|Source (Hebrew)||Translation (English)|
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְפָנֶיךָ
הֳ״ אֱלֹהֵינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ
אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיָעֲקֹב
שֶׁתִּתֶּן בְּלֵב אֲדוֹנֵינוּ הַמֶלֶךְ יוֹרְגי שְׁלִישִׁי
וּבְלֵב כָּל יוֹעֲצָיו וְשָׁרָיו וַעֲבַדָיו
לַהֲפֹךְ אֶת הַאַף וְהַחֵימָה מִנֶגֶד אֲמִירִיקַא צְפוֹנִית
וּתְבַּטֵל גְּזֵרוֹת הָרָעוֹת מֵעָלֵינוּ
וְתָשׁוּב מַחְשְׁבוֹת שׂוֹנִּאֵינוּ הָרָעָה עַל רֹאשָׁם
וְשֶׁלֹא יִשָׁפֵךְ דַם עוֹד בַּמְּדִינוֹת הָאֵלּוּ׃
YHVH our elo’ah, the elo’ah of our Fathers,
Elo’ah of Avraham, Yitsḥaq and Ya’aqov,
may it please you to put it in the heart of our Sovereign Lord, George III,
and in the hearts of his Councilors, Princes and Servants,
to turn away their fierce Wrath from against North America,
and to destroy the wicked devices of our enemies,
that it may fall on their own heads,
that there may no more blood be shed in these Countries.
אָנָא הֳ״ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
שָׁתִפְתַח לָנוּ שַׁעֲרֵי רַחֲמִים בְּיוֹם צוֹם הַתָּעֲנִית הַזֶה
וְתָּבֹא לְפָנֶיךָ תְּפִלָּתֵנוּ וּתְפִלָּת כָּל הָעָם
הָעֹמְדִים לְפָנֶיךָ הַיוֹם
שֶׁלֹא תַּעֲבֹר עוֹד חֶרֶב בְּאַרְצֵינוּ
וְתִשְׁלַח מַלְאַכֵי רַחֲמִים
לִקְרוֹא שָׁלוֹם לְכָל אֲמִירִיקַא וּלְכָל יוֹשְׁבֶיהָ,
וְתִטַע עוֹד שָלוֹם
בֵּינֵנוּ וּבֵין יוֹשְבֵי המְּדִינָה עֶנְגְלַא טִירָה
כּאֲשֶׁר הָיָה מִקֶּרֶם וְקַיֵים לָנוּ מִקְרָא שֶׁכָּתוּב
וְכִתְּהוּ חַרְבוֹתָם לְאִתִּים
לֹא יִשָׂאגוֹי אֶל גּוֹי חֶרֶב
וְלֹא יִלְמְדוּ עוֹד מִלְחָמָה
YHVH our elo’ah, we beseech you
to open unto us the gates of mercy on this our solemn Fast
and that our prayers and the prayers of all the people
that stand before you this day,
may come before you that war may no more pass through our Land,
and that you may send the Angels of mercy
to proclaim Peace to all America and to the inhabitants thereof.
That you may once more plant an everlasting peace
between Great Britain and her Colonies
as in former times and confirm unto us what is written:
“And they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against Nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.” Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3
According to the manuscript this prayer was “Part of the Order of Service observed in the Synagogue Congeregation Shearith Israel, on a day of humiliation, fasting & prayer, recommended by Congress in the year 1776.” The prayer was likely composed and read on Iyyar 28, 5536 (17 May, 1776) by Rabbi Gershom Mendes Seixas. David de Sola Pool, Tamar de Sola Pool, An Old Faith in the New World: Portrait of Shearith Israel, 1654-1954, Columbia University Press, 1995. p. 170. Also see, Jonathan D. Sarna, Benny Kraut, Samuel K. Joseph, Jews and the founding of the Republic, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Center for the Study of the American Jewish Experience, International Center for University Teaching of Jewish Civilization, M. Wiener Pub., Dec 1, 1985, p.36. The prayer is found in the Jacques Judah Lyons papers; P-15; 1; 4; 234; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA. An English translation included with the manuscript was published by the American Jewish Historical Society, in The Lyons Papers, “Items Relating to New York Congregation,” 1913. p. 31. The English translation is adapted with minor changes from that made available in that publication. In a footnote, the American Jewish Historical Society adds, “This was before the Declaration of Independence. During the American Revolution the Congregation disbanded for patriotic reasons and closed the doors of the synagogue rather than continue under British auspices.”
Many thanks to Mississippi Fred MacDowell for introducing me to this historic prayer in an article at his On the Main Line blog. He writes:
Then, as now, war was looked upon by many as a great evil, especially between brothers, and many American Colonists only wanted the oppressive measures of King George III to be lifted, bloodshed ended, and peace restored. The nascent American Congress called for a day of “Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer” along these lines for May 17, 1776. It was for this occasion that this prayer was recited in Congregation Shearith Israel in New York.
As you can see, a complete service was arranged for this occasion, meant to invoke the solemnity and seriousness of the occasion; after morning prayer, Taḥanun was to be sung to the tune of a Yom Kippur pizmon; a dozen Psalms recited, and then the Ḥazan would recite this prayer written for the occasion, and of course all were to be fasting. The prayer hopes for a change of heart for King George III and his advisors, that they would rescind their wrath and harsh decrees against “North America,” that the bloodshed should end, and peace and reconciliation should obtain between the Americans and Great Britain once more, in fulfillment of the Messianic verse that Nation shall not lift up sword against nation.
Of course this was not meant to be, and six weeks later the American Congress declared independence from Great Britain, and there was no walking back from the hostilities which had already occurred.
I have transcribed this prayer myself and any imperfections are my own. Shgiyot mi yavin u’nistarot nakeni — please correct me if you see a mistake in my transcription.
|1||Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3|
|2||David de Sola Pool, Tamar de Sola Pool, An Old Faith in the New World: Portrait of Shearith Israel, 1654-1954, Columbia University Press, 1995. p. 170. Also see, Jonathan D. Sarna, Benny Kraut, Samuel K. Joseph, Jews and the founding of the Republic, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Center for the Study of the American Jewish Experience, International Center for University Teaching of Jewish Civilization, M. Wiener Pub., Dec 1, 1985, p.36.|
“A Jewish Prayer for Peace between England and her Colonies on a public day of fasting and prayer, 17 May 1776” is shared through the Open Siddur Project with a Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication 1.0 Universal license.
Works of related interest:
Prayer for the Government in honor of George Washington, First President of the United States of America by Ḳ.Ḳ. Beit Shalome (1789)
תפילה לשלום המלכות | Prayer for the Welfare of George Washington, George Clinton, and the Thirteen States of America by Hendla Jochanan van Oettingen (1784)