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[Prayer] for the Eve of the New Year, by Rabbi Moritz Mayer (1866)

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Almighty God!

“In olden times didst Thou lay the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thy hands. These will indeed perish, but Thou wilt ever exist: yea, all of them will wear out like a garment; as a vesture wilt Thou change them, and they will be changed; but Thou art ever the same, and Thy years will have no end.”[1]Psalms 102:26-28.

With this exclamation of the inspired Psalmist do we draw nigh unto Thee, in this first hour of the solemn Festival of Memorial and New-Year, and most humbly bow down before Thee, O King and Ruler of the Universe! to acknowledge the eternity and unchangeableness of Thy being, and remember Thine infinite justice and loving kindness wherewith Thou mindest and preservest Thy numberless creatures, and hast again granted us to live unto the beginning of another year, to enter upon a new period of life, and to continue afresh the working out of our sublime destination upon earth.

When we cast an examining glance at the past year, we perceive that,—tho’ it is but a short space of time which hath vanished away like a dream,—it is well apt to fill our hearts with manifold emotions, and our souls with serious and solemn reflections. Bitter grief mingles with profound joy within our bosoms, while we most thankfully remember Thy paternal guidance which Thou hast so often manifested unto us during the past year.

We thank Thee, All-good Father, for the manifold blessings and benefits, which Thou hast bestowed upon us,—for food and raiment,—for the preservation of health and life, for Thine ever-ready protection against danger and temptation.—We praise Thee, God! for all the blessings which Thou hast vouchsafed unto all those endeared to our hearts, and whose lives are wedded unto ours by the ties of blood, love, friendship, and noble purposes.

With calm resignation and profound confidence in Thy holy will, we bow down before Thine inscrutable wisdom and justice, and piously submit to the trials and afflictions wherewith Thou didst deem it fit to visit us. For unto Thee alone it is known, why we must suffer, why the cup of life is so often filled with bitter draughts; and it behooves us, therefore, to accept them also with the pious and consoling conviction, that Thou sendest grief and sorrow for our own welfare and salvation. Oh! accept the tears of woe and pain for those dear to us, whom Thou hast removed from us, henceforth to dwell with Thee in the realms of everlasting bliss and peace, where we shall meet them again, never to be separated!

All-merciful Lord! Transient and fleeting is this earthly pilgrimage; Oh! may we ever be mindful thereof, that pride and vanity may never enter our hearts, and charity and love actuate us in all our sentiments, words and deeds. Oh! may we always remember, that this life is but a shadow, and ourselves, like the flowers of the fields which bloom but a short while soon to wither and die, and that we, therefore, may never neglect with holy avarice to use the time, and conscientiously prepare ourselves, during this short existence of ours, for eternity and its blessings and treasures. May we never forget, that Thou hast kindled within us a light from Thine eternal spirit, never to die, but to elevate us above all other creatures, to enable us to look up to Thee, to adore Thee, and to comprehend that Thou hast not placed us here on earth to live for a few years, and then to sink down into eternal night and destruction, but to make us partakers of eternal life and salvation. Do Thou enlighten us with a ray of Thy wisdom, that we may ever choose right from wrong, good from evil, exercise justice and mercy towards all our fellow-beings, walk humbly before Thee, and thus create and promote peace and concord among all mankind. Oh! do Thou fortify us against all error and temptation,—and whenever sin should have led us astray, lead us back upon the path of piety and rectitude.

Father of all mercies! give us also during the coming year “bread to eat and raiment to put on,”[2]Genesis 28:20. but above all, peace of mind and contentment of the heart; protect us against adversity and bitter grief. Preserve us all, that we may inspire each other to noble deeds, and work together for our own sanctification, the glory of Thy holy name, and the honor of our sacred Religion.

All-bounteous God! “Be not angry with me, now that I have taken upon me to speak unto my Lord, although I am but dust and ashes.”[3]Genesis 18:27. I cannot yet leave Thee ere I have recommended unto Thy paternal care the widows and the orphans, the weak and the poor, the afflicted and the mourning. Oh! pour Thy heavenly balm upon the wounded, grant Thy stay and staff to the falling and oppressed, and Thy protection to the forsaken and persecuted. Oh! do not withdraw Thyself from those that are prostrated upon the bed of sickness, and awaken for them tender and pious souls to alleviate their sufferings.—And whomsoever Thou shouldst summon hence, to-day or to-morrow, let his breaking eye behold Thy countenance, that his departure from those dear to his heart may be easy, and that he may go hence with the strengthening belief, That Thou wilt receive us all in grace and in mercy upon Thy holy mountain.

Oh! may this new year become unto all whom my lips have named before Thee, and unto those whom I have not mentioned, a year of bliss, peace and salvation! May it bring unto us new life, new strength, and new hopes, that we may joyfully continue our earthly pilgrimage, until it be concluded and we depart hence to celebrate that New Year which shall never grow old, but last unto all eternity. Amen.

“[Prayer] for the Eve of the New Year” is one of thirty prayers appearing in Rabbi Moritz Mayer’s collection of tehinot, Hours of Devotion (1866), of uncertain provenance and which he may have written. –Aharon Varady

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Notes   [ + ]

  1. Psalms 102:26-28.
  2. Genesis 28:20.
  3. Genesis 18:27.

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