Office of the Chief Rabbi

Pause for Thought: Expressing thanks for our Armed Forces

Reflecting on his decision to amend a prayer for the Royal Family to include a tribute to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, the Chief Rabbi conveys the gratitude of the Jewish community for the protection provided by courageous men and women. He disclosed his reasoning for the change on BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought.

“This week I have tried to ensure that communities across the entire Commonwealth open their hearts to a set of people who selflessly serve us all. To mark the centenary of the First World War I have made a historic change to Jewish prayers: I amended our prayer for the Royal Family to ask God to also bless and protect Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

The prayer that I changed was certainly time-honoured: for centuries Jewish communities have recited a special prayer for the Royal Family as a mark of profound admiration and affection and to express our loyalty to Her Majesty and to her kingdom. The number of words I added are few, but the very concept of altering our services is challenging.

Jews are very attached to our traditions because most of them carry profound messages and vital memories. We are wary of altering them to suit passing fancies or fashions.

‘The prayer that I changed was certainly time-honoured: for centuries Jewish communities have recited a special prayer for the Royal Family as a mark of profound admiration’

So why the change? The answer is because brave servicemen and women risk their lives in the name of Her Majesty and on behalf of every one of us. They preserve our security and the freedoms we enjoy. They apply their skills to some of the most daunting and intractable of the world’s problems.

Their success is ours; their loyalty is the lifeblood of our democracy; their work furnishes our most fundamental need – protection from aggression; their discipline sustains our most cherished values; their sacrifices exceed the greatest generosity that the most philanthropic among us can attain.

We dream of the day when, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, swords shall be beaten into plowshares, but till it comes we know that we will always require courageous men and women to shoulder the burden of protecting the rest of society.

Our changed prayer will ensure we keep in our minds and our hearts the vital contribution made by the Armed Forces. They command our abiding concern, gratitude and respect.”

 

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