There's something called the Serenity Prayer, which is a clever "prayer" often used at addiction support groups, such as AA.

I did a little Googling, and it turns out that it may have been composed by an Evangelical minister in Massachusetts in the 1930s. (Wikipedia) There's more to it, but the commonly known part goes like this:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

I ran it through Google translate and got the following:

אלוהים תן לי את השלווה לקבל את הדברים שאני לא יכול לשנות
את האומץ לשנות את הדברים שאני יכול
וחוכמה לדעת את ההבדל

Is there something idiomatically equivalent in Judaism? The next paragraph of the prayer directly references the human in their belief system, so I'm looking for an expression of the same idea, but from an Orthodox Jewish perspective.

  • +1 - I think we were editing in parallel, I hope I didn't lose out important text you wanted. Please revert or edit further if this is the case
    – mbloch
    May 29, 2018 at 13:22

2 Answers 2


This prayer is Jewish. In the 11th-century, Solomon ibn Gabirol, the author of Adon Olam, wrote [Mibchar ha-Peninim (Choice of Pearls), Chapter 17 (Consciousness), verse 2]

At the head of all understanding is realizing what is and what cannot be, and consoling ourselves for what is not in our power to change.

  • 4
    Nice. +1. That really wasn't easy. But it goes a bit far to say the prayer is Jewish. Maybe to say it has Jewish inspiration - or more likely that a much earlier Jewish statement referred to similar concepts
    – mbloch
    May 29, 2018 at 14:39
  • @mbloch -- Does it? Let's see: -God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change <---> consoling ourselves for what is not in our power to change. -Courage to change the things I can <---> [granted, not there, although implied] -And wisdom to know the difference. <---> At the head of all understanding is realizing what is and what cannot be. Two out of three ain't bad. May 29, 2018 at 17:28
  • 1
    But between "realizing what is" and "courage to change the things I can" is a huge gap. In any case this remains a very nice find
    – mbloch
    May 29, 2018 at 17:32
  • +1 @MauriceMizrahi I found that on the Wikipedia entry, but couldn't find the Hebrew text with a quick search online. Any leads?
    – Moshe
    May 30, 2018 at 2:43
  • @Moshe -- try hebrewbooks.org/37435 May 30, 2018 at 11:15

The wording was written by/for Alcoholics Anonymous, and it is used by all the "Twelve-Step Programs" patterned after it. AA was created by members of the Oxford Group, an Evangelical Christian organization for spiritual growth, and is an elaboration of their programming. They expanded a list of 4 practices into a sequence of 12 steps. And while AA adapted itself to addressing non-Christians, their "Big Book" even has a section about how atheists can relate to their program, those roots are very evident. Also pragmatically, they often meet in places like church classrooms or social halls.

Rav Elyashiv was asked about joining AA, and he permitted. As far as I know, the response was never published, but a friend of mine who is a JACS Rabbi has a copy. (JACS is a group for Jewish members of 12 Step Programs and their families; the acronym is for "Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others".) He not only permitted joining, but even to say "The Lord's Prayer" in the context of their meeting.

Subsequently, debate arose as to how much of the permissive attitude was because of the risk to live involved in addition.

In our terms, there is a dispute as to whether Rav Elyashiv permitted use of the Serenity Prayer, or would only permit the use when someone needs to join such a group to get their life back on track.

As for Maurice Mizrahi's find of a Jewish precedent, this is more akin to the question of using the Lord's Prayer. In both cases, even if the sentiment is inherently Jewish, the fact is the coinage was for another religion. We are prohibited from using others' rituals, even if to worship Hashem Yisbarakh. There was even initial resistance to placing sermons in shul worship over this issue; never mind one of their prayers. Finding a parallel in content isn't enough to permit. Still, Rav Elyashiv might have, anyway.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .