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Memorial Prayer for Abraham Lincoln by Isaac Goldstein the Levite (1865)

Abraham Lincoln in Thinking Pose (credit: Mathew Brady, 1862, Public Domain)

The following acrostic authored by Isaac Goldstein the Levite was published in The Jewish Messenger on May 25, 1865 under the title, “ACROSTIC on ABRAHAM LINCOLN, Assassinated Nisan 18th, 5625” and prefaced by Psalms 45:1.


רָ֘חַ֤שׁ לִבִּ֨י דָּ֘בָ֤ר טֹ֗וב אֹמֵ֣ר אָ֭נִי מַעֲשַׂ֣י לְמֶ֑לֶךְ לְ֝שֹׁונִ֗י עֵ֤ט סֹופֵ֬ר מָהִֽיר׃
My heart is moved. I would like to pay tribute to a King.

אשריך לינקאלען מי כָמוכָה
בין מלכים ושרים מאוד נִשְׁאֵתָ
רבות פעלה בנפש נָמוכָה
הך ליחיד בארץ דמית
מי ברוזנים לינקאלען ומי יתהלל כמכהו

Exalted are you Lincoln. Who is like you!

You were highly respected among Kings and Princes.

All that you accomplished you did with a humble spirit.

You are singular and cannot be compared to anyone else.

Who among the great are like Lincoln? Who can be praised like you?


לךָ שם גם בגבורים
ימינך עשה חָיִל
נגדם חזרת חרב חללים
קשת דרכת יומם וְלָיִל
אב אחד בראנו אָמַרְתָ
לכן דרור השמעת פקודיך
עם הכושים לחירות גאָלתָ
נצח יפארו ויפארו ויברכו שמך

You have earned a name among the Great.

Your right hand exhibited its prowess.

Against your enemies, you extended a sword of death;

Your bow you directed night and day.

You declared that Our Father in Heaven created all men equally.

Therefore you and you followers fought for freedom in your land.

Through your efforts the Kushim were led to freedom.

They will praise and bless your name forever.


מי ברוזנים לינקאלען ומי יתפארו כמוהו
Who among princes is equal to you, Lincoln, and who can be praised like you?

אייזק גאלדשטיין הלוי
Isaac Goldstein the Levi
Isaac Goldstein's Memorial Prayer for Abraham Lincoln. Arnold and Deanne Kaplan Collection of Early American Judaica at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, on loan to the National Museum of American Jewish History

Isaac Goldstein’s Memorial Prayer for Abraham Lincoln. Arnold and Deanne Kaplan Collection of Early American Judaica at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, on loan to the National Museum of American Jewish History


We are extremely grateful to Abe Katz for contributing his scholarship and translation with a CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported license. Please visit Abe Katz’s excellent site, Beurei haTefillah, where he provides PDF sourcesheets of so many of his studies in tefillah. Abe Katz’s transcription was first included in his sourcesheet, “Prayers for George Washington and Abraham Lincoln“; we have retranscribed the text in Unicode Hebrew [–Aharon Varady].

Psalm 45:1
The Jewish Messenger translates the Kushim (הכושים) as “the blacks.” Abe Katz translates to “African Americans.” We have kept the original.[–Aharon Varady]
The translation as it originally appears in The Jewish Messenger is as follows:

My heart overflows with a good speech. I address my work unto a king. Psalms, 45:2.[sic]

I.

Happy art thou, Lincoln, Who is like unto thee!
Among kings and princes thou art exalted.
Much thou did’st with an humble spirit.
Thou art like a unique person in the land.
Who among princes is like Lincoln?
Who shall be praised like him?

II.
Thou hast also a name among heroes!
Thy right hand has achieved prowess against them.
Thou hast girded on the sword of the slain.
Thou hast drawn the bow by night and by day.
One Father has created us, thou hast said;
Therefore thou hast proclaimed Freedom in thy land.
The black people thou hast redeemed into Freedom:
Forever they will praise and bless thy name.

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