|Source (Hebrew)||Translation (English)|
רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם,
תֵּן בְּלִבִּי אַהֲבַת יִשְׂרָאֵל
הֲבִינֵנִי לִרְאוֹת בְּכׇל בְּרִיאָה וּבְרִיאָה אֶת בּוֹרְאָהּ
וְאֶת חַסְדּוֹ לְכׇל נִבְרָא.
Master of the Universe,
fill my heart with Ahavat Yisrael, lit. “love for Yisrael.” Stromberg has “love for my people.” Find Sefer HaChinukh 243:1-4, Rambam Mishneh Torah, Human Dispositions 6:3, and Ramban on Leviticus 19:17:1. This concept takes on a particular importance in Ḥasidic teachings. Find Tanya, Part One, The Book of the Average Men 32:1.
and rest for the soul.
Let me see the Creator in each and every creature,
its mercy for each thing it creates.
אֵין בְּכׇל הָעוֹלָם
אַף טִפַּת מַיִם אַחַת
אוֹ חֵלֶק קָטָן שֶׁל אָבָק
שֶׁאֵין אוֹרְךָ בָּהֶם
וְשֶׁהֵם חוּץ מִמֶּמְשַׁלְתְּךָ.
אֵין יְצוּר בְּלִי יוֹצְרוֹ.
לָכֵן בֶּן הַדַּעַת הוּא לְעוֹלָם בְּשִׂמְחָה.
אָבִיו וְאִמּוֹ הֵם רַק גּוּפִים
שֶׁהַיּוֹם כָּאן וּמָחָר בַּקֶּבֶר.
כׇּל הוֹנוֹ וּכְבוֹדוֹ
הֵם רַק כְּצֵל עוֹבֵר.
הוּא בְּעַצְמוֹ הוּא כְּעָנָן פּוֹרֵחַ,
In the entire world
there’s not a single drop of water
or particle of dust
in which your light is lacking,
or that is outside your domain.
There is no creature without its creator.
Those who know this live always in joy.
Their parents are but bodies
that are here today, and are tomorrow in their graves. Find Berakhot 28b:9 and Berakhot 33a:1.
All their friends,
all their possessions and honors,
are like a passing shadow. Find Psalms 144:4.
They are themselves like passing clouds,
like Jonah’s qiqayon. Stromberg has “Jonah’s tree.” Cf. Jonah 4:6-10.
אֲבָל אַתָּה מֵעוֹלָם אַתָּה
אַתָּה הִנְּךָ הַמַּמָּשׁוּת הַיְּחִידָה,
יְסוֹד כׇּל דָּבָר.
אַךְ בְּךָ כׇּל הַשְּׁאֵלוֹת מְתֹרָצִים,
כׇּל הַקֻּשִּׁיּוֹת מֻפְרָכִים.
But you – you have always existed
and will always exist.
You are the only true being,
the essence of all things.
Only for you are all problems solved,
all challenges effortless.
אֵין בְּךָ נִפְתָּל וְעֹנֶשׁ,
לֹא עַוְלָה וּמוּם.
הָרַע יְסוֹדוֹ בַּדְּבָרִים הָעוֹבְרִים,
לֹא בַּקִּיּוּם הַנִּצְחִי.
There is nothing devious in you –
no retribution, injustice, or fault.
Evil lives in all things temporary,
not in what exists eternally.
אַתָּה יוֹדֵעַ לָמָּה בָּרָאתָ אֶת הָרַע
וּמָה אֲנַחְנוּ לִדְרֹשׁ אַחֲרֵי מִדּוֹתֶךָ.
You know why you created evil –
and who are we to question your integrity?
יֵשׁ לָנוּ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה רַק נֶחָמָה אַחַת:
שֶׁאַתָּה אָבִינוּ וּבְיָדֵנוּ לַעֲבֹד אוֹתְךָ
בְּשִׂמְחָה, בְּיִרְאָה, בְּאַהֲבָה כׇּל יְמֵי חַיֵּינוּ,
וְשֶׁנָּתַתָּ לָנוּ שֵׂכֶל לְהָבִין אֵיזוֹ דְּבָרִים.
We have only one comfort in this world –
that you are our parent lit. father. Stromberg offers “maker.” and that we have the power to serve you
with joy, awe, and love, all our lives –
and that you have given us the ability to understand such things.
אַף אִם אֵין אֲנַחְנוּ יוֹדְעִים תַּכְלִית חַיֵּינוּ
וְלָמָּה שְׁלַחְתָּנוּ לְעוֹלָם הַזֶּה לִסְבֹּל,
מְבִינִים אֲנַחְנוּ כִּי חוֹבָתֵנוּ הִיא לִבְנוֹת וְלֹא לַהֲרֹס,
לְנַחֵם וְלֹא לְהַכּוֹת,
לְשַׂמֵּחַ וְלֹא לְהַעֲצִיב אֶת בְּרִיּוֹתֶיךָ.
Though we may not know the purpose of life,
or why you sent us into this world to suffer,
we understand that it is our duty to build and not to destroy,
to comfort and not to torment,
to bring joy rather than sorrow to your creatures.
יֵשׁ רַק שִׂמְחָה אַחַת:
לְהַרְבּוֹת אֶת סְכוּם הַשִּׂמְחָה בָּעוֹלָם וְלֹא לְהַמְעִיטוֹ.
There is only one joy:
to increase and not to lessen the world’s joy.
רֻץ אַחֲרֵי הָאֹשֶׁר
אֲבָל אַל תַשִּׂיגֵנוּ עַל חֶשְׁבּוֹן שְׁכֵנֶךָ וְאָחִיךָ,
כִּי הוּא אַתָּה וְאַתָּה הוּא,
אַחִים אַתֶּם, בְּנֵי אֱלֹהִים.
but do not obtain it Cf. Isaiah 59:9 at the expense of your neighbor and fellow, Stromberg translates, “Seek happiness, but not on account of your neighbors or family.” But as אַל תַשִּׂיגֵנוּ appears to be a reference to Isaiah 59:9, we feel the need to modify his translation here. (Many thanks to Baruch Jean Thaler for his help with the translation and the naqdanut.)
for you are they and they are you,
you are interconnected, lit. “brothers.” Stromberg has “bonded.” bnei Elohim. lit. “children of Elohim” (God), synonymous with angelic beings.
נְצֹר לְשׁוֹנִי מֵרָע
וּשְׂפָתַי מִדַּבֵּר מִרְמָה
וּמוֹחִי מִלַּחֲשֹׁב אָוֶן.
פְּתַח לִבִּי בְּמִצְווֹתֶיךָ
וְאַחֲרֵי תוֹרָתֶךָ תִּרְדֹּף נַפְשִׁי
וְשֶׁכׇּל מַעֲשַׂי יִהְיוּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם.
Elo’ah, This prayer adapted from “Elohai netsor” at the conclusion of the Amidah.
guard my tongue from evil,
my lips from deceit,
and my mind from sin. An addition to the traditional formulations of “Elohai netsor.”
Open my heart to your commands,
let my heart seek your teaching, ’Torah’ and ‘mitsvot’ exchange places here. Transposed as they appear in “פְּתַח לִבִּי בְּתוֹרָתֶךָ וּבְמִצְוֹתֶיךָ תִּרְדֹּף נַפְשִׁי.”
and let all my actions serve a higher purpose. Another addition. Cf. Reb Noson Sternhartz of Nemyriv’s Likutei Tefilot I:60.5.
הֵם הָאֲנָשִׁים הַיְּחִידִים שֶׁאֵינָם מַזִּיקִים זֶה לָזֶה
לֹא בְּכוֹחַ וְלֹא בְּפֹעַל.
לֹא יִלָּחֲמוּ לְעוֹלָם זֶה בָּזֶה
וְלָכֵן הֵם סֵמֶל הַשָּׁלוֹם בָּעוֹלָם,
כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב וְרַב שְׁלוֹם בָּנָיִךְ. (ישעיה נד:יג)
The Jews who fear God Or, “revere God.” Stromberg (or his editors at Tablet) adjusted this line to read “Those who fear God,” but the theme of this prayer is Ahavat Yisrael. This line is significant in that Singer is identifying an ideal characteristic for Jews to emulate under the imperative of Ahavat Yisrael, and following that, the necessity of the preservation of the Jewish people as a particular example and symbol of peaceful, fraternal love among all peoples, and even among all creatures.
are the only ones who do not hurt each other,
neither in fact nor in principle.
They will never wage war against each other,
and for this reason they are the symbol of peace,
as it is written: “and your children’s peace shall grow.” (Isaiah 54:13)
This untitled prayer, written by Isaac Bashevis Singer on the back of a receipt (dated 1 March 1952), was discovered by David Stromberg in 2014 in the archives at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas, and published online by Tablet (1, 2) with permission of the Susan Schulman Literary Agency. The Hebrew transcription here was based on the transcription made by Stromberg, to which I have added vocalization. (Many thanks to Baruch Jean Thaler and Rabbi Stephen Belsky for their corrections. Please offer any corrections that stand out for you.)
The gender-inclusive English translation here is based upon what was published by Stromberg in Tablet. I have set his translation side-by-side with the Hebrew sourcetext and provided citations for the biblical and liturgical references that stood out to me. A few lines of the translation required small but significant corrections so as to make sure that the main theme, Ahavat Yisrael, be clearly reflected in the translation. And I have made a few other small changes, mainly to fill small gaps I noticed (for example: “In the entire world…”), but also to replace “tree” with “qiqayon,” and “God” with the specific divine name invoked: “Elo’ah.”
We do not know when after 1 March 1952 this prayer was written down, but I cannot hear the year 1952 and not think of the Night of the Murdered Poets (12 August 1952) and wonder how I.B. Singer responded to that terrible event. It feels significant to me that Singer specifies “the Jews who fear God,” mindful of those Jews who, through their collaborations, did harm other Jews in the Soviet Union. But maybe this prayer was inspired by something else that occurred in Singer’s personal life or in reflection on events in the State of Israel. If you can help put this prayer into its historical (or personal) context, please leave a comment or contact us. The prayer reminds me of the prayers of Reb Noson Sternhartz of Nemyriv in Liqutei Tefilot, adapted from the teachings of Rebbe Naḥman and in the section with Singer’s adaptation of “elohai netsor” I think we can find a clear reference to the language found there.
This work will remain under copyright for seventy years after Singer’s death (until 2062 under the copyright stewardship of the Isaac Bashevis Singer Literary Trust), and Stromberg’s translation for many years after that, and so this prayer is being shared under my Fair Use Right for non-commercial, scholarly, and prayerful purposes. (Many thanks to David Stromberg for bringing this prayer into the light of day.) –Aharon Varady
|1||lit. “love for Yisrael.” Stromberg has “love for my people.” Find Sefer HaChinukh 243:1-4, Rambam Mishneh Torah, Human Dispositions 6:3, and Ramban on Leviticus 19:17:1. This concept takes on a particular importance in Ḥasidic teachings. Find Tanya, Part One, The Book of the Average Men 32:1.|
|2||Find Berakhot 28b:9 and Berakhot 33a:1.|
|3||Find Psalms 144:4.|
|4||Stromberg has “Jonah’s tree.” Cf. Jonah 4:6-10.|
|5||lit. father. Stromberg offers “maker.”|
|6||Cf. Isaiah 59:9|
|7||Stromberg translates, “Seek happiness, but not on account of your neighbors or family.” But as אַל תַשִּׂיגֵנוּ appears to be a reference to Isaiah 59:9, we feel the need to modify his translation here. (Many thanks to Baruch Jean Thaler for his help with the translation and the naqdanut.)|
|8||lit. “brothers.” Stromberg has “bonded.”|
|9||lit. “children of Elohim” (God), synonymous with angelic beings.|
|10||This prayer adapted from “Elohai netsor” at the conclusion of the Amidah.|
|11||An addition to the traditional formulations of “Elohai netsor.”|
|12||’Torah’ and ‘mitsvot’ exchange places here. Transposed as they appear in “פְּתַח לִבִּי בְּתוֹרָתֶךָ וּבְמִצְוֹתֶיךָ תִּרְדֹּף נַפְשִׁי.”|
|13||Another addition. Cf. Reb Noson Sternhartz of Nemyriv’s Likutei Tefilot I:60.5.|
|14||Or, “revere God.” Stromberg (or his editors at Tablet) adjusted this line to read “Those who fear God,” but the theme of this prayer is Ahavat Yisrael. This line is significant in that Singer is identifying an ideal characteristic for Jews to emulate under the imperative of Ahavat Yisrael, and following that, the necessity of the preservation of the Jewish people as a particular example and symbol of peaceful, fraternal love among all peoples, and even among all creatures.|
“רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם | Prayer for Ahavat Yisrael, by Isaac Bashevis Singer (ca. 1952)” is shared through the Open Siddur Project with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International copyleft license.
Works of related interest:
אַזְכִּֽירָה יָמִים עִם יָמִים | Azkira Yamim Im Yamim, a piyyut for the First Shabbat of Admonition by Rabbi Yannai (ca. early 6th c.)
תפילה למי שצריך לאכול בימי צום | Prayer for those who need to eat on fast days (A Mitzvah to Eat, 2022)
Prayer on the Anniversary of Brighton & Hove Liberal Synagogue, by Lilian Helen Montagu (27 May 1956)