Religion played an integral part in the lives of 19th-century Americans. Consequently, in both the North and South, the presidents and other political leaders frequently called for days of prayer and fasting for their respective nations. Clergy of all denominations responded to these calls and shaped their sermons accordingly. In this passage, Rabbi M. J. Michelbacher affirms his Jewish congregation's dedication to their nation and their willingness to fight for it. He further encourages them to continue in their efforts for the Confederacy as he leads them in prayer for their nation.
BRETHREN OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL:
It is due to you, to whom I always speak of your faults, without fear, favour, or affection, to say, I have carefully investigated your conduct from the commencement of this war to the present time, and I am happy in coming to the unbiassed conclusion, that you have fulfilled your duties as good citizens and as men, who love their country. It has been charged by both the ignorant and the evil-disposed against the people of our faith, that the Israelite does not fight in the battles of his country! All history attests the untruthfulness of this ungracious charge, generated in the cowardly hearts and born between the hypocritical lips of ungenerous and prejudiced foes. The Israelite has never failed to defend the soil of his birth, or the land of his adoption In respect to those Israelites who are now in the army of the Confederate States, I will merely say, that their patriotism and valor have never been doubted by such men as have the magnanimous souls of Lee, Johnston, Jackson and others of like manhood. The recorded votes and acts of the Israelites of this Confederacy, amply prove their devotion to the support of its Government. They well understand their duties as citizens and soldiers, and the young men do not require the persuasion of conscription to convert them into soldiers, to defend, as they verily believe, the only free government in North America. Many of our young men have been crippled for life, or slain upon the field of battle, in the service of the Confederate States, and there are several thousands yet coursing the campaigns of war against those enemies of our Confederacy, who are as detestable to them, as were the Philistines to David and his countrymen.
The humanity and providence of the Israelite for the distressed families of the soldiers of our army, have allayed the pangs of poverty and brought comfort to households, wherein before were only seen hopelessness and misery
Again, do we approach Thee, O God of Israel—not as a single meeting of a part, but as the whole congregation of all the people of the land, that trust in Thy protection forever, and who do now come before Thee, to seek it in the midst of dangers, yet more appalling than those of the past, that Thou didst put aside without harm unto us! ...
O God of our fathers! God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! hear our prayers, and listen graciously to our supplications, this day, for our salvation as a people, struggling before Thee for our liberties and independence, now threatened with renewed dangers and calamities, from the combining and concentrating powers of our enemies____
The man-servants and the maid-servants Thou hast given unto us, that we may be merciful to them in righteousness and bear rule over them, the enemy are attempting to seduce, that they too may turn against us, whom Thou hast appointed over them as instructors in Thy wise dispensation!
Because of Thy strength in aid of us, our enemies have failed against us, in all the modes and means of warfare known and adopted among the men Thou hast civilized—because of Thy strength they have failed; and, behold, O God, they incite our man-servants and maid-servants to insurrection, and they place weapons of death and the fire of desolation in their hands, that we may become an easy prey unto them; they beguile them from the path of duty, that they may waylay their masters, to assassinate and to slay the men, women and children of the people, that trust only in Thee. In this wicked thought, let them be frustrated, and cause them to fall into the pit of destruction, which in the abomination of their evil intents, they digged for us, our brothers and sisters, our wives and our children.
Our land and our waters are troubled with the presence of the foes of Thy people. Drive them away, O Lord! Let it be, that their boasted ships of terror may come to naught before the breath of our Lord God, as He send-eth it forth upon the waters of the Great Deep.
Bless, O God, the tillage of our fields, that they may bring forth abundantly for the wants of the people! Give unto each one the bread of life, and let the fat of the land be seen in plenty in the home of every family of the Confederate States of America
We implore Thee to turn the hearts of the people of the Confederate States of America generously and kindly every one to the other, that, in the midst of common tribulation, they may cheer and sustain each other till they shall have safely passed through the troublous flood of war, to the happiness of a peaceful land, regenerated by Thy favoured presence forever and ever! ...
We believe, O God, that piety cannot subsist apart from patriotism— we love our country, because Thou hast given it unto us as a blessing and a heritage for our children; and, now, O God, we call upon Thee, to bring salvation to the Confederate States of America, and to crown independence with lasting honour and prosperity.
O God! Give cheerfulness to the hearts of our people; and, as a sign of our confidence in Thee and Thy especial protection over us, let the play of the children be seen in the streets of our cities, towns and villages and all places of our country. Let no fear come near our maidens, and be Thou unto our young men a tower of strength, that they may stand with undaunted hearts to shield and sustain the matrons and patriarchs of the people! Drive, O God, the fear of black famine far away from our borders, and open the Omnipotent hand of Thy Heavenly bounty upon all these— the people of this Thy land, which we dedicate anew to Thee this day. And, O God, keep in remembrance this day forever!
Be Thou, O God, with our armies, and inspire the leaders thereof with a pious fear of Thee. Endow them with the faculty of anticipating the designs of the enemy and the wisdom, to thwart every movement of hostility!
Inspire our soldiers with that patriotic courage, which comes from the thought of duty to Thee and to their country. Give unto them, sleepless vigilance, vigorous and active bodies and hands, to wield in victory the weapons of battle. Give unto them, when in pursuit of the flying foe, the swiftness of the eagle, and in the fight, let them be as fierce lions among the prey!
Send, O God, Thy protecting messengers to our ships of war upon the waters of the rivers and of the great deep! Shield our infant navy from all the dangers of storm and battle; and, in all its engagements with the enemy, let the power of the wonderful arm of the God of Israel be its succour, defence and victory! Let the boast of the enemy's naval superiority in numbers over us, be unto Thee, O Lord, their weakness and destruction. And give unto us, Thy people that trust in Thee, O God of Israel, the crown of triumph!
O God! Give counsel and wisdom to Thy servant, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, and grant speedy success to his endeavours to free our country from the presence of its foes.
Be Thou with him and the legislature of the Confederate Government of America, and give unto them Thy care and blessing.
Send us peace, O Lord God, we humbly implore Thee! ... Amen! Hallooyah!
Source: Rev. M. J. Michelbacher, A Sermon Delivered On the Day of Prayer, Recommended by the President of the C. S. of A., the 27th of March, 1863, At the German Hebrew Synagogue, Bayth Ahabah (Richmond, VA: Macfarlance & Furgusson, 1863).
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