“That America Fulfil the Promise of Its Founding,” a prayer for Independence Day by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan (1945)

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

Declaration of Independence

On the fourth of July, in the year 1776, a new nation was born, the United States of America, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. The faith and vision of the Founding Fathers are expressed in a solemn Declaration of Independence. That Declaration set forth the principles which moved them to establish the former British colonies as an independent union of states. It is well that on the anniversary of this event we be reminded of the spiritual foundations of our Republic, and that we renew from year to year our allegiance to them. Let us then rise and listen to the words of that epoch-making Declaration:

The Congregation rise.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. . . .

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States. . . . . And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortune and our sacred honor.”

The Congregation are seated.

That America Fulfil the Promise of Its Founding

O God, who is Liberator and Redeemer, Lawgiver and Judge,
who rules over all mankind
and presides over the destinies of nations,
we invoke your continued blessing on our Republic,
which your grace called into being,
and your love has sustained to this day.

May America remain loyal
to the principles of the Declaration of Independence,
and extend their application
to ever widening areas of life.

Keep out of our life all manner of oppression,
persecution,
and unjust discrimination;
save us from religious,
racial and class conflicts;
may our country be a haven of refuge
to the victims of injustice and misrule.

Instruct us in the art of living together,
of reconciling differences of opinion
and averting clashes of interest,
of helping one another
to achieve a harmonious and abundant life.

Give us the wisdom to elect to leadership capable,
conscientious men, men of integrity
who will govern our people
according to your law of righteousness.

Bless the enterprise of the American people,
that they may utilize the natural resources of the land
for the highest good of all men.[1]This particular expression, democratic and utilitarian in spirit, is in the light of ecological loss and degradation too conventional, speciesist, and promethean in its environmental outlook. We enjoin those adopting this prayer to adapt this statement to one which fully embraces our human role in preserving local, regional, and global ecologies for the mutual benefit of all species, as our continued existence on earth is interdependent and interconnected. –Aharon Varady.

May America be ever hospitable
to new revelations of truth in science and philosophy,
ever sensitive to the appeal of beauty in nature and art,
ever responsive to the call of duty
and the spirit of religious consecration and worship;

And may Americans so love their country
that they shall withhold no sacrifice required
to safeguard its life and to fulfil its promise;

That the Star-Spangled Banner,
the symbol of our American democracy,
may ever wave o’er the land of the free
and the home of the brave.

The Congregation rise and sing the National Anthem.

This service for Independence Day appears on pages 545-547 of The Sabbath Prayer Book (Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation, 1945). In Rabbi Kaplan’s prayer, “That America Fulfil the Promise of Its Founding,” I have replaced “thee, thy, and thou” archaisms. I have also tagged this prayer with the “problematic prayer” flag due to a statement concerning the use of natural resources “for the highest good of all men.” I enjoin those adopting this prayer to adapt this statement to one which fully embraces our human role in preserving local, regional, and global ecologies for the mutual benefit of all species, as our continued existence on earth is interdependent and interconnected. –Aharon N. Varady

Source(s)

Notes   [ + ]

  1. This particular expression, democratic and utilitarian in spirit, is in the light of ecological loss and degradation too conventional, speciesist, and promethean in its environmental outlook. We enjoin those adopting this prayer to adapt this statement to one which fully embraces our human role in preserving local, regional, and global ecologies for the mutual benefit of all species, as our continued existence on earth is interdependent and interconnected. –Aharon Varady.

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