and honesty, dedicated with selfless devotion to the service and upliftment of all the people of South Africa.” This was added to the previous version.

The chief rabbi explains his motivation to do this: “Given the circumstances of what is happening in South Africa right now, it is important that we as take a stand against the immorality of corruption and state capture. We believe in the power of prayer to change the world and so our prayers must say what we want.”

This particular prayer, for the welfare of the government of the country in which we live, is the only prayer that we say that is not in a siddur and is open to change. It is an ancient tradition that emanates from Pirkei Avot (Ethics of The Fathers) in the Mishnah.

Its content is left to the discretion of the particular country’s religious leaders, but generally focuses on calling for the country’s leaders to lead with wisdom, a sense of justice in order to advance the welfare of the nation.

It is read on Shabbat morning at the end of the Torah reading and just before the Torah is replaced in the ark. It is recited by the rabbi in English. 

The chief rabbi says “this prayer reflects our aspirations and dreams for South Africa. The new prayer captures what we want the most.”

The prayer was last changed in 1994 in South Africa to mark the new democratic order.

The chief rabbi says the new version will remain “as we see how things unfold. It represents our aspirations for a government of integrity. If there is a dramatic change in circumstances, we can reconsider.”

In England, the prayer is said about the Queen and in the US, like in South Africa, about the president and deputy president. During the First World War, Jews on both sides prayed for the victory of their country’s leaders, according to’s article on “Jewish Prayers for the Government”.  It maintained that the same happened during the Falklands War (between Britain and Argentina).

“It is important for a moral voice in the country to be heard and this is one way we believe is most powerful,” says Rabbi Goldstein. 

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  1. yitzchak

    May 4, 2017 at 5:15 am

    ‘In our shul our Rabbi has excluded any prayer for the president long before this new dictate.’

  2. sheli lubowski

    May 25, 2017 at 11:06 am

    ‘Dear Rabbi,

    I would like to have a chat with you please.

    My email address is above.

    I live in Sydney, Australia and I would like very much if I could chat with you at your convenience.

    Kind regards,

    Sheli Lubowski’

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