Carnegie Shul Chatter – December 2, 2014

Good Shabbos!

Candle lighting time is 4:49

To Life, To Life – L’Chaim

Last week I worte about the Mourners ‘ Kaddish, a prayer said in remembrance of a loved one.  It is a prayer that we say on seven occasions in our Shabbos services.  But what about life?  Don’t we, as Jews, value life above almost everything else (God excluded, of course)?  Aren’t we instructed to violate the Sabbath commandments in order to save a life?  Why don’t we say a prayer for life as often as we pray to honor the memory of our departed?

First, we must remember that the Kaddish is said not as a prayer for the dead, but rather to show our faith in God at even the most trying of times.  Secondly, we must also remember that very few of our prayers are supplications to God asking for something.  Instead, most of our prayers are blessings of God thanking Him for that which He has given to us, and praising him for that which He has created, for providing for us, and for delivering us from our bondage in Egypt.  We trust that He will know what is good for us and will provide it.  Even when we pray for something specific, which we are definitely permitted to do, we do not believe that God has ignored our prayers if we do not receive exactly that which we asked for.  Instead, we have faith that God has heard our prayers and has decided that His plan for us includes something else, and that is fine.

The Amidah includes many prayers and blessings, but is also a time for us to recite individual prayers of our own.  During the Torah service we ask God’s help in healing our sick loved ones.  And at the conclusion of the Torah reading, before the Torah is returned to the Ark, we recite the Yekum prayers.  These prayers may not be as well known as the Kaddish, but they are two of the prayers we use in praying for life.

The first Yekum prayer is found on pages 377-378 of the Birnbaum Siddur and is a prayer for, “long life, ample sustenance and divine aid; physical health, perfect vision, and healthy children who will never neglect the study of the Torah.”  But the prayer, which dates to the Babylonian exile, is said on behalf of the scholars and leaders of Babylon and Palestine, and not the common man.

The second Yekum prayer, found on the same pages, reads, “May salvation arise from heaven.  May grace, kindness and mercy – long life, ample sustenance and divine aid; physical health, perfect vision and healthy children who will never neglect the study of Torah – be granted to this entire congregation, great and small, women and children.  May the King of the universe bless you, prolong your lives, increase your days and add to your years; may you be saved and delivered from all distress and disease.  May our Lord who is in heaven be your help at all times; and let us say, Amen.

May he who blessed our fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, bless this entire congregation and all other congregations – their wives, their sons and daughters, and all that belongs to them.  May he bless those who dedicate synagogues for worship and those who enter therein to pray, those who provide lamps for lighting and wine for Kiddush and Havdalah and those who give food to the transient guests and charity to the poor, as well as all those who faithfully occupy themselves with the needs of the community.  May the Holy One, blessed be he, grant them their reward, remove from them all sickness, preserve them in good health, and forgive all their sins; may he bless and prosper their work and the work of all Israel their brethren; and let us say, Amen.”

Yes, life is something that is highly revered in Judaism.  We lift our glasses and toast, “L’Chaim! To life!”

And we are all familiar with one of the most popular songs in that wonderful musical, Fiddler on the Roof, “L’Chaim.”

To us and our good fortune
Be happy be healthy, long life!
And if our good fortune never comes
Here’s to whatever comes,
Drink l’chaim, to life!

To life, to life, l’chai-im,!
L’chai-im, l’chai-im, to life!
Life has a way of confusing us
Blessing and bruising us,
Drink l’chaim, to life!

And, may I also add the Sabbath Prayer from Fiddler and it’s supplication for “long life.”

May the Lord protect and defend you.
May He always shield you from shame.
May you come to be
In Israel a shining name.

May you be like Ruth and like Esther.
May you be deserving of praise.
Strengthen them, Oh Lord,
And keep them from the strangers’ ways.
May God bless you and grant you long lives.
(May the Lord fulfill our Sabbath prayer for you.)
May God make you good mothers and wives.
(May He send you husbands who will care for you.)

May the Lord protect and defend you.
May the Lord preserve you from pain.
Favor them, Oh Lord, with happiness and peace.
Oh, hear our Sabbath prayer. Amen.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *