Davening for Mitt?
On U.S. election day, I added to Shema Koleinu a personal appeal that HaKadosh Baruch Hu bring about Mitt Romney's triumph, as I had been doing for some weeks. After davening, however, it occurred to me that perhaps my prayer was misplaced.
After all, implicit in my prayer was the assumption that the election of Mitt Romney would be better for the Jewish people – i.e., for the realization of Hashem's revelation to the world through His chosen people. It's one thing for me to write op-ed pieces analyzing the possible consequences of one candidate's election or another, but does Hashem really need to hear my thoughts on which candidate will better advance His plan for the world. He obviously has a great deal more information on that subject than do I.
By the time one reaches my age, experience has usually shown more than once that our knowledge about what is good for us is very imperfect indeed. We davened for a particular shidduch and it did not happen. But the next shidduch turned out to be our spouse, without whom it is impossible to even contemplate what our life would have been. Or our prayers were answered – e.g., we got the job we hoped for – and it turned out to be a disaster. And if our knowledge is so imperfect with respect to our own lives, how much more so with respect to matters affecting the entire world?
Some things, of course, we know we should daven for – e.g., wisdom, health, offspring, an honest livelihood, that the approaching hurricane spare us and turn back out to sea. We may not get the answer for which we hoped. And in that case, we have to remind ourselves that kol d'avid Rachmana l'tava avid. Perhaps we were not worthy. Perhaps there were calculations at play that we cannot know – e.g., this was a case of tzaddik ve'ra lo and not tzaddik ve'tov lo.
Still we not only may but should daven for these "goods" because when the Anshei Knesses HaGadolah established the words of tefillah, they revealed what is good in Hashem's eyes. In other words, He wants to shower us and the whole world with these blessings, and our task is to pray that He is "able" to do so, i.e, that we have done what we can to open up His pipelines of blessing to the world. Prayer is one of the ways we open the pipelines.
Still I didn't find any berachos – not even any Torah codes – indicating that HaKadosh Baruch Hu wanted Mitt Romney to be president of the United States. So what should I have done? Daven to HaKadosh Baruch Hu that He do whatever He knows to be best for the realization of His plan. That sounds a little silly to me. And if I did not daven what would He do? Act against His plan for the world?
On the other hand, not to daven at all struck me as wrong as well – as if suggesting that these matters are outside of Hashem's purview.
Perhaps a well-known story involving Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk and the Ba'al HaTanya casts some light on this matter. As Napolean's armies swept across Europe and towards Russia, the former prayed fervently for Napolean's triumph, which he saw as part of the war of Gog and Magog. The Ba'al HaTanya prayed equally fervently for the triumph of the hated Czar. As he famously said, the freedom and equality Napolean would bring in his wake would be "good for the Jews but bad for Yiddishkeit."
So was one answered and the other not? Did their tefillos cancel each other out? We have no way of knowing. But it seems to me most likely that both were answered. After having analyzed the situation to the best of their respective abilities, each davened to Hashem as part of his hishtadlus. And isn't that what each of us is supposed to do -- recognize that turning to Hashem and praying is often the most important aspect of our hishtadlus?