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Au Renouvellement Du Mois | At the New Moon, by Arnaud Aron and Jonas Ennery (1848), translated to English by Isaac Leeser (1863)

Source (French) Translation (English)


ראש חדש | At the New Moon


On the Shortness of Life

“Enseigne-nous à compter nos jours, afin que la sagesse pénétre dans nos cœurs” (Ps. 90, 12).

“So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalms 90:12)

Seigneur Zébaoth, lorsque tu formas les deux grands luminaires, flambeaux du jour et de la nuit, ta souveraine sagesse voulut qu’ils fussent des signes visibles de la division des temps, pour nous apprendre à connaître rinstabilité de notre vie. Le lever et le coucher du soleil nous montrent la prompte succession des jours; le retour régulier de la lune nous indique la révolution rapide des mois et des années. Ainsi s’envolent les instants de notre existence fugitive, et nous arrivons bien vite au terme que ta Providence a fixé. Ce n’est que dans la conscience d’avoir été utiles, d’avoir noblement employé les heures de notre vie, que nous pouvons nous réjouir d’avoir vécu, et jeter un regard tranquille au delà du tombeau.

Lord of Hosts! in creating the two great lights which rule by day and by night, Thy sovereign wisdom ordained that they should be the visible signs of the division of time, affording a constant lesson to man, on the uncertainty of life. The rising and the setting of the sun show us the rapid succession of days; the regular changes of the moon point out the revolution of months and years. Thus do the moments of our brief existence fly away, and we reach the term Thy Providence has appointed. Only in the consciousness of having been useful, of having nobly employed the hours of life, can we rejoice at having lived, and look with calmness and hope beyond the grave.

Que voudrions-nous avoir fait à l’heure de la la mort? Faisons ce que nous voudrions avoir fait alors. Il n’y a point de temps à perdre; chaque moment peut-être le dernier de notre vie. Plus nous avons vécu, plus nous sommes près du tombeau.

We therefore should now do, what at the hour of death we should wish to have done. There is no time to be lost; every moment may be the last of our life. The longer we live, the nearer are we to the tomb.

C’est pourquoi, Seigneur tout-puissant, Dieu d’Israël, je te supplie de m’accorder ta grâce et ta bénédiction dans ce nouveau mois qui com-mence; que par ta divine protection, il s’écoule pour moi et pour tous tes enfants dans la paix de l’àme, dans la pratique de ta loi, dans la piété et la charité; qu’aucune action, aucune pensée coupable ne trouble mon esprit ni mon cœur, et que le travail de mes mains suffise à la nourrie ture de mon corps. Que ton amour, ô notre Père, veille sans cesse sur nous. Amen.

Therefore, O Lord God of Israel! I pray Thee, grant me Thy favour and blessing in this new month, now commencing. May it pass in charity, peace, piety, and the practice of Thy law; may no sinful act or guilty thought trouble my heart or mind, and may the work of my hands be sufficient for my material wants. And may Thy love, O Father! watch over us unceasingly. Amen.

To the best of my ability, this is a faithful transcription of a teḥinah (supplicatory prayer) composed in parallel to the Prayer for the New Moon, following in the paraliturgical tradition of Yiddish tkhines, albeit written in French. (This particular paraliturgical prayer may be original or it may be based on an earlier work in German or Yiddish. Please contact us or comment below if you can identify it.) The prayer was included by Rabbi Arnaud Aron and Jonas Ennery in their opus, אמרי לב Prières d’un Coeur Israelite published in 1848 by the Société Consistoriale de Bons Livres. In 1855, an abridged English translation of Prières d’un Coeur Israelite was authorized by Nathan Marcus Adler, chief rabbi of the British Empire and published as Prayers and Meditations, translated by Hester Rothschild. In 1863, Isaac Leeser published his own translation. This is the first time that Leeser’s translation and its source have been set next to each other. Commenting on Rothschild’s translation, Leeser wrote:

As the work is not a literal translation from the French, and is in many instances greatly abridged, for reasons by which the translator is perfectly justified, the editor of the American edition has farther revised it, and at times re-written entire passages, that the book may be more in accordance with the principles of prayer as laid down above; though he is free to acknowledge that it has not lost altogether the character of a translation, to avoid which it would have been necessary to recast the whole, and has, besides, some other defects inherent in all human productions. But, as he was bound not to deviate too far from the original, and thus give the public a different book from what its title professes, he had to limit himself to correcting, and has added nothing to what was not before him.

In preparing אמרי לב Prières d’un Coeur Israelite, Rabbi Aron and Jonas Ennery were inspired by the writings of directly inspired by tkhines (Yiddish vernacular prayers) as well as by contemporary liturgists in Germany. Rabbi Aron writes:

The concept of such a book does not necessitate a new genre among us; the printed supplications (תחנות) appended at the end of old editions of our siddurim sufficiently prove the opposite. However, all these prayers – faithful expressions of pious sentiments of our ancestors – are written in Yiddish[1]Arnaud Aron here uses the term, allemand corrompu, “corrupt German.” for which no translation exists in our language. They are also composed in a spirit and a form incompatible in style with the needs of our age [….] A great number of prayers in our collection are original, others are copies from our sacred texts or translated rituals from the Maḥzor, without, however, tying us slavishly to the literal text whenever the genius of our language required a different form. Finally, more than once, we drew from excellent religious books published in Germany, notably by (Meïr) Letteris, Jacobsohn, Rosenfield, etc.; their works have given us the subject and occasionally the text from other works. May these wise co-religionists please receive in public recognition our gratitude. [translation from the French by Aharon Varady]

Many thanks to French Wikisource contributors for helping to proofread my transcription.


Notes   [ + ]

  1. Arnaud Aron here uses the term, allemand corrompu, “corrupt German.”

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