Friday, September 21, 2007

On Erev Yom Kippur...

So every High Holy Days, I want to do a blog entry about something having to do with them (although, I notice that I didn't last year)... In the past, it has been commentary on sermons or sharing favorite hymns. This year, I want to share a large portion of the Unetaneh Tokef, which I think I've mentioned before.

The Unetaneh Tokef is a medieval prayer, born of the martyrdom of Rabbi Amnon of Mayence by tradition. The account goes something like this: For refusing to be converted to Catholicism by the Bishop of Mayence, he was tortured and left to die of his wounds. He languished several days, and on Rosh Hashanah, he died after speaking this prayer.

I'm not terribly fond of this translation, but it is serviceable enough and I (once again) have not gotten my own copy of the Gates of Repentance or I'd use that one. I like that one... This one is close. I only quibble over a few semantical differences here and there...

Unetaneh Tokef

Let us proclaim the sacredness of this day.
For it is awesome and full of dread.
Your kingship is exalted upon it.
Your throne is established in steadfast love.
You are enthroned upon it in truth.
In truth, You are judge and arbiter,
council and witness,
He who inscribes and seals,
Remembering all that is forgotten.
You open the book of our days
Which proclaims itself,
for it bears the signature of every human being.

The great shofar is sounded,
A still small voice is heard.
The angels gripped by fear and trembling,
proclaim in awe: This is the Day of Judgment!
For even the hosts of heaven are judged.
They shall not be guiltless in Your eyes
And all creatures shall walk before You.
As a shepherd herds his flock,
Causing his sheep to pass beneath his staff,
So do You cause to pass, count, and record,
Visiting the souls of all living,
Decreeing the length of their days,
Inscribing their judgment.

On Rosh Hashanah it is written,
On Yom Kippur it is sealed.
How many shall pass away and how many shall come to be,
Who shall live and who shall die,
Who shall reach old age and who shall not,
Who shall perish by water and who by fire,
Who by sword and who by beast,
Who by famine and who by thirst,
Who by earthquake and who by plague,
Who by strangulation and who by stoning,
Who shall have respite and who shall be driven,
Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued,
Who shall be at rest and who shall be tormented,
Who shall be exalted and who shall be humbled,
Who shall be rich and who shall be impoverished.
But repentance, prayer and charity temper judgment's severe decree.

After this, there is another portion of the prayer praising God's majesty. But I can't find a translation of that bit that I'm even half-way satisfied with, so I'm not going to add it. All the really important, particularly unique bits are here above. The Unetaneh Tokef is only said on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and it's my favorite prayer that is only said on High Holy Days.

I really enjoy Jewish prayers, the feel of them as they come of my tongue and the sound of them as they are spoken by the who congregation or just the cantor. (I have half a mind to try to translate them into Latin... Oh, I'm a nut!) And once again, I must remind myself to buy my own copies of the Reform prayer books... I'm really kinda annoyed at myself that the only time of year I seem to remember that I want them is during the High Holy Days.

After thinking about it, it would probably be more appropriate to share the Kol Nidre, but I've been wanting to mention the Unetaneh Tokef since last week, so...

I would commentate more, but I really have to go get ready for Kol Nidre services now. Can't be late or they won't let us in...

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