With hope for a better year ahead, Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin, president of The Schechter Institutes, shares two classic piyutim, liturgical poems in honor of Rosh Hashanah. Drawn from the Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions, both offer messages of life, hope and light.
May 5781 be filled with the blessings found in both of these piyutim.
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I think we would all agree that the year 5780 was not a very good year.
The pandemic began in February and since then, almost one million people have died and some 28 million people have fallen ill from Covid-19.
Therefore, what I would like to do in honor of the new year, is to share with you two classic piyutim, liturgical poems. One from the Ashkenazic tradition and one from the Sephardic tradition. I hope that in the year to come, these poems should come true.
We will begin with the Ashkenazic tradition, which is based on a passage in the Jerusalem Talmud found in Tractate Yoma. It describes the High Priest on Yom Kippur coming out of the Holy of Holies. He would recite this brief prayer:
May it be your will, O Lord our God, and God of our fathers that we should not go into exile and that we should not have anything missing…
May this be a year of plenty, a year of good business success and that we should not need each other…
For those of you who are still in synagogue every year during the Avodah service, you know that this is a piyut that appears at the end of the service that is written as an alphabetic acrostic in Hebrew following the Alef Bet as found in a reproduction from the Maschzor Lev Shalem, from the Conservative movement:
May it be your will, O Lord our God and God of our fathers that the year to come should be a year of abundance, a year of blessing, a year of good fortune…
You shall bring us up in joy to our land and the Jewish people should not need one another nor need another people and should have blessings in the work of their hands.
Those of you who are used to the Ashkenazic prayers are used to this beautiful prayer at the end of the Avodah service.
A number of months ago I discovered that Sephardim have a similar beautiful prayer. It’s not in the Avodah service, but rather, in the middle of the full Reader’s Kaddish which is recited during the Shaharit Mussaf service on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and every ethnic group has its own special tune. This also follows an alphabetic acrostic:
May God open to us the gate of of light, the gate of love, the gate of brotherhood…
May your prayers be answered and listened to from heaven…
May it take from your midst jealousy and hatred and strife. May you fulfill the verse that God may give you a thousand more of what you need and bless you, as he spoke unto you and write you in the Book of Life.
May it be God’s will, and let us say, Amen.
The Chazan then continues with the Full Kaddish.
There are a number of recordings of this piyut in the National Library of Israel’s website of the different ethnic groups.
In conclusion, I would like to wish all of you that you may be written and inscribed in the Book of Life. Whether you follow the version which has 50 gates of blessing or another version that has 24 gates of blessing, we hope that the year to come, 5781, shall be filled with the blessing described at the end of the Ashkenazic piyut recited at the end of the Avodah service, and also with the blessings described in the Sephardic piyut, and let us say, Amen.
Shana Tovah from Schechter.
David Golinkin is President of The Schechter Institutes, Inc. and President Emeritus of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. For twenty years he served as Chair of the Va’ad Halakhah (Law Committee) of the Rabbinical Assembly which gives halakhic guidance to the Masorti Movement in Israel. He is the founder and director of the Institute of Applied Halakhah at Schechter and also directs the Center for Women in Jewish Law. Rabbi Professor Golinkin made aliyah in 1972, earning a BA in Jewish History and two teaching certificates from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He received an MA in Rabbinics and a PhD in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he was also ordained as Rabbi. For a complete bio click here.