Praying and Working for Perfection

Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat Shuva
Rabbi David E. Ostrich

There is something Messianic about the High Holy Days. Though Jewish Tradition has us waiting and praying for the coming of the Messiah, there are things we can do to hasten the day. What are these things? They are the mitzvot we are supposed to do all the time. In other words, we have a role to play in the perfection of the world; our good and holy deeds can pave the way for the Messiah.

As we prepare for Rosh Hashanah and the closeness to God it can bring, here is a hymn that speaks of the glorious future that we pray will come soon—and that we can help to bring. It was found in the Machzor Vitry, an 11th Century High Holy Day prayer book from France. No author is listed. The English translation is by Israel Zangwill, a Jewish public intellectual and man of letters in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. It is slightly adapted.

All the World
All the world shall come to serve You,
And bless Your glorious Name.
And Your righteousness triumphant
The islands shall proclaim.
And the people shall go seeking
Who knew You not before.
And the ends of earth shall praise You
And tell Your greatness o’er.

They shall build for You their altars,
Their idols overthrown,
And their graven gods shall shame them,
As they turn to You alone.
They shall worship You at sunrise,
And feel Your Sovereign might,
And impart their understanding
To those astray in night.

With the coming of Your victory
The hills shall shout with song,
And the islands laugh exultant
That they to God belong.
And through all Your congregations
So loud Your praise shall ring,
that the utmost peoples, hearing,
Shall then Your greatness sing.

L'shanah Tovah!