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רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם | Untitled Prayer, by Isaac Bashevis Singer (ca. 1952)

https://opensiddur.org/?p=45687 רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם | Untitled Prayer, by Isaac Bashevis Singer (ca. 1952) 2022-07-19 00:50:33 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 (<a href="https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/arts-letters/articles/the-prayer-isaac-bashevis-singer">1</a>, <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/507813592/Issac-Bashevis-Singer-s-Petition-to-God">2</a>) with permission of the Susan Schulman Literary Agency. Text the Open Siddur Project Aharon N. Varady (transcription) Aharon N. Varady (transcription) David Stromberg (translation) Isaac Bashevis Singer https://opensiddur.org/copyright-policy/ Aharon N. Varady (transcription) https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/107 Congregation &amp; Community Shiv'ah Asar b'Tamuz Tishah b'Av 58th century A.M. Three Weeks of Mourning אהבת ישראל loving Yisrael paraliturgical ribon haOlamim 20th century C.E. Needing Proofreading
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Source (Hebrew)Translation (English)
רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם,
תֵּן בְּלִבִּי אַהֲבַת יִשְׂרָאֵל
וּמְנוּחַת הַנֶּפֶשׁ.
הֲבִינֵנִי לִרְאוֹת בְּכׇל בְּרִיאָה וּבְרִיאָה אֶת בּוֹרְאָהּ
וְאֶת חַסְדּוֹ לְכׇל נִבְרָא.
Master of the Universe,
fill my heart with love for my people,[1] lit. “love for Yisrael.” Note that Ahavat Yisrael is its own concern in medieval and modern Jewish thought. 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 יְדִידָיו,
כׇּל הוֹנוֹ וּכְבוֹדוֹ
הֵם רַק כְּצֵל עוֹבֵר.
הוּא בְּעַצְמוֹ הוּא כְּעָנָן פּוֹרֵחַ,
כְּקִיקָיוֹן דְּיוֹנָה.
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.[2] Find Berakhot 28b:9 and Berakhot 33a:1. 
All their friends,
all their possessions and honors,
are like a passing shadow.[3] Find Psalms 144:4.  
They are themselves like passing clouds,
like Jonah’s tree.[4] Find Jonah 4:6-10. The qiqayon of Jonah is a motif symbolizing ephemeral comforts. 
אֲבָל אַתָּה מֵעוֹלָם אַתָּה
וּלְעוֹלָם תִּהְיֶה.
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 maker[5] lit. father.  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.
Seek happiness,
but not on account of your neighbors and family,[6] Since אַל תַשִּׂיגֵנוּ appears to be a reference to Isaiah 59:9, we would suggest a different translation: “Pursue happiness, but do not obtain it at the expense of your neighbor and fellow.” 
for you are they and they are you,
you are bonded,[7] lit. “brothers.” The important sense here is that of interconnection.  children of God.[8] bnei Elohim, lit. “children of Elohim.” In the Tanakh, bnei Elohim (and “bnei ha-Elohim”) is a term synonymous with angelic beings. Find Genesis 6:2, Genesis 6:4, Job 1:6, Job 2:1, Job 38:7, and Deuteronomy 32:8 (the recension attested in the LXX in the LXX). Here I.B. Singer does not appear to me to be invoking the term as it relates to the cautious lesson of humanity behaving as gods, in emulation of the Nefilim, whose progeny predated upon Nature with unquenchable rapacious appetites. Rather, I.B. Singer is invoking the term more simply to remind humanity of their common heritage, created btselem Elohim
אֱלוֹהַּ,
נְצֹר לְשׁוֹנִי מֵרָע
וּשְׂפָתַי מִדַּבֵּר מִרְמָה
וּמוֹחִי מִלַּחֲשֹׁב אָוֶן.
פְּתַח לִבִּי בְּמִצְווֹתֶיךָ
וְאַחֲרֵי תוֹרָתֶךָ תִּרְדֹּף נַפְשִׁי
וְשֶׁכׇּל מַעֲשַׂי יִהְיוּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם.
God,[9] 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.[10] An addition to the traditional formulations of “Elohai netsor.” 
Open my heart to your commands,
let my heart seek your teaching,[11] ’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.[12] Another addition. Cf. Reb Noson Sternhartz of Nemyriv’s Likutei Tefilot I:60.5. 
הַיְּהוּדִים הַיְּרֵאִים
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)
Those who fear God[13] lit. “The Jewish who fear God.” 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 translation here was published by Stromberg in Tablet. I have set his translation side-by-side with the Hebrew sourcetext, some annotation, and provided citations for the biblical and liturgical references that stood out to me. Many thanks to David Stromberg for permitting us to reprint his translation here along with these additions.

We do not know when after 1 March 1952 this prayer was written down or what context possibly motivated its composition. While the Night of the Murdered Poets (12 August 1952) comes to mind, details of that terrible event were not known before 1956. It feels significant to me that Singer specifies “the Jews who fear God,” mindful of those Jews who, for their own reasons, did harm other Jews. Where that had harm took place, in his surroundings, in the United States, or somewhere else remains a mystery. If this prayer was inspired by something else that occurred in Singer’s personal life or in reflection upon other events, we would like to know. 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

Source(s)

 

Notes

Notes
1lit. “love for Yisrael.” Note that Ahavat Yisrael is its own concern in medieval and modern Jewish thought. 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.
2Find Berakhot 28b:9 and Berakhot 33a:1.
3Find Psalms 144:4.
4Find Jonah 4:6-10. The qiqayon of Jonah is a motif symbolizing ephemeral comforts.
5lit. father.
6Since אַל תַשִּׂיגֵנוּ appears to be a reference to Isaiah 59:9, we would suggest a different translation: “Pursue happiness, but do not obtain it at the expense of your neighbor and fellow.”
7lit. “brothers.” The important sense here is that of interconnection.
8bnei Elohim, lit. “children of Elohim.” In the Tanakh, bnei Elohim (and “bnei ha-Elohim”) is a term synonymous with angelic beings. Find Genesis 6:2, Genesis 6:4, Job 1:6, Job 2:1, Job 38:7, and Deuteronomy 32:8 (the recension attested in the LXX in the LXX). Here I.B. Singer does not appear to me to be invoking the term as it relates to the cautious lesson of humanity behaving as gods, in emulation of the Nefilim, whose progeny predated upon Nature with unquenchable rapacious appetites. Rather, I.B. Singer is invoking the term more simply to remind humanity of their common heritage, created btselem Elohim.
9This prayer adapted from “Elohai netsor” at the conclusion of the Amidah.
10An addition to the traditional formulations of “Elohai netsor.”
11’Torah’ and ‘mitsvot’ exchange places here. Transposed as they appear in “פְּתַח לִבִּי בְּתוֹרָתֶךָ וּבְמִצְוֹתֶיךָ תִּרְדֹּף נַפְשִׁי.”
12Another addition. Cf. Reb Noson Sternhartz of Nemyriv’s Likutei Tefilot I:60.5.
13lit. “The Jewish who fear God.” 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.

 

 

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