- Religion and Philosophy
Prayer of the Kohanim
The following is taken from my third great-grandfather's book which he edited and released in Vienna in 1867. The book was titled, Prayers for Israelites and in it he had incorporated what he believed to be the appropriate prayers for each day of the year. The book is very different from the prayer books currently used by the Rabbanites and in fact, is stylized upon Karaite traditions. During the week there are only prayers for morning and evening as per Karaite practices. The evening prayers for the Sabbath are divided in two parts. those which preceed the sunset and those which follow afterwards when it has transposed into night. But more importantly, there is no prayer for the lighting of any Sabbath candles, a Rabbanite practice but not a Karaite one. But I do apologize in advance for some of the translation which is not fluent but the Hebrew in which he wrote tended to utilize words which are not commonly found and I suspect his source material was quite old and therefore of a more archaic Hebrew. As a linguist of ancient oriental languages, Jakob had no trouble with these words but I did.
Another point of interest is that Jakob found it appropriate to introduce prayers on behalf of the Emperor and his family into the Sabbath services. In fact he makes a point of having a prayer for not only Emperor Franz Josef but the Empress Elisabeth and their son Rudolf as well. In fact not only does he used the reference 'Our Master' but also follows the pronouncement of their names with the phrase, "melech malchay hamlachim" or King and King of Kings, which was a reference usually only reserved for the Almighty. But it was common practice amongst Karaites to recognize the earthly sovereignty of the country's rulers without having any misgivings of betraying our faith in God as Master and King of the universe. A fact which often led to accusations by the Rabbanites of Karaites betraying their heritage in the past but which was not the case. When the Karaite community made their appeal to the Empress Catherine of Russia to accept Karaites as being different and distinct from Rabbanites it was not done with any intent to supplant faith in God with that of the Empress. It was a practical approach to resolving allegiance to state and religion, one which could have served the Rabbanites well had they tried to follow suit.
Details of the Prayer
Firstly it should be stated the Jakob was quite proud of his Kohanic heritage. Though he abandoned his family heritage of being community spiritual leaders in Brody, (a long story which I'll tell at a later date) he never abandoned his Zadokite inheritance. As you read the prayer, you recognize he still hoped for the return of the Kohanim as the spiritual leaders of the nation. The tone of the prayer is one of hope that God would restore the proper order to Judaism. Hope and salvation lay with the children of Aaron and until such time that happened, Jakob did not see the realization of the promises in the Torah coming without reestablishment of the priesthood. He also felt that the priesthood acted in some ways as an intermediary between God and the children of Israel.
There are several interesting statements that Jakob has edited in the prayer which suggest that the document he was working from was ancient indeed.
The first of these is that it is the wish of the Kohanim that the ancient ways be restored. A definite slap in the face of the Judaism that had developed since the fall of the Temple. The arranging of labour in Jerusalem is a direct reference to the work performed in the Temple and the end of rabbinical Judaism in the process.
Next is the supplication that the Torah was to be taught only from the mouth of the priests and not from anyone else. This is directly taken from the Torah that says the teachers will only be the priests but it is also a fundamental belief of Karaism and completely contradicts the Rabbanite tradition of having lay people or Rabbis teach the Torah.
There is also a line that refers to God creating the heaven and earth from Zion. This is a reflection of the ancient belief that the foundation stone was located beneath the Holy of Holies. That this stone acted as a plug at the nexus between the worlds. The centre of creation in fact. The roots of this belief stem from traditions that are over three thousand years old and it is interesting that Jakob would incorporate these into a modern day prayer (if one calls 1867 modern).
Probably the most confusing part of the prayer is the reference to the power of dreams and in fact what may be suggestive of dream-walking. Although not commonly referenced in Jewish writing, dream-walking, healing, etc., is referenced in other religions as being part of the abilities of those classified as Shamans or tribal religious leaders. There are tales in my family that such abilities were common to the High Priest and was all part of the Urim and Thummim. It is of great interest that Jakob would devote such an extensive and elaborate paragraph to these qualities and one can only assume that the source material that he was utilizing was quite rare and unique.
With these points in mind I provide the translated prayer below.
The Following is the translation as best as I could do. My apologies to my ancestor for any unintentional errors:
I request our prayer is acceptable to you as fine as the burnt offering and sacrificial pledge.
Please respond with your great compassion by settling your presence on Zion your city and arranging the labour in Jerusalem.
And may our eyes behold your return to Zion with mercy and awe and reestablish our ancient world in recent and coming years.
Blessed are you God, for you alone can create awe inspiring works.
And we are desirous before you Yahweh, Our God, God of our forefathers accept this blessing of our faithfulness as we, your people Israel kneel. Blessings of Peace. And don’t let it’s coming be an obstacle from now until eternity.
Our God, God of our forefathers, who blessed us from the three benedictions of Torah written by the hands of Moses your servant and taught from the mouth of Aaron and his children the High Priests, your holy people as aforesaid.
Blessed are you our God, King of the Universe, to whom we dedicate our dedications belonging to Aaron on bended knee for the love of your people Israel.
Your blessings, your blessings Yahweh, from Zion you made the heaven and the earth.
Yahweh, Yahweh, our Lord, how great is your name in all the Earth.
And in your keeping you will guard me God because in you I trust.
Our Teacher of the universe send me your dreams, send the dream of my dreams and I don’t know it will be desirous from before you Yahweh their God, and God of their fathers who can bestow upon them all their dreams and upon Israel and to me the goodness between my dreams upon myself and between my dreams upon others and between the dreams of others upon them with goodness and they adopt them and hold them in the strength in me and in them with the dreams of Joseph the Righteous. And if it should be the medicine to cure Hezekiah the king of Yahweh of plague and of Miriam the Prophetess her Leprosy and of Naaman his Leprosy, or like the water of bitterness through our Teacher Moses, or how Jericho with the weapons of Elisha. And just as you’ve become the curse of the wicked Balaam, then walk into my dreams, a blessing and betterment unto me and all of Israel and take me with pleasure. Amen
The light of God gives us favour and blesses us, the light fills our cups. Selah.
Yahweh, Yahweh, Yahweh, is a compassionate and gracious God; take from us our long suffering with mercy, faithfulness and truth.
His face turned to me and I am no longer alone and poor.
To You, to You, I will lift my soul.
You teach us here as a servants to the master’s hand and servants to the mistress’s hand, yes in benevolence turn our eyes to you, Yahweh our God. Our Teacher of the Universe.
The Will, the Will, a blessing from Yahweh and charity from God is sounded.
Yahweh, Yahweh, we lean upon you, our faith in your open arms, you are our salvation in times of trouble.
Do not secret your face from me in days of sorrow and turn to me when I call upon speedy clouds
To You, To You, I will lift up my eyes to look upon the inhabitants of Heaven,
And it shall be placed, And you will put my name upon the children of Israel and I will bless them.
To you, to you Great Yahweh, and the magnificence and the glory and the eternity in all of heaven and the earth, of you God your sovereignty is supreme.
Peace, peace, peace from near and far speaks God and it is accepted.