Praying for Iran

Yesterday, while watching the news, I was on the verge of tears. I saw many hundreds of Iranian students, chanting out loud with passion and vigor: “Release our country!” in sacred protestation against their country’s oppressive and vile regime. This supreme act of civil disobedience was perpetrated in broad daylight, and in open defiance of the despotic regime.
As the students marched and chanted, they also took care to avoid stepping on the large American and Israei flags, which were placed on the ground for people to trample upon.

In our Torah portion this week, we read about the first recorded act of civil disobedience in Jewish consciousness – the refusal of the two Jewish midwives, Shifra and Puah, to pursue the genocidal policies of the Pharaoh. The midwives in the Torah, like the demonstrating students in Teheran this week, heeded that which philosopher Martin Heidegger called: “The call of conscience.”

Throughout the millennia and the tumultuous vicissitudes of human history, from the ancient days of Pharaoh’s Egypt, to the brave students in Khamenei’s Iran today, people who courageously rise up against tyranny and oppression, place their very physical existence in peril.

As we watch and observe the sacrifice and ideological endurance of these students on our screens, sheltered by an oceanic buffer thousands of miles away, let us express our admiration for them, and also – let us articulate our moral and spiritual solidarity and support for them.

This Shabbat, as in every Shabbat, consider praying also for the safety and success of these brave men and women, who echo with their bravery from across the centuries, the timeless words of the poet Hafiz: “We have not come here to take prisoners, but to surrender ever more deeply to freedom and to joy.”

Their eventual political success would not only usher in a novel era of liberty and freedom to their beloved homeland, but also – it would make the world entire, a more secure and stable geo-political environment for all of us to inhabit.

May Hashem protect these protestors and safeguard their souls, as they further pursue their worthy endeavor, of ridding their country of the yoke of tyranny and of the sin of despotism, and may we all live to see, bezrat Hashem and speedily in our time, the political emancipation of their great nation.

In the words of the Passover Haggadah, may we all behold very soon, and with our very eyes, the entire nation of Iran and its distinguished Persian civilization, transformed and liberated, “from slavery to freedom, and from darkness – to a great and luminous light.”

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Sessler

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