Prayer for the Government, &c. &c.

By The Reverend [Hazzan] Gershom Seixas, Religious Discourse delivered in the Synagogue in This City on Thursday, 26th November, 1789, Agreeable to the Proclamation of the President of the United States of America, to be observed as a day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer(New York, NY: Shearith Israel Synagogue, 1789) p. 15. 

May he that dispenseth salvation unto kings, and dominion unto princes; whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; that delivered his servant David from the destructive sword; that maketh a way in the sea, and a path through the mighty waters: Bless, preserve, guard, assist, and supremely exalt to the highest degree, the President and Vice-President of the Union, the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America; the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the People of this State represented in the Senate and Assembly, with the Judges and Magistrates of this city; and all Kings and Potentates in alliance with these States.

May the Supreme King of Kings, through his infinite mercies, preserve them, and grant them life, and deliver them from all manner of trouble and danger. May he fix and establish them in their several departments in peace and tranquility. May the Supreme King of Kings implant among them amity, brotherly love and peace. Let not their lips speak evil, nor their tongues utter deceit.

May the Supreme King of Kings, through his infinite mercies, impart his divine wisdom to the Rulers of these States, and grant them a spirit of just counsel, so that they may be enabled to support their determinations with wisdom and judgment; and may peace ever subsist between them and the Kings and Potentates in alliance with them; and establish to them a covenant of peace until time shall be no more, so that national shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they make war anymore. Amen.

Grant it thus, O Lord! for the sake of thy great and ineffable name, and for the sake of thy people, and thine inheritance, who offereth up their supplications to thee whose seat is in heaven, invoking thee to hasten and let thy tender mercies anticipate our prayers, for we are greatly deficient and undeserving; incline thine ear and hearken, and do not despise our unworthiness nor our cry unto thee.

We beseech thee, O most gracious father and merciful King, to whom peace pertaineth, that thou wilt long cause us to enjoy a firm peace and tranquility; and as thou hast been pleased to establish us in peace, so spread over us thy tabernacle of peace everlasting, and speedily effectuate, that among us may be heard “the voice of him who bringeth glad tidings,” announcing that “the redeemer cometh to Zion.” So be it thy will, and we say Amen.


A Prayer by the Hazan (for Thanksgiving)

By The Reverend [Hazzan] Gershom Seixas, Religious Discourse delivered in the Synagogue in This City on Thursday, 26th November, 1789, Agreeable to the Proclamation of the President of the United States of America, to be observed as a day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer(New York, NY: Shearith Israel Synagogue, 1789) p. 16. 

May the Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us or forsake us; that he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his judgments which he commanded our fathers. And may these my words, wherewith I have made supplication before the Lord, be nigh unto the Lord our God, day and night, that he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel, at all times, as the matter shall require.

That all the people of the earth may know that the Lord he is God, and none else.

This book of the law shall not depart from thy mouth; and thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then shalt thou make thy way prosperous, and then shalt thou be prudent.

Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

May our Prayers be acceptable before You, Lord our God, our Rock and our Redeemer.

Prayer for Synagogue Leadership

By The Hon. Lily H. Montagu, as published in Rabbi Morrison David Bial (ed.), An Offering of Prayer: Prayers and Meditations Private and Public (Summit, NJ: Temple Sinai of Summit, 1962) p. 50. Adapted by Hinda Tz. Eisen Labovitz, 2014.

Almighty Father, we pray to You with faith in Your directing power and in Your eternal love.  We humbly ask You to accept this Synagogue as an offering unto You. Let Your blessing be upon it. Grant that those who come to worship here may come in a spirit of humility and filled with love for a living Judaism. May they find here consolation in times of trouble, courage and hope when in doubt or difficulty, and when in joy, the consecration of their happiness.

O God, please reveal to those who pray in this place the way to righteousness, justice, truth, and peace. Let the men and women, young people and children who gather here in sincerity in ever greater numbers, receive Your instruction through study and service, and strive to share Your diving light with all seekers.

Place Your blessing, we pray, on the leadership of this synagogue, and on all who come to work with them for the welfare of its members and for all humanity.

Quicken the faith of all who worship in this House of Prayer, that they may know full well that Your presence is int heir midst now and forevermore.


The Ultimate Forgiveness

Cantor Hinda Eisen Labovitz
For Selichot with Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County and Ohr Kodesh Congregation

In this season, we request absolution from our fellows, and request absolution from God.  Though our human and divine community gives us the opportunity to repent our transgressions, too often do we withhold forgiveness from ourselves.

Let us each say,

As I go into the new year, let me give myself a new beginning.
As I recall my own past mistakes and transgressions, let me achieve a place of self-understanding.
Before I feel embarrassment or shame from the memory of a misdeed, let me truly be able to say “I have forgiven myself for that,” and let me be able to move on.

Ribono Shel Olam – Master of the Universe! As I am created in Your image, and You are a loving God who gives me the opportunity to repent and gives me the gift of Your forgiveness, help me embody You, and learn this year to forgive myself.

Prayer for a Mother Whose Child is Abroad

From Fanny Neuda, Stunden der Andacht: Ein Gebet und Erbauungsbuch für Israels Frauen und Jungfrauen [Hours of Devotion: A Prayer and Devotional Book for Women and Young Women of Israel], (Prague: Wolf Pascheles Publishing, 1858, 2nd ed.), pp. 101-102. Translated from the German by Hinda Tz. Eisen.

“The Lord will keep you from all evil; God will keep your soul.” (Psalm 121:7)

All-Gracious God—far from his parental home, far from his mother’s care and concern, my child lives in a foreign land, and I, who would find delight in watching over his health, in guarding his every step, in lavishing my undying love and faithfulness on him, am separated from him. My eye, my hand, my voice cannot reach him. I can but pray to You, my God, for his welfare and deliverance.

O Merciful One, hear the fervent supplication of my heart; take my child into Your almighty protection, lead him safely over every rock and thorn in his path. Endow him with such charms and grace, with such prudent modest and deportment, that he will win the hearts of everyone he meets. Procure for him the friendship and benevolence of his neighbors, and thus turn the foreign land into a home for him.

Preserve the health and vigor of his body and soul. Guard him against evil, calamity, and danger. Allow his soul to remain pure and clear and cleave in childlike innocence and piety to all that is noble and divine, that his eye and demeanor may ever be a brilliant mirror of his unblemished heart.
O God, grant him strength and calm, energy and perseverance to attend to and fulfill all the tasks he undertakes, that they may be a blessing and a beacon for him and make his life happy and contented.
Help him conquer all troubles and obstacles, and grant him all that may assist in his present and future welfare.

O Father of All, hear my fervent prayer and bring my child back to me, at the right time, full of joy and the vigor of life, to be the pride and delight of my heart, a blessing to all, and pleasing in your sight, my God and Sovereign. Amen.

Who But I (by George Oliver)

Who But I?
by George Oliver

Who but I 
Could sing of the things He’s done 
Beholding this rising sun 
Remembering victories won
Considering stars He’s flung 
Standing in awe of mysteries that stun me into 
This posture of worship 
Bend my back with bowed down head 
Drop down tears for fears unsaid 
In attempts to kiss the feet of one once dead 
Who lives again 
Frees from sin 
Lifts me then he tells me, “Win this race, My child, 
Because life is funny, 
And only a while 
So run with grace…and style 
Showing them you’re Mine 
And, as it just so happens 
Your internal light 
Lit by Eternal Flame 
Shall never go out 
Should never be hid 
Will drive out the dark 
If you do as I did and shine…child of Mine.” 
Who but I 
Could tell this story 
In stammering tongues 
About things so gory 
But rest there not 
For they end in glory 
Oh, those midnight cries 
Gave way to mid-day shouts 
And in Spirit I danced about 
Forgetting the rain 
And the pain 
The stain on my soul 
Because He turned it 
A badge 
A seal 
A vow 
A tribute 
That I willingly, gladly 
Give back to Him 
Yet something more 
Not merely the inscription 
Penned by the ink of my days 
But all of who I am 
The redeeming of my ways 
Yield I to Him, who knows no end 
And in His word, in His dying, in my wrongness 
Still calls me friend…

Who but I 
Should return to that river 
And pick up the harp 
Since the hour of weeping has now past 
A summer’s heat replaces a winter’s blast 
And we children of Zion rejoice 
We give voice 
To our mother’s song 
That she clenched in her throat 
Or father’s beat 
That he taught us by rote 
An undying hymn 
Encasing enduring themes 
Of ethereal hopes 
For unattained dreams 
That God showed them of our day 
To liberate intoxicated minds 
To loosen psychological chains that keep us in binds 
To love strange people of all human kinds 
To listen to those troubled until peace their heart finds 
To lift some brother’s burdens before his life unwinds 
To-day, To Dei we pray 
To keep us in the way of His commands 
To keep us in the way of His desires 
To keep us in the way of the unjust 
As they trample over the weak 
To keep us in the way of broken hearts 
Before their love refuge seeks 
In defiling embrace of the cold-cold world 
Ending up curled in some corner alone 
Lead us with the light that You’ve shown 
To uncover their hiding place 
Give us Your saving grace 
To fill up their empty space 
And mine 
God of our years weary 
God, when in silence teary 
We stood at Your throne 
You never left us alone 
So here now we pause… 
In this house our ancestors imagined 
In this land that You delivered us to 
Then delivered us from 
Just to carry us to bear Your light in their house white 
In this world, in which more knees bow at the name of God 
Than any other 
We pause… 
Because Your name’s so sweet 
It brings stillness to our feet 
As we first meet Your fragrance 
For You, holy, holy, holy Lord, have entered in 
And we await Your voice as You speak

Who but I 
Could upward bend my spirit to shout Your praise 
Who but I 
Could celestially send these sounds of mine 
These tunes so fine 
These musical sips of wine 
Lifted to Your divine chambers above 
Who but I 
Could take from a cruel world 
Its irascible heat 
And transform these fires 
Into soul-saving beats 
Into wrought words of worship 
Into wisdom that won’t die 
Into Thy will be done 
Into wells that never dry 
Who but I 
Could strum the strings of swing 
Who but I would compel some voice to sing 
Who but I 
Could yield breath for trumps to sound 
Or stretch hands and feet on organs 
For Your glory to come down 
And bless this ground 
Where which we stand 
Or sound high cymbals at Your command 
Who but I 
Could forget my failings for just one day 
And exalt Your perfection 
In this new way 
For the breath is mine 
And burning hot within my lungs 
I breathe it out 
And bid Your Spirit come 
To saturate this air 
To lighten loads and lift our cares 
And leave us changed 
Though You do not 
Who but I…but we 
Could praise this God with all we’ve got? 

Prayer for a Shaliach Tsibbur before Shacharit on the High Holy Days (excerpt)

Unknown Authorship. Found pasted into a manuscript of Rosh Ha-Shanah nusach by Abraham Baer, dated 1870. Translated by Hinda Tz. Eisen, 2013.

Prayer for Shaliach Tsibbur Privately

God, True King, Shaddai, the Highest Ruler, accept my supplication willingly and with strength of heart. […] Have mercy upon me and hear the prayer which I pray today for myself and for my household and for my witnesses who agree with my prayer. Include my prayer among the righteous and the clean prayers that Israel will make. […] May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable before You, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer, Amen Selah. May it be Your will, O Awesome One, that you will bestow upon me a pleasant and pleasing voice today, and may my voice not give out and my throat not tire; may my voice be pleasant and strong like it says [in Your Torah], “the voice of the Shofar was ever-going and strong.” Amen, Selah.

True Repentance

From Likutei T’fillot for the month of Elul (6:42), based on the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Accessed here on August 13, 2013, p. 38. Translated by Hinda Tzivia Eisen.

Lord my God, my soul very much knows that I am very far from true repentance, for my sins have passed in my head and they have confused my thoughts, so much so that I don’t have any idea how to return to you. The knowledge eludes me and my heart has left me. I walk in this world here and there dejected, without knowledge, and without heart.

I Must Praise God

By Epictetus (1st century), as published in Rabbi Morrison David Bial (ed.), An Offering of Prayer: Prayers and Meditations Private and Public (Summit, NJ: Temple Sinai of Summit, 1962), p. 21.

And what words can truly express our praise of the works of Providence? if we had understanding, ought we not incessantly sing hymns to the Deity to rehearse His benefits? Ought we not as we dig or we plow or eat, sing a hymn to God? Great is God who has given us the strength and skill and tools to till the ground! Who has given us limbs and power and organs! And that which should be the subject of the greatest and most divine hymn: that he has granted us the faculty of apprehending his gifts!

What else then can I, a lame old man, do but chant the praise of God? If I were a nightingale, I would sing as a nightingale; if a swan, as a swan. But as I am a rational creature, I must praise God. This is my task and I will do it. nor will I leave this duty so long as I live; and I exhort you all to join in this same thing.

A Meditation on Prayer

By Alvin I. Fine, as published in Rabbi Morrison David Bial (ed.), An Offering of Prayer: Prayers and Meditations Private and Public (Summit, NJ: Temple Sinai of Summit, 1962), p. 10. Adapted by Hinda Tz. Eisen, 2013.

Prayer is aspiration. The self-satisfied disregard it. They who reach for higher things find it a necessity.

Prayer is a discipline. They who seek meaning and purpose in life discover it was a wise teacher.

Prayer is an art. We perfect it only through practice.

Never are we more truly and nobly ourselves than when we pray. Never are we more honestly aware of our shortcomings than when we are in God’s presence. never do we aspire more earnestly toward self-improvement and human betterment than when we worship Him.

Gradually, the interval between prayer and deed diminishes until, at last, all life becomes a sanctuary.

“I rejoiced when they said unto me: ‘Let us go unto the house of the Lord.'” (Psalms 122:1)