By Shmuel Sackett,
International Director of Zehut
NFL star Colin Kaepernick made lots of headlines recently when he declared that he would not stand during the singing of the national anthem. His comments were very controversial and the airwaves lit up with comments, suggestions and non-stop chatter about his position. Even though he is the quarterback for San Francisco (backup quarterback, actually) his comments made the front page of New York newspapers and was the lead item on Fox News for many days. His words gained momentum when other NFL players, from different teams, agreed with his position and followed his lead. This intensified the debate and added fuel to the fire. Why am I writing about this issue, in a column dedicated to Israel? Simple. Because Colin Kaepernick has no idea that 90% of the Jews in America actually do the same thing!
While Jews have a lot to thank America for, when it comes to being a “nation”, it simply cannot be the USA. Jews all over the world are connected and share a common bond. A Jew in Melbourne, Australia is the brother or sister of a Jew in Paris, France. This is true for Jews in Edgeware, England and Moscow, Russia as well. We are all connected and, in essence, one large family. We have one Father who gave us one Torah and who instructed us to live in one Land. To make things simpler, we are one Nation. Therefore, while we temporarily live in New York, Chicago or Johannesburg, we are not part of that nation. Yes, we are part of that society but a person cannot be a member of two nations. What all this means is that when it comes to singing the national anthem, you better know the one that applies to you!
Of course you should respect the country you live in and Jews always have. We have helped build almost every country of the world and made countless contributions to the economy, culture, education, science, military and even politics of the countries in which we lived. My own father, of blessed memory, fought for the USA in WWII – together with his brother (who received 2 purple-hearts!) and my mother’s two brothers. Another uncle of mine was a NY police officer for 25 years and a different uncle was a top judge in NY as well. Jews fought in the toughest battles and bled for the USA. We built factories and businesses, all over the world, and employed millions of people. Our contributions in literature, medical research and technology are second to none and we have always been happy to help… but one thing must be made perfectly clear: While we help the world, our nation is Israel. End of discussion.
And now comes my main point… and it’s painful to type these words. How many of us really understand what I just wrote, including our Rabbinic leaders? To prove my point I will ask a simple question. Does your Shul say the prayer for the State of Israel on Shabbat? Yes? Or no? I ask this because in reality, that prayer is your national anthem! I know you think that “Ha’Tikvah” is the national anthem, but it is not. Ha’Tikvah is a beautiful poem with an incredible melody and I get chills every time I hear it – Yes, I do!! But as Torah believing Jews, the real national anthem of our people… of our nation, is “Avinu She’ba’Shamayim”. Those words touch my deepest soul every time I hear them. Here are some highlights of that amazing prayer:
“Our Father in Heaven, Rock and Redeemer of Israel, bless the State of Israel, the first manifestation of the approach of our redemption. Shield it with Your lovingkindness, envelop it in Your peace… Strengthen the hands of those who defend our holy land, grant them deliverance, and adorn them in a mantle of victory. Ordain peace in the land and grant its inhabitants eternal happiness. Lead them, swiftly and upright, to Your city Zion and to Jerusalem… Draw our hearts together to revere and venerate Your Name and to observe all the Mitzvot of Your Torah, and send us quickly Moshiach ben David… Manifest yourself in the splendor of Your boldness before the eyes of all inhabitants of Your world, and may everyone endowed with a soul affirm that the Lord, God of Israel, is king and his dominion is absolute. Amen forevermore.”
I want you to read that paragraph again. Read how we are begging Hashem to bless Israel and protect it. Understand how we pray for Hashem to guard our holy soldiers and grant them victory. Meditate on the words: “Draw our hearts together to revere and venerate Your Name and to observe all the mitzvot of Your Torah and send us quickly Moshiach”. Focus on how it ends with the Jewish Nation pleading with Hashem that the entire world recognize and affirm, that Hashem is G-d and King of the world. And 90% of Orthodox shuls in America don’t say this prayer??? And the ArtScroll siddur of 600+ pages refuses to print it? What exactly are they against???
I will say it again and again. This powerful and emotional prayer is our real national anthem. It summarizes who we are and what we are doing on this world. It embodies everything that is important in a Jew’s life; keeping mitzvot, observing the Torah, yearning for peace, settling and defending the land, coming to Jerusalem, waiting for Moshiach and declaring throughout the world that Hashem is king. That is the complete recipe for being a Jew… it leaves out nothing… and again I ask; Does your shul say this prayer???
If not, maybe the next time you see some NFL players sitting on the sideline during the “Star Spangled Banner” you can identify with what they are doing since, after all, you are probably doing the same thing.