Two Prayers - One Request
By Ron Allswang
From the moment I heard at summer camp - well over thirty years ago - the inclusion of two blessings/prayers in the Birkat HaMazon, the Grace After Meals, I have been addicted to their importance and to potency of their messages.
The first one, הרחמן הוא יברך את מדינת ישראל ראשית צמיחת גאולתנו, still best represents my belief of the purpose - and goal - of the State of Israel: Merciful bless the State of Israel beginning of our redemption.
Namely that the State of Israel is not a mere or coincidental historical event, but the beginning of the process of redemption promised thousands of years ago by our Prophets.
The second one is הרחמן הוא יברך את חיילי צבא ההגנה לישראל העומדים על משמר ארצנו – A beautiful 'one-liner' which beseeches G-d to protect over the IDF Soldiers who protect over all of us.
Personally, I always felt the potency of these prayers most when recited in the Birkat HaMazon, perhaps specifically because of their brevity.
But there exists another reason. During Birkat HaMazon, most often on Shabbat when we have guests, I will point to the Chayal (soldier) at the table when reciting it. THIS is truly a powerful moment. And many of them, if not most, thank us ('us' - as all Allswangs have adopted the custom).
Can it get any simpler, yet meaningful?
And now it is our turn, our son Binny is now serving in Hebron, a city that is central to our ancestral connection to this land, a section of land that Abraham paid for so as to bury our ancestral mother Sarah, and where today remains the Cave of the Patriarchs of the Jewish People. A city whose Jewish heritage is threatened by conflict and international disregard for our connection, and where recent events have transpired surrounding our 3 kidnapped and murdered teenagers while the rest of the nation holds our breath in a prayer for peace.
While greater and more prolific writers have captured the moments of IDF parents - especially an Oleh parent - we have a special request.
We want more people to bless the soldiers (and the State) every time we eat, and 'bench' (say the blessing after meals).
Not because our son is serving his country right now - that only explains why I am asking now. But because all soldiers deserve our daily prayers, multiple times a day, just like I have done since my Moshava days in the '70s and onward.
Our acknowledging, and praying for, IDF soldiers during Birkat HaMazon, is truly a simple, yet powerful way, to thank The One Above who sustains us not just with food, but Who also keeps our IDF brethren safe, despite all the dangers they face.
I can still hear the Moshava Chadar Ochel (dining hall) full of hundreds of kids reciting these blessings, B'Simcha U'Vahava, in joy and in love.
We - Jews of all stripes - should learn from them.
Ron Allswang is the Director of PR and Marketing at Lema'an Achai Ron.firstname.lastname@example.org