Prayer for Shabbat on the Eve of the Millennium

Prayer offered December 31, 1999, by Rabbi Barry H. Block

Ribbono shel olam,
O Sovereign of the Universe,
Ruler of all space,
Creator of all time,
we come before You on this unique Shabbat,
to ask Your blessings for all time.
Tonight, we observe Shabbat,
the day You have set aside,
for rest and sanctification,
for the glorification of Your great and holy Name.
And yet, all around us,
the world is celebrating the “millennium.”
This mark in time is not on Your calendar, O God,
and it is not a sacred date among our people.
Indeed, as the Psalmist taught,
“A thousand years are but as yesterday,
in Your sight, O Lord.”
And yet,
You have willed that we should live in this world,
counting days in such a way
that tonight is an extraordinary occasion,
a Shabbat that seems to have special meaning,
different from all other nights,
distinguished from other Sabbaths.

We acknowledge this night
the fears of millions.
What will midnight bring?
The crashing of computers?
Horrific acts of murderous terrorism?
The end of the world as we know it?
Calm our fears, O God.
Spread Your shelter of peace over this night.
Let it be a night of Shabbat,
a night of celebration,
a night of joy and gladness.

Looking back,
dear Lord,
we ponder Your judgment on the last century,
Your appraisal of the last millennium.
Those years were centuries filled with the persecution of Your people,
untold human suffering,
countless killings by those who took Your Name in vain.
And yet, O God,
those days and decades now ended
have also known
the greatest learning in human history,
unprecedented advancement in the ability to help and to heal,
devoted and sincere service of saints and tzaddikim of every faith.
Your children wandered in exile,
from expulsion to extermination,
and finally, to rebirth in the Land of Your promise.
Human beings slaughtered one another in their ignorance,
employed the gifts of their minds to build weapons of mass destruction,
and yet found a way to avoid destroying the world.
O God, we are grateful for one thousand years
of music and art and poetry,
for the written word and the recorded sound,
for pictures that move and expressions that stir our souls.
We are thankful for one thousand years
of discovery and invention,
for running water and electric power,
for medicine and surgery,
for exploration of the stars above us
and the human mind within us.
We are mindful of a millennium
of religious thought and prayer,
of reform and adherence to tradition,
of faithful service to God and humankind.
We are indebted to You for one thousand years
of men and women and children,
who lived and died on Your Earth,
who strived to live their lives with meaning,
and to leave this world better for their having lived,
with everlasting faith in You.

Now, then, we ask your blessings on the future.
Bless, O God, this night.
Bless, O God, the year ahead.
Bless, O God, the twenty-first century.
Bless, O God, a thousand years,
though they be but yesterday in Your sight.
Let there be no more war and bloodshed,
hatred and killing,
hypocrisy and violence.
Let the years ahead know beautiful music and magnificent art;
Let the century ahead know scientific advances for the good of humanity;
Let the millennium to come know peace for our people and all humanity.
Let every day, O God,
be filled with knowledge of You,
service to Your will,
and serene acceptance of Your holy sovereignty.
Then, O God,
with Your help,
may we build the endless Shabbat you have promised,
the messianic age You have foretold,
the perfect future You have stored up for us.
Strengthen us,
O God,
to bring heaven to Earth,
from tonight,
from this Shabbat,
from this millennial moment,
to eternity.
Amen.