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Opening Prayer on the Significance of Labor Day, by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, J. Paul Williams, and Eugene Kohn (1951)


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Our God and Creator:
On this day we consecrate to you
the labor of muscle and mind.
We thank you for the gifts of life
and for the wherewithal to sustain it.
Yours is the earth and all it holds,[1] Cf. Psalms 24:1. 
and you have unlocked its resources
for the service of humanity.
Yours is the energy pent in the seed,
and yours is the strength and skill of humanity,
whereby they cause the fields to yield to them
food in abundance.

When men and women bring forth
that which satisfies their needs,
it is you who instruct them.
When they exchange with one another
what they can best do and make,
it is you who guides them.
You desire that all people have at their disposal
what each most needs for health and comfort
and for the full use of the gifts
wherewith you have endowed them.

Bless our toil, O God,
that no one in this land of ours
or in any other land
need ever lack bread to eat,
or raiment to wear,
the shelter of a home,
or whatever else he may require
for health of body and mind.

Restrain our hungers
from becoming extravagant,
and hold back our desires
from exceeding the bounds
of reason and justice.

Withhold us from selling our labor
to the service of greed and of hate,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to devote it to your service,
to banish poverty,
and war,
and to establish your rule
of freedom,
and peace.

“Opening Prayer on the Significance of [Labor] Day” was first published in The Faith of America: Readings, Songs, and Prayers for the Celebration of American Holidays (Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation 1951), p.165. It is unclear from this publication whether the prayer was written by Mordecai Kaplan, J. Paul Williams, or Eugene Kohn separately or together in collaboration. I have replaced archaisms in this prayer (thee, thy, thou, etc.) and made other changes to make this prayer more gender-neutral (e.g. by replacing ‘man’ with ‘humanity.’) –Aharon Varady





1Cf. Psalms 24:1.



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