In Avot 3:2, Rav Chanania says that we should pray for the welfare of the government. For, if it weren't for the fact that people fear the government (afraid of breaking the law), people would swallow up each other (there would be anarchy without laws.)

In a sense, fulfillment of this rule (praying for the government) is performed in many shuls on Shabbat morning in a special prayer for the welfare of the government, commonly recited after the Haftarah service.

While I know that there are various versions of this prayer, a common form of the prayer said in the U.S. is the first prayer listed here which is transliterated.

In it, there is a phrase:

hu yevarekh, ve-yishmor, ve-ya’azor, vi-romem, vi-gadel, vi-nasei lema’la et ha-nasi, ve-et mishneihu, ve-et kol sarei ha-aretz ha-zot.

Loose translation:

He shall bless, watch, assist, exalt, magnify and raise to prominence the president, vice president and all the officers of this country.

Should such phrasing or any similar prayer that implies blessings and protection of the government be recited when the government is evil and encourages murder or consistent human suffering? For example, if the government were similar to the Natzi regime or Jews lived in constant fear of going to shuls because of government prohibitions on such activities, does Rav Chanania's adage apply?

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    Wouldn't you need to pray for God's help more in that case? Why would you think praying for God to inspire the leaders to good is a bad idea if the regime is evil? The text of the common prayer for the USA מלך מלכי המלכים ברחמיו יתן בלבם ובלב כל יועציהם ושריהם רחמנות לעשות טובה עמנו ועם כל ישראל "King of kings, place in [the leader's] and their advisers hearts mercy to do good with us and all Jews". Please edit your question to clarify.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 18:02
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    We do want the government to be assisted and watched. And we want it to exist and be blessed with better insight. I still don't get why you think we shouldn't be praying here. You still seem to think this is an endorsement of their policies somehow.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 18:35
  • @DoubleAA assisted to do evil? And do we want G-d to bless such people?
    – DanF
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 18:37
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    No not assisted to do evil. Why are you making that up? It doesn't say that anywhere. I appreciate your editing in some content about the prayer, but you have yet to explain why praying for good government doesn't apply to evil governments. Jews have lived almost exclusively under evil governments for the better part of 2000 years and they dutifully prayed for good government that whole time.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 18:38
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    DanF Rabi Chanania lived during Roman persecution and was ultimately killed by them. His words reflect Yirmiyahu's as Double AA mentioned. Yirmiyahu said this about the Babylonians as they carried us off as captives into their country. ( I'm pretty sure chacham Ovadia Yosef pointed this out in his seffer on Avos)
    – user6591
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 19:09

1 Answer 1


Rav Chanania lived during the time of the Roman Empire and it was referred to as "the Evil Empire". In spite of that, the point that he was making was that any government no matter how tyrannical would still be better than complete anarchy (as existed before the flood). Such a government would enforce rules to keep itself in power and not allow robbery murder and looting.

Another example is Czarist Russia which was evil but the Jews in that empire still prayed for the Czar. Of course they also prayed that the officials would learn the correct way of behaving and be moved to act properly.

Note Yirmiyahu 29:7

ז וְדִרְשׁוּ אֶת שְׁלוֹם הָעִיר אֲשֶׁר הִגְלֵיתִי אֶתְכֶם שָׁמָּה וְהִתְפַּלְלוּ בַעֲדָהּ אֶל יְהֹוָה כִּי בִשְׁלוֹמָהּ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם שָׁלוֹם:

7 And seek the peace of the city where I have exiled you and pray for it to the Lord, for in its peace you shall have peace.

Another point is that when they are actively attempting to kill us then they must be resisted and we must pray to Hashem to defeat them. However, that is not the circumstance that R' Chanania was speaking about.

  • +1. Any evidence that it was called the evil empire during R. Chanina's time?
    – msh210
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 6:33

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