|Vol. I, No. 2
Iyar 5603 May 1843
Fifth Anniversary Of The Hebrew Sunday School.
Prayer And Sermon.
O God of Israel, the everlasting Father! We again approach. Thee, in this house devoted to the service of thy name, accompanied by the younger branches of our community, who have been permitted by thy providence to receive some instruction in the law and the ordinances which thou didst prescribe in ages long gone by unto thy own chosen people. And truly are we conscious of the blissful privilege which is ours through this law! Other nations, they who first fell off in the general idolatry which overspread the earth so soon after thy wrath had swept off the immense multitudes of a sinning race, have had to pass through centuries of mental darkness in order to arrive at the glorious truths which thy word contains. And as yet the entire light has not been accorded to them; for they see the brilliancy which overspreads thy religion, and they are dazzled with its brightness, and they stumble in the excess of its effulgence, seeking in the recesses of mystery for that truth which is so plainly spread over the whole surface of thy law; they hear the voice in which Thou speakest to thy creatures, but they understand it not as proceeding from Thee, only one and true God, but fancy that Thou art too mighty to be approached alone without a mediator by the sons of man. Whereas we have known Thee and thy ways from the moment that thy glory dwelt visibly before our astonished eyes on the blessed mountain in the desert of a far off land; we call on thy name which is exalted above all, we come near Thee as a child approaches its father, feeling our unworthiness, yet not unmindful that it is thy way to compassionate, to forgive, to receive sinners who open unto thy all-searching view the chambers of their hearts, detesting their misdeeds, resolved to live a holier life, and to sin no more.
Yet do we know, that our conduct has not corresponded with the knowledge which is ours. The nations of the earth walk, many of them, in the course of piety according to the light which is theirs; they strive earnestly by faith and deeds to sanctify their life according to the doctrines which have been taught unto them; but we, we confess it with shame, we and our fathers have not so heeded thy instruction; we would not listen to thy voice, and preferring the ways of error in which the gentiles were; we wandered away from the path of righteousness, like the sheep that are scattered in the desert without a shepherd to lead them back to their healthful pasture. And even now we are yet obdurate; we heed not thy admonition, and follow the foolish imaginings of our own sinful hearts; we wish not thy instruction, and are seeking new paths which thy law does not sanction. It is therefore in accordance with thy righteousness that punishment has befallen us, that we were scattered among the nations, and that in every generation sorrow and affliction pursued the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We thus discover in our dispersion thy almighty hand and thy mercy, which are exerted to lead us back to the path which we have forsaken, and to keep alive by means of tribulation the love and knowledge of thy law within our innermost heart.
Be it then thy will, O our God! to be with us in our endeavours to teach thy word. Let persuasive wisdom be imparted to our speech, that our words may sink deeply into the hearts of those who come to learn from us the ordinances and commandments of thy law; guard us against error; and cause that nothing injurious,, nothing doubtful, nothing that is not strictly according to the everlasting truth which Thou hast prescribed, may fall from our lips, through ignorance or inadvertence; so that whatever is taught by us may tend to spread a true knowledge of thy religion, among the youthful scions of the house of Israel, and confirm them in the holy faith which they have received from their fathers, and arm them with an unswerving firmness to resist, all the days of their lives, every temptation, every lure, every persuasion, every terror, which might, altogether or each separately, be brought against them to draw them aside from the law of Moses, either to fall into the snares of sin and transgression, or to break off altogether their connection with the household of Jacob, which is theirs by their birthright as the descendants of those whom Thou didst call thy own first born son Israel.
But not for our sakes do we ask this for grace; for we are sinful, and weak in knowledge, and slothful in righteousness. Yet for thy own sake shed thy glory, for the sake of thy kindness and thy truth give us this blessing we ask; and remove thereby the disgrace which the nations would otherwise attach to us, the small remnant that has escaped the many persecutions which we had to endure because that our flesh was sealed with thy covenant; and because that we were called by thy name. For why should they who worship not Thee alone be suffered to believe that we are cast out from thy favour? that our blessed law is no longer thy will? Whereas this law has been instituted by thy will and wisdom, and Thou hast ever preserved it, as the heritage of the congregation of Jacob. We therefore beseech Thee to remove graciously the stumblingblock which the cares of life throw in the paths of many sons of Israel; cause them to feel sincerely the holiness and truth of thy word; make them conscious that worldliness and sin are not the ways of everlasting life; so that they may devote their hearts in humble faith and yielding trust to thy service; in order that grace may abound in our midst, piety become universal, religious knowledge be the characteristic of our brotherhood, and thy name be glorified through our words and actions; and that the nations may thus be brought to acknowledge that our waiting for thy salvation is the height of wisdom, and our observance of thy laws the summit of perfection; by which onlv we can be led into the crates of everlasting bliss; and our souls be rendered pure and cleansed from sin. Inasmuch as Thou, O Lord! art the priest of Israel, who cleansest us with thy waters of purification, even thy holy spirit, that we may be rendered pure from all our iniquities, and from all our abominations, and from all our impurities, as Thou hast spoken through the mouth of thy prophet. But above all, let us pray Thee to preserve us one entire people, to remove from us all causeless contention, to banish from us all discord, and to frustrate all the evil designs, whether from Israelites or strangers, which might have for their object to destroy the unity which once distinguished thy people.
Keep us thus entire, our ranks unbroken, and our numbers undiminished in our captivity, till the time that Thou wilt send the son of David to proclaim salvation to the ends of the earth, to bid the captives go free, and to give light to those who walk in darkness. May this be thy will for the sake of thy covenant and goodness. Amen.