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The Earliest Jewish Prayers for the Sovereign

Rev. S. Singer

<plain_text><page sequence="1">THE EARLIEST JEWISH PRAYERS FOR THE SOVEREIGN. By the Rev. S. SINGER. The paper I am about to read is intended as an instalment of a fuller one, in which I hope to treat of the Synagogue in its relation to the Sovereign and the State. In the preparation of this paper I have received, as can readily be imagined, much help from Mr. Lucien Wolf and Mr. Israel Abrahams, to both of whom I would at the outset express my sincere obligations. Scattered about in various libraries, and hidden in out-of-the-way places, there is a considerable amount of material?poems, hymns, and prayers, sermons and addresses, in Hebrew, in Spanish, in Judseo German, and in English, prompted by occasions of special interest in the history of our country, and of its rulers and their families, and forming a very respectable body of evidence testifying to the loyalty of English Jews. A complete bibliography of these productions re? mains, despite the publications of the Anglo-Je wish Exhibition, a desideratum. Whether I shall be fortunate enough to present such a record to the Jewish Historical Society of England will depend upon the kindness and public spirit of those who may be in possession of the requisite material. I do not know whether the dish, when duly prepared, will prove altogether palatable to the cultivated tastes of members of this Society. In view of the fact of the accession of a new monarch, it may at least lay claim to being seasonable. There is a tradition in Megillath Taanith (III., cf. Yoma 69a) that when Alexander the Great, instigated by the Samaritans, the ancient rivals and enemies of the Jews, set out with the object of destroying the Temple, Simon the Just went to meet the conqueror,</page><page sequence="2">THE EARLIEST JEWISH PRAYERS FOR THE SOVEREIGN. 103 and endeavoured to divert him from his purpose: " This is the place where we pray to God for the welfare of yourself and of your kingdom, that it may not be destroyed; shall these men, then, persuade you to destroy this place 1" That it was the practice, when Jews assembled for worship, to pray also for the safety and welfare of the Ruler and the State, is proved by a whole host of witnesses, such as Ezra,1 Baruch,2 the first Maccabees,3 Philo,4 Josephus,5 and others.6 The famous exhortation of Jeremiah (xxix. 7), "Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried captive, and pray for it unto the Lord, for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace," was at all times and in all places at once the sanction and the stimulus for such prayers. I doubt not it was effective also among the Jews of England in pre-expulsion times. It is true that in the Anglo-Jewish Liturgy of that age, as preserved in the Prayer-Book of R. Jacob, of London, and summarised by the late Dr. D. Kaufmann in the Jewish Quarterly Review (Vol. IV.), there is no set form given of a Prayer for the King; but it is hardly conceivable that the Jews, who were eager to show their loyalty at the coronation of Richard I. by the pre? sentation of costly gifts, for which they got little thanks and much mauling, would have neglected one of their chief religious duties within the Synagogue itself. When Abudarham produced his work on the Jewish Liturgy (fourteenth century) the particular place in the Service where the Prayer for the King was to be introduced was already fixed. "After the Reading of the Law has been completed," he says, "it is the custom to ask for a blessing on the King, and to pray to God to help and strengthen him against his enemies." Thereupon he quotes Jeremiah, and explains that to " pray for the peace of the city " is "to pray that God may enable the King to vanquish his enemies." Then follow Talmudic authorities in support of the custom of praying for the powers that be. After the expulsion the only Jewish prayers regarding the Kings of England were probably to the effect that Heaven might open their Ezra vi. 10. 1 Mace. vii. 33. Wars, ii. 10, 4, 17, 2-4. Cf. Aboth iii. 2 ; 1 Timothy ii. 2. 2 Baruch i. 11. 4 Legat ad Cajum, ?? 23, 45. See Sch?rer, ii., ? 24.</page><page sequence="3">104 THE EARLIEST JEWISH PRAYERS FOR THE SOVEREIGN. eyes to the folly of keeping out such desirable citizens and subjects as the Jews. We know how long it took before that wish was realised. The earliest recorded instance of Prayer being publicly offered up on behalf of the Royal House of England occurred under sufficiently remarkable circumstances. During the troubles of Charles I. with the Parliament, his Queen Henrietta Maria repaired to the Continent to quicken interest in her husband's cause, and to induce sympathy to take, if possible, a practical form. While on this errand she spent some time in Holland, and visited the Amsterdam Synagogue, and there, after a Prayer for the rulers of the Netherlands, she heard her own Royal House prayed for. This was in 1642. A few years later, in 1651, the St. John Embassy, despatched in the interests of the Com? monwealth, also paid a visit to the Synagogue, and there, as Manasseh ben Israel states in his Vindicise Judseorum (p. 5), " our nation enter? tained him with musick, and all expressions of joy and gladnesse, and also pronounced a blessing not only upon his honour, then present, but upon the whole Commonwealth of England, for that they were a people in league and amity." But already, before the date of the St. John Embassy, there occurs in a book printed in London the earliest reference in the English lan? guage to the Prayer for the Sovereign. This is in Edmund Chilmead's English translation of Leon Modena's " The History of the Rites, Customs, and Manner of Life of the Present Jews throughout the World" (London, 1650). After describing the Haphtorah, which, it is said, " is read by some child, for the most part, to exercise him in reading the Scriptures," the author continues (page 115) : "After this, they take the said book, and, holding it on high that it may be seen by all, they bless all the assistants. Then is there a solemn Bene? diction said for the Prince of the State under which they live; wherein they pray to God that He would preserve him in Peace and Quietnesse, and that He would prosper him and make him great and powerful, and that He would also make him favourable and kind to their nation; observing to do this from that passage in Jerem. chap. 29, ver. 7," &amp;c. By this time we find Manasseh ben Israel busy with his great scheme, as may be seen from the Introduction prefixed to the " Hope of Israel," and addressed " To the Parliament, the Supream Court of England, and to the Right Honourable the Councell of State" in 1651.</page><page sequence="4">THE EARLIEST JEWISH PRAYERS FOR THE SOVEREIGN. 105 In 1655 was issued "The Humble Addresses" of Manasseh "To His Highnesse the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scot? land, and Ireland," giving the motives of his coming to England, and showing, first, " How Profitable the Nation of the Jewes are," and next, "How Faithfull the Nation of the Jewes are." Here for the first time appears in full an English version?and a capital one it is?of the Prayer for the Head of the State. The translation is prefaced by these words : ? From the continuall and never broken custome of the Jews wheresoever they are, on the Sabbath Day, or other solemn Feasts ; at which time all the Jews from all places come together to the Synagogue, after the benediction of the Holy Law, before the Minister of the Synagogue blesseth the people of the Jews ; with a loud voice he blesseth the Prince of the Country under whom they live, that all the Jews may hear it, and say, Amen. The words he used are these, as in the printed book of the Jews may be seen : He that giveth salvation unto Kings, and dominion unto Lords, he that delivered his servant David from the sword of the enemy, he that made a way in the sea, and a path in the strange (? strong) waters, blesse and keep, preserve and rescue, exalt and magnify, and lift up higher and higher, our Lord. [And then he names, the Pope, the Emperour, the King, Duke, or any other Prince under whom the Jews live, and adds :] The King of kings defend him in his mercy, making him joy full, and free him from all dangers and distresse. The King of kings, for his goodness sake, raise up and exalt his planetary star, and multiply his dayes over his Kingdome. The King of kings for his mercies sake, put into his heart, and into the heart of his Coun? sellors, and those that attend and administer to him, that he may shew mercy unto us, and unto all the people of Israel. In his dayes and in our dayes, let Judah be safe, and Israel dwell securely, and let the Redeemer come to Israel, and so may it please God.?Amen. This was the Prayer which Pepys heard, in Hebrew, of course, in the Synagogue, probably in Creechurch Lane, on the occasion of his visit described in a passage in his diary (October 13, 1663), when he formed a very unfavourable opinion of Synagogue decorum. " And in the end they had a prayer for the King, in which they pronounced his name in Portugall; but the prayer, like the rest, in Hebrew." But in addition to this translation of the traditional form, still preserved in the main by Jews of both the Sephardic and Ashkenazic rite, Manasseh has left another and a very touching prayer for the Pro</page><page sequence="5">106 THE EARLIEST JEWISH PRAYERS FOR THE SOVEREIGN. tector, with which he ends his Vindicix Judseorum. We can almost picture him to ourselves, sitting in his study in the Strand, not many hundred yards from the place where we are gathered this evening, and as he nears the completion of his noble Vindication on the 10th of April, 1656, writing the last lines in the form of this fervent prayer:? Now, 0 most high God, to Thee I make my prayer, even to Thee, the God of our fathers. Thou who hast been pleased to stile Thyself the Keeper of Israel ; Thou who hast graciously promised by Thy holy prophet Jeremiah (cap. 31), that Thou wilt not cast off all the seed of Israel, for all the evill that they have done ; Thou who by so many stupendous miracles didst bring Thy people out of Egypt, the land of bondage, and didst lead them into the Holy Land, graciously cause Thy holy influence to descend into the mind of the Prince (who for no private interest, or respect at all, but onely out of commiseration for our affliction, hath inclined himself to protect and shelter us, for which extraordinary humanity, neither I myself nor my nation, can ever expect to be able to render him answerable, and sufficient thanks), and also into the minds of his most illustrious and prudent Council, that they may determine that, which according to Thine infinite wisdome, may be best and most expedient for us. For men (0 Lord) see that which is present, but Thou in Thy omnisciencie, seest that which is afarre off. The first English prayer for an English King appears in a some? what curious connection. Jacob Jehudah Leon (Templo),1 born in the seventeenth century, was a man of versatile talents. He was a scholar and a theologian, as well as an artist and designer. He had made a special study of the Tabernacle and Temple, and had constructed a model on an ample scale of Solomon's Temple, with all its furniture and utensils, according to the details given of the sacred edifice in the Bible and the Talmud. A short description, explaining the subject, was published by him in pamphlet form. Templo's work (the cognomen Templo explains itself) made a considerable sensation at the time, and not in Holland only, where the Government gave him a guarantee against piracy, but wherever interest was taken in Biblical antiquarian studies. Some time before 1645 the model was submitted to Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I., and seems to have elicited her warm admiration?she probably saw it during her visit to the Continent, to which I have already referred. Many years later, in 1665, after the 1 Comp. Graetz, X. pp. 200, 201 ; and Lucien Wolf, "Anglo-Jewish Coats of Arms," Transactions Jewish Hist. Soc. of Eng., II. pp. 156, 157.</page><page sequence="6">THE EARLIEST JEWISH PRAYERS FOR THE SOVEREIGN. 107 Restoration, Templo bethought him of submitting his model to her son, Charles IL, and drew up a description in English, furnishing it with a " Dedication to His Sacred Majesty " in the eulogistic style of the period. The pamphlet, entitled " A Relation of the most memorable things in the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Salomon, by Jacob Jehudah Leon, Hebrew author of the Model of Salomon's Temple," bears the Royal Arms and initials, and was printed at Amsterdam by Peter Messchaert, in the Stoof-Steech, 1665. On the back of the title-page, and before the Dedication, may be read :? A PRAYER FOR THE PROSPERITIE OF HIS ROYAL MAJESTIE. He that sends deliverance to Kings, and giveth Dominion to Princes, whose Kingdom and Dominion is everlasting : He that delivered David his servant from the Perillous sword, and he who made a way through the Red Sea, and Pathes through the River Jordan : He himself blesse, preserve, assist, make great, and more and more Exalt our Gracious Lord CHARLES the II. King and Protector of England, Scotland, France and Ireland. The King of Kings by his Merciful Benevolence preserve, vivifie, and deliver him from all trouble and danger. The King of Kings increase and high ten the Star of his Constellation, to prolong his dayes over his glorious King dome. The King of Kings put it into his heart, and into the hearts of his Nobles and Princes to use benigne Clemencie towards Us, and to the Israel of God, our brethren under his dominion.?Amen. One notices here the curious variant, " He who made a way through the Red Sea and Pathes through the River Jordan." Perhaps an intentional departure from the usual text, which is taken verbatim from Isaiah's (xliii. 16) "Who maketh a way in the sea and a path through mighty waters." Still more remarkable is the omission of the sentence with which the prayer ends in the usual readings : "In his days and in ours may Judah be saved and Israel dwell securely; and may the Redeemer come unto Zion," &amp;c. Manasseh ben Israel, it will be seen, includes this passage in his reproduction of the prayer with the one alteration of " let the Redeemer come to Israel," in place of " Zion." Why does Leon Templo omit it altogether ? I suggest that the theologico-political attitude of Jewish apologists had undergone a change with the substitution of a Monarchy for the Commonwealth.</page><page sequence="7">108 THE EARLIEST JEWISH PRAYERS FOR THE SOVEREIGN. It had, naturally, been part of Manasseh's policy to conciliate the religious element in England, which was keen on the interpretation of prophecy, giving it a close literal application to contemporary events. The stirring incidents of the Commonwealth, and the deeds and char? acter of its chief hero had roused extraordinary hopes in large masses of the people. The millennium was not far off, only the date needed fixing; Fifth Monarchy men were getting ready for a greater meta? morphosis than had ever yet been witnessed. The footsteps of the Messiah might almost be heard by those who listened intently for them. Manasseh, in fact, in his "Addresses to the Lord High Protector," men? tioned among his motives for coming to England : " Because the opinion of many Christians and mine does concur herein, that we both believe that the restoring time of our Nation into their native country is very near at hand." 1 The only thing needed was that certain other prophecies should be fulfilled first, for according to Daniel xii. 7, the dispersion of the Holy people must be complete, and then their ingathering would also be made complete. Now this dispersion was already very great. The Jews were settled in nearly all countries ; even America was shown in Manasseh's "Hope of Israel" to have been peopled by the lost Ten Tribes. All that was now required was that they should be admitted into " this considerable and mighty Island." This only remained to be done " before the Messiah come and restore our Nation, that first we must have our seat here likewise." But arguments of this sort, if effective in the age of Cromwell, would be likely to defeat their object in the era of the Restoration. Charles II. was not a man to be in a hurry for the Messiah. Nothing would have disconcerted him more than his advent. Templo, moreover, probably did not consider the occasion an appropriate one for intro? ducing a special element of Jewish dogmatics, and so stopped short of the wish, " In his days and in ours may Judah be saved, and the Redeemer come unto Zion." It would be unfair to bring it as a charge against the Jews that, after having prayed for the Protector and the Commonwealth, they prayed for the King and the Monarchy. Obviously no other course was open to them in the development of events in a country they dared "A Declaration to the Commonwealth of England."</page><page sequence="8">THE EARLIEST JEWISH PRAYERS FOR THE SOVEREIGN. 109 not yet call their own. They asked for room to live, and opportunity to take their part in the national life, and they could not but give their blessing to whoever made it possible for them to realise these not ignoble hopes. But they had nothing in common with those in high places and in low who were in such hot and shameless haste to turn their backs upon themselves. Those were the days of a Waller, who, when complaint was made that the poet's congratulation to the King was inferior to the panegyric he had written upon the Protector, turned the position with " Poets, Sire, succeed better in fiction than in truth." Similarly a Dry den could compose such stanzas as these after the death of Cromwell :? " No borrowed bays his temples did adorn, But to our crown fresh jewels did he bring ; Nor was his virtue poisoned, soon as born, With the too early thoughts of being king. And yet dominion was not his design ; We owe that blessing not to him but heaven, Which to fair acts unsought rewards did join, Rewards that less to him than us were given." Within eighteen months the author indites his " Astraea Redux, a Poem on the Happy Restoration and Return of His Sacred Majesty, Charles the Second," and tells us :? " For his long absence Church and State did groan ; Madness the pulpit, faction seized the throne, Experienced age in deep despair was lost To see the rebel thrive, the loyal crost." And then addressing the restored King:? " The discontented now are only they Whose crimes before did your just cause betray." Nothing like this could be laid at the doors of the nascent Jewish community, just beginning to breathe the free air of England. Even if they had not?and we know well that they had?reason to be thankful both to the Protector and to the King, it must not be for? gotten that the Synagogue is not a political organisation; that, like the Church, it has to recognise accomplished facts, and, enjoying the protection of the law, is bound in honour as well as in duty to pray for the highest representatives of the law.</page></plain_text>