I found it difficult to concentrate in shul this morning, and it’s your fault. News of your arrival in the world reached me just as I was arriving at synagogue. A granddaughter! In the commotion of emotions, the enunciation of standing prayers suddenly felt so humdrum. Until I allowed my dreams for you to fuse with those of your ancestors… A blessed moment of rising above the morass of complex entanglements, existential threats, moral dilemmas, economic uncertainties and ideological conflicts in which we are mired, imagining the promise of tomorrow...
A few of the thoughts that stole into my recitation of the 19 benedictions, inspired by your birth: O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise.
There are some days when that is easier said and done than others.
1. Blessed art Thou who remembers the pious deeds of our ancestors, and in love will bring a redeemer to their children’s children.
For how long have we been praying for that redeemer? For as long as we prayed for the return to Zion. And here we are! May your generation merit the promise of redemption fulfilled as mine merited the Promised Land restored.
2. Faithful are You in giving life to the dead.
In just another few days I will stop saying kaddish for your great-grandfather. The joy he will never know of your tight newborn’s fist clasping his open, practiced hand. But indeed, your birth has given life to the dead.
3. The whole earth is full of His glory… Holy are those who praise You daily.
Open your eyes to that glory every day.
Gaze in awe at the continuous renewal of creation.
4. You graciously endow mortals with wisdom and understanding.
There is such a multiplicity of intelligences in this world. May we who already love you rejoice in whatever sort has already been implanted within you.
5. Blessed art Thou who delights in repentance.
So innocent, so incapable of wrongdoing.
But inevitably that will come. The question is not whether you shall ever stray, but if you will have the mettle to atone.
6. Blessed art Thou who is gracious, and does abundantly forgive.
You will wrong others; they will wrong you. May you both have the divine capacity to forgive.
7. Look upon our affliction and plead our cause.
May you be spared affliction, but always see yourself a sister of those who have not been, identifying with their lot and struggling on their behalf.
8. Grant a perfect healing to all our wounds.
That first scraped knee… that first hurtful word hurled haphazardly by another child… that first bitter disappointment… All the love in the world will not succeed in keeping you out of harm’s way. It may help with healing.
9. Lord, make this a blessed year and may its produce of every sort make us happy.
Such responsibility on your tiny shoulders! May we find joy in all that you shall become, in who you shall choose to be, in that which you shall resolve to stand for.
10. Sound the great shofar to herald our freedom.
May you never take for granted the marvel of having been born into the freedom of sovereignty, which generations before you could only long for. And may you take up the cause of securing freedom for all.
11. Restore our judges as in former times… reign over us in lovingkindness and tender mercy, O Lord who loves righteousness and judgment.
There is so much injustice in this world, so much suffering, sorrow and pain. It is fruitless to pray that you will not be touched by it; one can only pray that you will stand up to it and become a helpmate to the forces of goodness, decency and love.
12. Frustrate the hopes of all those who malign us.
You are so tiny and so precious. It is hard to believe that there are those who would wish you ill simply because of your Jewish birthright. May you come to inherit it with pride and to delight in who you are, in your people and in your heritage which gives expression to the loftiest of human aspirations.
13. May Your tender mercies be stirred for the righteous and the pious.
Join hands with those who would seek to make this world a better place, recognize that being a part of the “chosen people” connotes more responsibility than privilege and that our tradition requires of you to welcome the stranger, respect the other, and embrace the moral and the good wherever and in whomever they dwell.
14. And to Jerusalem, Your city, return in mercy and dwell therein.
May your voice of laughter and your song of joy soon be heard in the courtyards of Jerusalem, making of it and of all Israel a throne worthy of the divine presence.
15. Speedily cause the offspring of David, Your servant, to flourish… Each and every day we wait for Your salvation.
But as you wait, also toil. See yourself a partner in bringing about redemption, not an heir of its advent.
16. Hear our voice, O Lord, have mercy upon us… for you are a God who hears prayer and supplication.
It doesn’t always seem that way. It’s difficult not to doubt. Part of the trick is in learning what and what not to pray for. The other part is in learning to look for the answers in the recesses of your heart and not on the doorsteps of your house. That little red bicycle that will one day appear at your front door is going to have come from your grandfather, not from heaven.
17. Let our eyes behold Your return in mercy to Zion.
It will mean nothing if the divine presence returns to the land of Israel and we prove ourselves unable to discern it. Perhaps through your innocent eyes we will learn to recognize the miracle of the everunfolding holiness of return that saturates our being here.
18. We praise You for having granted us life and for sustaining us… for our souls which are in Your keeping, and for Your miracles, which are with us daily.
19. Grant peace unto the world.
The years will glide by swiftly. Soon you will be taking your first tentative steps. So, too, must we, who are responsible for the future you will be stepping into. Tentative steps toward peace even if we are on less than steady ground, unwavering in our resolve to grasp for it at every opportunity, however remote it might appear.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to You.
And to you. A blessed moment of rising above – while remaining acutely aware of all there is to fix below. For your sake I shall keep praying. And keep dreaming.The writer is vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization and a member of the Jewish Agency Executive. The opinions expressed herein are his own.