This week we received again a strikingly painful illustration of human shortsightedness and of the inadequacy of our unaided efforts to cope with Nature. Scarcely any of the inhabitants of this vastly populated land harbored a fear that medical skill would be baffled in its treatment of General Garfield. Almost every one confidently believed that it had overcome the appalling difficulties met at the outset, and that the improvement in the physical condition of the President would proceed steadily. ‘Science has grappled with a dreaded antagonist and won a signal victory.’ So it was imagined.
On Monday morning we awoke to the sad realization that we had trusted a mere fancy. He whom we considered to have safely overleaped the boundaries of Death, stood ghastly at Death’s door. The strength gathered during six weeks’ exceptional care, sunk on a sudden, because the principal organ whence the blood is nurtured refused its customary office. Then we felt that Nature will not respond to our endeavours, unless its sovereign Maker bids it further our wishes. And we should have then given a perfect assent withal to the teachings of the sages of old, that we ought to thank Providence for every beating of our heart, for our every breath, for every healthful performance of our bodily functions.
The dear patient whose life a few days ago hung on a thread, doubtless saw, that the arms of Science, unsupported by the Lord, could not carry him unscathed over the yawning grave, and in that fearful crisis he must have turned for effectual assistance to the Power that formed his being.
My mind pictured to itself that soul-trying moment, while I announced the forthcoming Elul—a month of propitiatory prayers in Sephardic congregations, — and my heart prompted me to anticipate the object of that month’s devotional gatherings by attuning our voices on this very Sabbath in a supplication to the heavenly Physician on behaif of His servant James Abram Garfield. He who can reckon every fibre of the existence He has framed can, and will in His infinite mercy, create a cure thorough and lasting for the man, to whom an entire nation looks, for guide and counsel.
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whose hand is never short to reach out unto us the means of safety!
Let it be Thy gracious will to do as we petition thee!
Grant that the air pervading the sick chamber of our chosen Chief
may cool the diseased body of the intensity of its heat.
Grant that the food administered to our chosen Chief
may become marrow to his bones,
nutriment to his flesh;
that it may impart a gentler impulse to the circulating blood,
suppleness to nerves and sinews.
Oh! may a ray of Thy boundless knowledge
light up the understanding of the men and women
who watch at the bedside of our chosen Chief;
so that only what is positively beneficial be given unto him;
only what is encouraging be spoken in his presence;
only what is cheering be read within his hearing.
For the sake of a people to whom political agitations
might bring material injury and moral suffering,
we pray that Thou wilt vouch safe to rescue our President
from a threatening danger,
and raise him again to lead us all uprightly.
For the sake of a wife ennobled by womanly virtues,
decree for her highly exalted husband a useful and long existence.
For the sake of the hoary-headed mother
revered by her illustrious son and beloved by his seed,
deliver James Abram Garfield from the consuming grave.
Before the month of Elul shall have passed away
and we, in deep solemnity shall welcome the day
commemorative of the World’s creation,
cause Thy servant to walk to enlargement.
Like the Psalmist may he soon joyfully exclaim:
‘O Lord my God!
I have cried unto Thee and Thou hast healed us.
Thou hast brought up my existence from the nether world;
Thou hast kept me alive that I should not go down to the pit.’ (Psalms 30:2-5)
‘To the end that my glorious soul may sing praises unto Thee
and be not silent’. (Psalms 30:13 part)
Oh! Grant this,
to which a nation whose liberties
Thou hast wonderfully protected,
This prayer for the recovery of President James A. Garfield after he had been shot and his wound infected was offered by Rabbi Sabato Morais and recorded in the Jewish Record, “Prayers for Our Sick President. Synagogue Mickvé Israel” on 26 August 1881. It was preserved by Rabbi Morais in his ledger (p. 174, clipping 296), an archive of newsclippings recording material he contributed to the press, among other announcements. (Many thanks to the Library of the University of Pennsylvania for helping to make this resource accessible.)
“Prayer for the Recovery of President James A. Garfield, by Rabbi Sabato Morais (26 August 1881)” is shared by the living contributor(s) with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International copyleft license.
Works of related interest:
Prayer for the United States on Thanksgiving Day after the Assassination of President James A. Garfield, by Rabbi Sabato Morais (24 November 1881)
Prayer of the Guest Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives: Rabbi Morris J. Raphall on 1 February 1860