a) A Prayer for Peace Lev Shalem: Weekday and Shabbat page 178
This text is full of quotations from across Hebrew scripture. this is a prayer for peace as we call out to the Infinite and Divine to offer respite and protection and also challenge ourselves to pursue and generate peace.
May we see the day when war and bloodshed cease, when a great peace will embrace the whole world.
Then nation will not threaten nation, and the human family will not again know war.
For all who live on earth shall realize that we have not come into being to hate or to destroy.
We have come into being to praise, to labor and to love.
Compassionate G!d, bless the leaders of all nations with the power of compassion
Fulfill the promise conveyed in Scripture: I will bring peace to the land, and you shall lie down and no one shall terrify you.
I will rid the land of vicious beasts and it shall not be ravaged by war.
Let justice and righteousness flow like a mighty stream. Let’s G!d’s peace fill the earth as water fill the sea. And let us say Amen.
b) The Chief Rabbi in Ukraine invited Christians to join Jews in praying the Psalm this week, drawing on established interfaith relationships to spread the word.
“The Chief Rabbi unexpectedly invited all us Christians and all Ukrainians to read Psalm 31 (text below) during these difficult times,” says Anatoliy Raychynets, the Deputy General Secretary for the Bible Society in Ukraine.
“For me, as a pastor, that Psalm … well, I read it differently now, because it’s about our current situation in Ukraine. This ancient prayer – written several thousand years ago – now we see is so alive, is living.”
Raychynets says that Ukrainians are asking “serious questions” in the face of the crisis and Christians need to give them serious answers.
“Our answer, first of all, as a worker of Bible Society and as a pastor in church, is that we invite them to join praying the prayers in the Bible,” he says.
“In the stories in the Bible, we see stories of people going through different, difficult, challenging times. Times of war, of hunger. These are good stories that are teaching us.
“So when people come to us asking questions, we pray together. We encourage them to stand for peace and to pray for peace. We don’t pray for victory over our enemy. We pray that the diplomacy of Ukraine and the whole world will bring a solution. We pray that God’s miracle happens because we know that it must be a miracle to stop this. So we read the Bible with people and pray.”
1 For the leader. A psalm of David. 2 I seek refuge in You, O ETERNAL ONE; may I never be disappointed;
as You are righteous, rescue me. 3 Incline Your ear to me; be quick to save me; be a rock, a stronghold for me, a citadel, for my deliverance. 4 For You are my rock and my fortress; You lead me and guide me as befits Your name. 5 You free me from the net laid for me, for You are my stronghold. 6 Into Your hand I entrust my spirit; You redeem me, O ETERNAL ONE, faithful God. 7 I detest those who rely on empty folly, but I trust in the ETERNAL ONE. 8 Let me exult and rejoice in Your faithfulness when You notice my affliction, are mindful of my deep distress, 9 and do not hand me over to my enemy, but a grant me relief.-a 10 Have mercy on me, O ETERNAL ONE, for I am in distress; my eyes are wasted by vexation, my substance and body too.-b 11 My life is spent in sorrow, my years in groaning; my strength fails because of my iniquity, my limbs waste away. 12 Because of all my foes I am the particular butt of my neighbors, a horror to my friends; those who see me on the street avoid me. 13 I am put out of mind like the dead; I am like an object given up for lost. 14 I hear the whisperings of many, intrigue c on every side, as they scheme together against me, plotting to take my life. 15 But I trust in You, O ETERNAL ONE; I say, “You are my God!”
16 My fate is in Your hand; save me from the hand of my enemies and pursuers. 17 Show favor to Your servant; as You are faithful, deliver me. 18 O ETERNAL ONE, let me not be disappointed when I call You; let the wicked be disappointed; let them be silenced in Sheol; 19 let lying lips be stilled that speak haughtily against the righteous with arrogance and contempt. 20 How abundant is the good that You have in store for those who fear You, that You do in the full view of men for those who take refuge in You. 21 You grant them the protection of Your presence b against scheming humans;-b You shelter them in Your pavilion from contentious tongues. 22 Blessed is the ETERNAL ONE, for He has been wondrously faithful to me, a veritable bastion. 23 Alarmed, I had thought, “I am thrust out of Your sight”; yet You listened to my plea for mercy when I cried out to You. 24 So love the ETERNAL ONE, all you faithful; the ETERNAL ONE guards the loyal, and more than requites him who acts arrogantly. 25Be strong and of good courage, all you who wait for the ETERNAL ONE.
c) On this Shabbat, there are tens of thousands of members of the Ukrainian Jewish community seeking refuge in synagogues, Hillel’s, Moishe Houses, and other locations. The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish and fighting alongside his people.
This is a prayer for peace by Rabbi Natan Sternhartz (Ukraine, 1780-1844), a student of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. A 200 year-old prayer that is entirely relevant today. It was translated by Rabbi Oren Hayon.
May it be Your will, Adonai our God and God of our ancestors, that war and bloodshed should vanish from the earth, and we may know a great and wondrous peace, so that “nation will not lift up sword against nation, nor will they study war any more.” [Isaiah 2:4] May all the inhabitants of the earth come to recognize and know the truth that we were not brought into the world for the sake of war and discord, not for the sake of hatred or jealousy or bloodshed, but that we were brought into the world that we might know You and your endless blessings. May the scriptural promise come to pass: “I will grant peace to the world that you may settle there, and none will make you afraid; I will spare the land from vicious beasts and the sword will never again pass through your territory.” [Lev. 26:6] And let us say: Amen.