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O God, protector of the afflicted!
we raise our hearts to Thee with overflowing gratitude,
because of the blessing Thou hast vouchsafed to our labor.
Humbly we sought for light
in the performance of a beneficent design,
and thy face shone upon us
with a steady brightness.
we could descry the path that promised success,
and steadfastly follow it.
It proved at first devious and narrow,
but proportionally as we proceeded,
Thou didst cause our steps
to walk in enlargement and security.
We have not, forsooth, reached our goal,
but, sustained by thy divine grace,
we will this day advance towards that direction.
as in the days of yore
Thou didst incite our progenitors
to rear a tabernacle consecrated to thy worship,
even so prompt now their descendants,
to establish a house wherein Thou wilt be glorified,
through the dissemination of virtue.
Let compassion pervade this assemblage,
and they will speed the erection of an edifice,
beneath the shadow of which the bereft and they that hunger
shall find restorative to the body and unction to the soul.
For the sake of the innocents,
whom we strive to rescue from vice and ignorance,
imbue all the Hebrews of this land
with a spirit of true charity,
and they will pour out their gold
for the completion of a sublime work.
Let those whom a unity of faith and of hopes bind together,
join hand in hand
for the mental elevation
of their necessitous brethren.
Suffer not their generous instincts
to become suppressed by false impressions,
but let wisdom inspire them,
and they will comprehend
that to seek the extinction of pauperism,
is a greater merit than to nourish paupers.
Father of the orphans!
Thou hast deigned to show
that thy wakeful eye is ever open
on the beloved charges
towards whom we yearn.
During a season when the scythe of Death
has mowed down both old and young,
they have thriven and progressed exceedingly.
Once did danger come nigh (to) them,
but the angel of Mercy encompassed them around,
and they were delivered.—
Verily, in them have the words of thy prophet been verified,
for, neither have troubled waters submerged them,
nor has the burning flame scathed their lives.
Grant, O Almighty God!
that thy sustaining power may ever be the shield of their existence.
We will instill into their tender minds
love for their religion
and for their fellow men.
We will daily teach them
habits of industry and thriftiness.
We will deeply engraft into their hearts
a sense of self-dependence,
that by dint of their own faculties
they may build their future prosperity;
but what will avail our lessons,
when scepticism on one side,
human passions on the other,
and pernicious example withal,
may combine to destroy their efficacy?
Be Thou, therefore, at their right hand,
and they will be saved.
Oh! bless our endeavors,
and they will strike root and fructify.
Bless them, O God of Israel!
that in beholding their happy result,
each of us may exclaim:
“My heart rejoiceth because of all my labor,
and this is the reward of all my travail.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10)
This prayer by Rabbi Sabato Morais on the second anniversary of the founding of the Jewish Foster Home and Orphan Asylum in Philadelphia was offered in opening to an address “before the Jewish Foster Home Society, February 10, 1857” and recorded in The Asmonean on 20 February 1857. It was preserved by Rabbi Morais in his ledger (page 9, clipping 008), an archive of newsclippings recording material he contributed to the press, among other announcements. A note next to the clipping reads, “Isaac Leeser took exception at this lecture and became abusive.” (Many thanks to the Library of the University of Pennsylvania for helping to make this resource accessible.)
“Prayer on the second anniversary of the Jewish Foster Home and Orphan Asylum in Philadelphia, by Rabbi Sabato Morais (20 February 1857)” is shared through the Open Siddur Project with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International copyleft license.
Works of related interest:
Prayer on the consecration of the new synagogue building for Ḳahal Ḳadosh Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia, by Rabbi Sabato Morais (1 June 1860)