Friday, 7 May 2021

‘Renew us for life and
peace, gladness and joy,
salvation and consolation’


Patrick Comerford

In Jewish spirituality, every Shabbat blesses the week that follows it. The spiritual work on the day of rest fills is seen as providing blessings for the six days that follow.

Once a month, however, the prayers also include petitions for blessings for the month ahead. The Shabbat before the start of a Jewish month, Rosh Chodesh, is known as Shabbat Mevarchim, ‘the Shabbat of blessing.’ The word mevorchim means ‘they [the congregation] bless [the forthcoming new month].’

During the synagogue service on this Shabbat morning, a special blessing is invoked on the new month and announce the timing of Rosh Chodesh is announced. The new month of Sivan begins next Wednesday (15 May 2021).

Part of this brief ceremony is a beautiful prayer with many important blessings and requests — both physical and spiritual —for the coming month.

On Shabbat morning, after the Torah reading, the chazzan or cantor holds the Torah scroll in his or her arms, and this prayer, beginning with the words yehi ratzon (‘May it be your will’), is said:

May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our fathers, to renew us for this coming month for good and blessing. Grant us long life, a life of peace, a life of goodness, a life of blessing, a life of sustenance, a life of physical health, a life marked by reverence for heaven and dread of sin, a life without shame or disgrace, a life of wealth and honour, a life in which we have love for the Torah and reverence for heaven, a life in which our heart’s desires are fulfilled for good. Amen. Saleh.

The leader then says:

May he who performed miracles for our ancestors and redeemed them from slavery to freedom, redeem us soon and gather in our dispersed people from the four corners of the earth, so that all Israel may be united in friendship, and let us say, Amen.

Then these words are said:

The new month of [the Hebrew month] will occur on [the Hebrew day/s]. May it come to us and all Israel for good.

The congregation and leader pray:

May the Holy One, blessed be He, renew this month for us and for all his people, the house of Israel, for life and peace, gladness and joy, salvation and consolation; and let us say, Amen.

The prayer beginning ‘May it be your will’ is based on the meditation of the third century scholar Abba Arikha (Rav). The phrase ‘so that all Israel may be united in friendship’ is derived from the rabbinic interpretation of Psalm 122: 3, ‘Jerusalem built as a city joined together,’ as ‘a city that turns all Israel into friends.’

This prayer is said after the Torah reading and before the Torah scroll is carried back to the Aron haKodesh or Torah ark.

Shabbat Shalom

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