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Prayer for Shmini Atseret (שמיני עצרת), by Rabbi Moritz Mayer (1866)

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Almighty God! How beautiful is our inheritance in Thy service, what fullness of sublime good hast Thou bestowed upon us, the children of Thy chosen people of Israel! This we acknowledge on this last day of our holy Festivals, while we feel Thy glorious presence within this Sanctuary. For, satisfied through Thy goodness, enlightened through the knowledge of Thine immutable being, we feel ourselves, in this sacred place, free, and elevated beyond all that presses upon us in the tumult and turmoil of the world, and our hearts’ deepest longing can but here become gratified. In the midst of songs and praises, our spirits soar up to Thee, to be illumined by the rays of Thy light, to be quickened by Thy glorious majesty, and to be anew encouraged to live according to Thy divine precepts, and labor in Thy holy service, and work for Thy heavenly kingdom, which Thou, All-good God, didst promise to establish among mankind.

Heavenly Father! Who unitest us with Thee by eternal ties of love, and whom we so often forget in the toils and tumult of the world, for Thee our hearts are longing, and therefore do we most humbly beseech Thee, to fill us now, and throughout this last festival day, with joy and devotion, that whenever we are assembled before Thee to praise Thy loving kindness, and during our domestic worship, we may perceive “that the source of life is with Thee, and in Thy light we behold light.”[1]Psalms 36:10.

Almighty God! Grant, that this pure festival joy may diffuse its blessings also upon our future life! As once in times of old, our fathers were on this day for the last time assembled in Thy Sanctuary, to offer upon hine altar the gifts of their hands; dedicated unto Thee, the earnings of their labors, to be enjoyed not only in the happy circles of their families, but also to be partaken of by the poor and the homeless, the widow and the orphan;—felt themselves moved with exulting enthusiasm at the contemplation of Thine infinite goodness;—as they extended to each other the hand of friendship and brotherly love, and the bond which united them as members of the same covenant, was more firmly tied around them; as they then, filled with delight at all they had seen and heard, returned to their homes, joyful and glad, and determined to walk before Thee in silent memory of those sacred hours, to preserve and manifest all those holy impressions in a life dedicated to Thee alone! so, O God! let the festival joy which this day fills us, henceforth be the aim of all our hopes and wishes; strengthen us in all our labors and exertions;—sanctify all our pleasures and enjoyments, and inspire us to Thy holy service, that we may ever be united with Thee in love and piety; that every knowledge which this day kindles within us, every holy resolve which we make on this Concluding Feast, may henceforth guide us in all our actions, and never cease to teach us that “light is sown for the righteous, and gladness, for the upright in heart.”[2]Psalms 97:11.

And when this Festival shall be concluded, and with it all the holy solemn days which we have spent in Thine immediate presence, may we then preserve, and carry with us into life, all the pure and holy feelings, which during those days of joy and devotion, pervaded and sanctified our hearts and souls. May we then return to our homes, glad and joyful, and receive all Thy blessings with gratitude and contentment;—and may all who worship Thee in unity and concord, be united with each other also in their life and worldly intercourse, by the spirit of harmony, love and friendship.

Oh! do Thou fill our hearts with such holy emotions, as will ever induce us to extend the hand of brotherhood all our fellowmen,—wherever and whenever a distressed brother longeth for relief,—an afflicted soul stands in need of comfort and consolation, or the destitute pray for help! then and there make us to diffuse joy and peace, as Thou dost daily grant them unto us.

And with such pious feelings let us again and again return unto Thee, that our love for Thee, our confidence in Thy holy name may be continually renewed and strengthened,—our willingness to serve Thee be enlivened and fortified, and we ourselves united with Thee, both here on earth and in life eternal. Amen.

“Prayer for the Eighth Day of the Feast of Tabernacles (שמיני עצרת)” 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 36:10.
  2. Psalms 97:11.

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