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Almighty and most merciful God,
we approach Thy presence this day
to thank Thee for Thy past mercies,
and humbly to beseech Thee
to continue and extend the same to Thy servants,
the Representatives of these United States in Congress assembled.
great and manifold have been Thy bounties
to this highly-favored land.
Heartfelt and sincere are our thanks.
While the vast despotisms of Asia
are crumbling into dust,
and the effete monarchies of the Old World
can only sustain themselves by yielding to the pressure
of the spirit of the age,
it has been Thy gracious will
that in this Western hemisphere
there should be established a Commonwealth
after the model of that which Thou, Thyself,
didst bestow on the tribes of Israel,
in their best and purest days.
The Constitution and the institutions of this Republic
prove to the world that men,
created in Thy image and obedient to Thy behests,
are not only capable, fully capable, of self-government,
but that they know best how to combine
civil liberty with ready obedience to the laws,
religious liberty with warm zeal for religion,
absolute general equality with sincere respect for individual rights.
In acquiring and carrying out these most wise institutions,
Thy protection, Lord, has been signally manifest.
It was Thy right hand
that defended the founders of this Commonwealth,
during the long and perilous struggle
of right against might.
It was Thy wisdom
that inspired them
when they established this Congress,
to be what Thy tabernacle,
with the urim and thummin —
right and equity —
were intended to have been for the tribes of Israel —
the heart of the entire nation,
where the wants,
and wishes of all
might become known,
to be respected by all,
so that union might create strength,
and concord keep pace with prosperity.
the ordinary life-time of a man has barely elapsed
since this Constitution came into force,
and under its auspices our country,
from being feeble and poor
has become wealthy and powerful,
ready to take rank with the mightiest,
and Thou, O Lord, wilt realize unto it
Thy gracious promise unto Thy chosen people:
Ve-hotircha adonai letobah —
the Lord will distinguish thee for that which is good. (Deuteronomy 28:11 part)
Supreme Ruler of the universe,
many days and many weeks have gone by
since thy servants, our Representatives,
first met in this Congress,
but not yet have they been able to organize their House.
Thou who makest peace in Thy high Heavens,
direct their minds this day
that with one consent they may agree
to choose the man who,
without fear and without favor,
is to preside over this assembly.
To this intent, Father most gracious,
do Thou endow them with Thy spirit;
the spirit of wisdom and of understanding;
the spirit of counsel and of amity;
the spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord.
that amidst the din of conflicting interests and opinions,
Thy grace may direct them
so that each one of them and all of them
may hold the even tenor of their way —
the way of moderation and of equity;
that they may speak and act and legislate
for Thy glory and the happiness of our country;
from the North and from the South,
from the East and from the West,
one feeling of satisfaction may attend their labors;
while the whole people of the land
joyfully repeat the words of Thy Psalmist:
“How good and how pleasant it is
when brethren dwell together in unity.” (Psalms 133:1)
Lord God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob,
I, Thy servant, beseech Thee bless these Representatives,
even as Thou has directed Thy priests to bless Thy people.
יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהֹוָה וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ׃
יָאֵר יְהֹוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ׃
יִשָּׂא יְהֹוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם׃
Yebarekeka adonai Yeyishmireka.
Ya-air adonai panav aleka wy-chunneka.
Yissa adonai penav aleka veyasem leka Shalom.
May the Lord bless ye and preserve ye.
May the Lord cause his countenance to shine upon ye and be gracious unto ye.
May the Lord raise his countenance unto ye and grant ye peace. (Numbers 6:25-27)
May this blessing of the one who liveth and who reigneth forever
rest upon your counsels and yourselves this day, and evermore. —
This is the text of the Rabbi Morris Jacob Raphall’s prayer offered before the U.S. House of Representatives as recorded in the Congressional Globe, (part 1, 36th Congress, 1st Session, 1859-1860) pp. 648-649, and reprinted (with corrections to the included romanized Hebrew) in The Occident and American Jewish Advocate, vol. 18, no. 46, 9 Feb 1860, pp. 275-276. (Many thanks to the National Library of Israel’s Historical Jewish Press resource for making page images of this resource accessible.) Only two weeks prior to offering this prayer, Raphall had delivered a controversial sermon, “The Bible View of Slavery,” which provided a defense of slavery. His argument was passionately refuted by Rabbi David Einhorn and others.
“Prayer of the Guest Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives: Rabbi Morris J. Raphall on 1 February 1860” is shared through the Open Siddur Project with a Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication 1.0 Universal license.
Works of related interest:
Prayer of the Guest Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives: Rabbi Abram Simon on 16 February 1905
Prayer of the Guest Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives: Rabbi Shlomo Segal on 25 April 2018
Prayer of the Guest Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives: Rabbi Thomas A. Louchheim on 17 May 2017
Prayer of the Guest Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives: Rabbi Hannah Spiro on 29 May 2018
Prayer of the Guest Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives: Rabbi Joshua Gruenberg on 13 November 2013
Prayer of the Guest Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives: Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom on 4 May 1988