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☞   Flag Day (June 14)

This is an archive of prayers composed for or relevant to Flag Day in the United States, on June 14th. The Flag Resolution, passed by the Second Continental Congress on 14 June 1777, stated: “Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” In Hebrew, the word for flag is דֶגֶל (degel), which happens to also be an anagram for גדל — a shoresh (root word) with a valence of “size, enormity,” “growth,” and “advancement.”

I think the use of stellar symbolism in the Flag Resolution of the Second Continental Congress is powerfully suggestive in our Jewish context. In the diasporic political theology of esoteric Judaism in late Antiquity, each of the nations is represented by a sar or angelic prince, and in the astrological language of Antique angelology, the angels are the spirits of the planetary stars and constellations of the planisphere. The fortune of each sar is inextricably tied to their treatment of the Jewish peoples under their aegis — the strangers in their midst, as it were. And this is explained by Menasseh ben Israel to Oliver Cromwell in his 17th century introduction to “Hanoten T’shuah,” the well-known prayer for the well-being of kingdoms, especially in its prayer to “raise up and exalt the planetary star” (יָרִוּם וְיַגְבִּיהַ כּוֹכַב מַעֲרַכְתָּוֹ) of the king — a reference to the potential promotion (or demotion) of the kingdom’s representative angelic sar (Cf. Zohar vol.2 267b, § Pekudei). The treatment of Jews here are but a representative example of all vulnerable populations subject to the capricious justice of earthly sovereigns or republican governments. The escalation of each national constellation rises or falls according to the treatment of its most vulnerable. As Deuteronomy 16:20 exhorts, “Justice, Justice shall you pursue that you may thrive and inherit the land Hashem has given you” (or else. The threat of Leviticus 18:28 lingers specifically for those who dare to possess the Land of Kna’an.)

Given the temptation for those entranced by nationalist fervor to fixate on state symbols with patriotic passion, it is necessary to inoculate ourselves, and prove as an example for others, how a flag may be honored without it becoming yet another form of idol worship. To do so, we must determine for ourselves what civic values, if any, are represented by the flag and the gap, historically and currently, that remains for the broad realization of such values. If the flag only represents a nebulous constellation of identity markers by which one identifies themselves, and secure within this self-similar grouping cultivates some pride, then that pride must be grounded in some actual achievement, or at the very least committed and honest yearning, in for example, guaranteeing equity for all its citizenry, or assuring the basic needs are satisfied for all its residents. If a flag is a rallying point for collective pride in achieving certain ideals, then it must also be so for collective shame in representing failure in upholding them. Those who seek to secure themselves against the inevitability of such shame, claim for themselves only the mantle of chauvinism and fall into the maw of base idolatry.

For those of us with a passion for vexillology, a commitment to realizing humane civic and ecological values, and an anti-predatory vision of the world that embraces the diversity of cultural difference, we adopt the flag day of this and every other nation for that of the Sukkah of Peace, may it be spread over our planet and its cosmos, forever and always. —Aharon N. Varady, Founding Director (the Open Siddur Project)

If you have composed a prayer or prayer-poem for Flag Day, please share it here.


Looking for something else?

For prayers offered for the welfare and well-being of governments and country, please visit here.

For prayers composed for social justice, peace, and liberty, go here.

For prayers composed for or relevant to Independence Day in the United States, please visit here.

For public readings selected for Independence Day in the United States, please visit here.

For the Flag of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast superimposed between the constellations of the Pleiades and Orion (per the midrash of Shemhazai & Azael):

Aharon Varady CC BY-SA, 2014

די שטערן־שטרײפיקע פאָן | The Star-Spangled Banner, by Francis Scott Key (1812), Yiddish translation by Berl Lapin (1950)

The National Anthem of the United States of America with a Yiddish translation by Berl Lapin. . . .

עַל הַנִּסִּים בִּימֵי הוֹדָיָה לְאֻמִּיִּים | Al haNissim prayer on Civic Days of Patriotic Gratitude, by Aharon Varady

Opportunities to express gratitude on civic days of patriotic thanksgiving demand acknowledgement of an almost unfathomably deep history of trauma — not only the suffering and striving of my immigrant ancestors, but the sacrifice of all those who endured suffering dealt by their struggle to survive, and often failure to survive, the oppressions dealt by colonization, conquest, hegemony, natural disaster. Only the Earth (from which we, earthlings were born, Bnei Adam from Adamah) has witnessed the constancy of the violent deprivations we inflict upon each other. The privilege I’ve inherited from these sacrifices has come at a cost, and it must be honestly acknowledged, especially on civic days of thanksgiving, independence, and freedom. I insert this prayer after Al Hanissim in the Amidah and in the Birkat Hamazon on national days of independence and thanksgiving. . . .

Prayer for Brotherhood, by Stephen Vincent Benét on United Nations Flag Day (14 June 1942)

This prayer by Stephen Vincent Benét (1898-1943) was first publicly read in 1942 in the course of a United Nations Day speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. . . .

Prayer of the Guest Chaplain of the U.S. Senate: Rabbi Arnold E. Resnicoff on 13 June 2003

The Opening Prayer given in the U.S. Senate on 13 June 2003. . . .