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A Jewish Prayer for Graduation and an Interfaith Meditation on Wisdom and Learning, by Jonah Rank (2010)

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כִּי־בִי יִרְבּוּ יָמֶיךָ
וְיוֹסִיפוּ לְּךָ שְׁנוֹת חַיִּים׃ (משלי ט:יא)
In the Book of Proverbs (9:11), we read:
Ki vi yir-BU ya-ME-kha | For, through wisdom your days will increase,
ve-yo-SI-fu le-KHA she-NOT ḥai-YIM | and years will be added to your life.[1]Proverbs 9:11

Our wellbeing may determine the quantity of our years,
and our health may determine the span of our lives,
but it is only what we do in our time on Earth that makes each day count.

Each day, through wisdom and the knowledge we gain,
we work to enrich our minds and to satiate them with the tastes of the world around us.
Through wisdom, we become aware of the universe around us.
Through wisdom, we immerse ourselves into a world that veils and reveals the Divine image.

Through our studies of societies, languages, history, and anthropology,
we learn what structures we build on our own and of our own accord.
How do we speak of ourselves,
and how do we speak of others?
What divides us,
and what links us together?

Through our studies of arts and entertainment,
we learn the craft of invention.
How can we write words to provoke the intellect,
and how can we bend a metal into a message?
Can the cello sing the songs of our souls,
and can an actor—
for just one moment—
become a mirror that reflects our lives?

Through our studies of law, finances, activism and politics,
we learn the struggle for progress.
How can we defend the wrongly accused,
and how can we be guaranteed material security?
Can our law always protect our free will,
and can our emotional beings prosper even when our markets suffer?

Through our studies of health and material sciences,
we learn the inner workings of our physical surroundings.
How can we diagnose or prevent or treat or cure our ailments,
and how can we assure the sustainability of our resources?
How can we build successful machines,
and how can we mix successful medicines?

Through our studies of philosophy and math,
we learn to recognize the few and the many,
and the finite and the infinite.

Our answers are few,
but our questions are many.
Our solutions are few,
but our ponderings are many.
Our schooling is finite,
but our learning is infinite.
Our time is finite,
but our lives can become infinite.

כִּי־בִי יִרְבּוּ יָמֶיךָ
וְיוֹסִיפוּ לְּךָ שְׁנוֹת חַיִּים׃ (משלי ט:יא)
A college graduation may mark the finite end of college,
but it is just one of infinite points along the continuum of life-long learning:
a learning that lasts our whole lives,
and, by giving our lives meaning,
expands our lives—
as Proverbs says:
“For, through wisdom your days will increase,
and years will be added to your life.”[2]Proverbs 9:11

May our graduation mark both our completion of college,
and the continuation of our pursuits of wisdom.

Written by Jonah Rank in 2010 for a friend who needed an ecumenical Jewish prayer for his graduation at Earl College.


1, 2. Proverbs 9:11

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