Forms of Prayer used in the West London Synagogue of British Jews
סדר התפלות — Forms of prayer
used in the West London Synagogue of British Jews,
with an English translation.
Edited by the ministers of the congregation.
Volume I. Daily and Sabbath prayers.
Table of References to some of the Special Services Introduction Morning Service *Afternoon Service *Evening Service Grace for Meals Night Prayers *Sabbath Evening Service Sanctification for Sabbath Evening *Sabbath Morning Service Additional Service Sabbath Afternoon Service *Concluding Service for Sabbath *Morning Service for the Penitential Days *Service for the Eve of New Moon Service for the Morning of New Moon Additional Service for New Moon *Additional Service for New Moon if on Sabbath *Evening Service for the Feast of Dedication *Morning Service for the Feast of Dedication *Evening Service for the Feast of Purim *Morning Service for the Feast of Purim Prayer on setting out on a Journey ,, on going to Sea ,, during a Storm at Sea Blessing for a Signal Deliverance Service for Circumcision Prayer for a Woman, on attending the Synagogue after Child-Birth Prayer on Naming of a Girl ,, said by the Sick ,, said for the Sick ,, and Confession on a Death-Bed Grace after Meals for Mourners *Psalm said in the House of Mourning *Prayer said by the Minister on the Sabbath after a Funeral *Prayer for Mourners Counting of the “Omer” Note. — The Services and Prayers marked by * are noticed also in the accompanying Table of References.
Table of References to Some of the Special Services
Introduction to the First Esition
No monuments above the earth proclaim the once lauded greatness of Zion; catacombs usurp the place of cities once replete with glorious life, and solitary tombs alone speak to the antiquarian of the birth-place of those heaven-directed minds, by whose instrumentality the face of the whole moral world has been so wonderfully changed. Mount Zion, the pomp of whose temple inspired the beholder with reverence and awe, has been furrowed by the plough; and the words of the seer have long since beenliterally fulfilled, “The mount Zion, the desolate, the jackal haunts it.” [Lam. v. 18] But a monument there is, at once commemorative of the true glory and the astounding destinies of the “house of Jacob” — a monument whose foundation is in our hearts, and whose summit penetrates into the heaven of heavens — a monument clear to the view of all mankind, and in whose shadow all the children of the earth shall find repose — it is the sacred volume of our Scriptures. Again then do the words of Jeremiah attest the truth of Him that spoke them, “The jackal haunts the hill of Zion; but the Lord endureth for ever, and his throne throughout all generations.” [Lam. v. 18, 19.]
The beneficial effects produced by the preservation of our inspired writings on the world at large are not only admitted, but they are gratefully proclaimed by the most intelligent minds among the various nations, however different the tenets of their several religious systems. Yet how much more direct has been the influence of those holy books on the dispersed sons of Israel? Here they found the balm for present evils, a stirring record of the prosperous past, and the firmest assurance of a future regeneration: the inspired page supplied a solace for every affliction, a strain of joy for every subject of exultation, and hymns for the utterance of every feeling of gratitude and reverence with which the heart of man can elevate itself towards the Great Creator.
Thus it is that the Scriptures became the immediate and fit source of the Hebrew Prayers. The suitableness of the sacred language and of its style, as extant in Holy Writ, for devotional purposes, is acknowledged beyond the need of demonstration. In tongues unnumbered and in measures of infinite variety, the praise of the Deity has been chanted and the mutability of human concerns has been deplored among the children of men, since Enosh first “called on the name of the Eternal;” but where shall we discover Psalms so worthy of being offered at the throne of the Most High as those to which David attuned his harp; or Elegics so calculated to fill the heart with awe, and to convince man of the nothingness of earthly grandeur, as the pathetic lament of our prophet Jeremiah?
The greater part of the liturgies in use among the Israelites are compilations from the Scripture text, adapted, according to the judgment of the compilers, to the various occasions for which prayer is instituted. Although there does exist a notable difference in the various orders of service, as used in different countries, and even by different congregations in the same country, still the general uniformity which characterizes the several liturgies with respect to the principal prayers, is such as to enable us to speak of the Jewish ritual as of one work.
The history of the ritual till lately lay buried beneath a mass of critical difficulties; to remove which has only within the last generation become the task of several of our eminent continental co-religionists, such as Zunz, Rapaport, and others; to whose valuable and conscientious labours we are indebted for information that has greatly facilitated the accomplishment of our undertaking. From their researches it becomes manifest that the Hebrew ritual, before reaching its present form, had undergone great and repeated changes; that some portions, fortunately few in number, considered by many as the genuine remnants of our ancient temple worship, owe their origin to an age of persecution, and to a state of suffering and degradation now fast disappearing, and every trace of which will, by divine aid, speedily be effaced, to the honour of religion and for the common welfare of mankind.
Sufficient data remain to prove the existence of a regulated divine service prior even to the first Temple. God had prescribed to Aaron and his sons the manner in which they were to bless the people in the sanctuary, [Numb. vi. 22.] which formula presupposes the existence of regular convocations for the purposes of devotion. Various expressions uttered by David, lead to the inference that prayer was offered up before the Lord thrice every day in that king’s reign; and by the book of Daniel it is settled beyond doubt, that Israelites had then long been (as they now are) accustomed to pray three times a day towards the holy city of Jerusalem; but a proof which renders every further enquiry on this point superfluous, may be found in the fact that King David composed for public worship so many and such various psalms, for which there would have been no occasion unless such worship had been actually celebrated.
But true as it is that a regular form of divine service has existed amongst the Israelites ever since biblical times, nothing can be more incorrect than the current notion, that the whole of the Prayer Book, as we now possess it, was composed by the men of the Great Synagogue, from Ezra to Simeon the Just (among whom are numbered several prophets, as Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, &c., &c.); and that, being stamped with the authority of these great names, the Prayer Book has as fixed and immutable a character as the Sacred Code itself. Nothing, we repeat, is more fallacious than such a notion; and the mere existence of considerable differences between the rituals now in use is alone sufficient to establish its inaccuracy.
Of the several portions of the existing liturgies, attributed to the men of the Great Synagogue, the עמידה or שמונה עשרה has generally been considered to belong to that remote time; yet the learned Dr. Zunz, after a most masterly review of the subject, establishes the conclusion, from the internal evidence of this prayer, that we have in the עמידה the labours of five successive epochs, in part at least posterior to the time of its supposed composition, and embracing a period of 300 years; and by a collation of the existing formulæ with the quotations scattered through the Talmud and the Midrashim, he demonstrates that for a long period the wording of that prayer was subjected to various alterations. [Gottesdienstliche Vorträge, &c., p. 369.] By comparing the actual forms with the most ancient quotations, the same eminent critic proves the existence of additions in the portions of prayer accompanying the שמע. A similar result is obtained from the examination of the prayer called ברכת המזון; and, in fine, he recognises in our liturgy of the present day, the progressive labour of more than one thousand years. [Ibid. [Gottesdienstliche Vorträge, &c.] p. 370, 371.] Another fact worthy of notice is, that some parts of the service were never introduced by a recognised authority; nor indeed were they originally intended for use in public worship: — “The sentences and prayers of revered individuals were disseminated by their disciples; and in the course of time, obtained in many congregations the consideration due to a portion of the established ritual.” [Ibid. [Gottesdienstliche Vorträge, &c.] p. 379.]
Two indispensable requisites of a petition with which man may approach his God, are, first, — that the prayer should be perfectly intelligible to the mind of the humble supplicant; and, secondly, That the sentiments which it expresses should be of a pure and elevating character. In our collection we have, with all solicitude, retained only those portions of the common rituals in which these essentials are to be found. We have removed those parts of the service which are deficient in devotional tendency; and have expunged the few expressions which are known to be the offspring of feelings produced by oppression, and are universally admitted to be foreign to the heart of every true Israelite of our day.
If, however, we had satisfied ourselves with omitting those passages only which are open to the objections above referred to, the forms of service adopted by us would still have been longer than those which the following pages contain. But we are convinced that it is a requisite of public prayer, scarcely less indispensable than those already mentioned, that the service should be confined within such a period of time as to afford ground for the expectation that, from the beginning to the end, it may be able to command the constant, unwearied, and devout attention of the congregation. Such attention it is vain to hope from minds of ordinary strength, unless the duration of the service be moderate: and without such attention, the outward show of worship may remain, but the substance will be wanting; the lips may praise the Supreme, but the heart will be far from Him. Impressed with these convictions, we have, in order to reduce the forms of service to the length required, avoided those frequent repetitions of some of the finest prayers which seemed to us to weaken their effect; and we have for the same purpose omitted, in several instances, prayers which, although unobjectionable in themselves, appeared inferior in beauty of composition and of thought to those we have retained.
Many portions of the common ritual, by their holy and dignified tenor, afford every Israelite the opportunity of joining cordially in the worship of his brethren wherever he meets them in the house of prayer, and thus form a valuable bond of union amongst all Hebrew congregations. These sublime portions we trust we shall be found to have carefully preserved: and we hope to have strengthened rather than weakened the bond of union which they constitute, by blending in our ritual the varying form of the Portuguese and German Liturgies, and striving to give, on all occasions, the preference to the superiority of intrinsic merit alone.
As the House of God is the fittest place for offering up sacrifices of thanksgiving on all occasions of life, and as no moment is so full of intense interest to the Jewish parent, as that which ushers into existence a new claimant of the “inheritance of Jacob,” we have supplied the deficiency of a prayer for such an occasion, by instituting a formula, the wording of which, being a faithful transcript of biblical language, cannot but convey devotion and comfort to the Hebrew mother for whom it is intended. A similar necessity has dictated the composition of some few other prayers, for which no formula has hitherto existed. With these exceptions and that of the introduction of a few additional portions of Scripture, it will be seen that the service we have adopted is altogether based on the existing ritual.
In order to render the prayers at once more dignified and more generally intelligible, we have translated the Chaldaic expressions into the sacred Hebrew (the language of the Law), a knowledge of which we trust it will be the pride, as it is the bounden duty, of every Israelite to attain.
In the English translation of the prayers, we have endeavoured to combine correctness of diction with that fidelity which must be considered the paramount requisite in a work of this character.
The differences which formerly existed between the Portuguese and German Jewish congregations, and which caused them to consider each other as half aliens in religious matters, have happily, by the progress of liberal sentiments, been removed, in as far as they obstructed that brotherly feeling which the unity of our religious system requires; and the efforts of our newly established Congregation have been directed, we hope successfully, to the obliteration of every vestige of that useless and hurtful separation. We have discarded the names indicating a connection between us, natives of Great Britain professing the Jewish religion, and the countries from which our ancestors immigrated, and we have adopted for our place of worship the sufficiently explicit designation of “West London Synagogue of British Jews.” In making this statement, it is expedient to notice that the term “British Jews” has been chosen only with the view to efface the distinction now existing between the German and Portuguese Jews, and not in any way to constitute a new distinction, in a religious point of view, between the Jews of Great Britain and those of any other country.
Such then are the motives which have influenced the execution of the present task. And if, by promulgating this improved form of the Jewish Ritual, we contribute to the glorious end of endearing our holy institutions, and the pure fountain from which they flow, to the heart of every member of Israel; if, by the measures we have adopted after mature deliberation and with all the seriousness befitting our great cause, we become instrumental in attaching our rising generation to a mode of worship as impressive in its form as it is holy in its essence, we shall have ample cause for unbounded gratitude to our Heavenly Guide, for the glorification of whose name this work is wrought, and by whose omnipotent hand we humbly hope that it will be made to prosper for the peace, happiness, and salvation of Israel.