Thursday, September 24, 2009

There is more than one way to be motivated to understand and experience teshuvah.

  1. At this time of year, why are we especially motivated in the direction of teshuvah?
  2. What prayers do you know of that help guide you on the path toward teshuvah?
  3. What are the triggers for your own teshuvah?
  4. How can you effectively focus on teshuvah?

Leonard Cohen is currently in Israel, and is expected to perform this week in Ramat Gan for a sellout crowd. This is not his first trip to Israel - he performed there during the 1973 Yom Kippur War in support of Israeli troops. You can read a first-person account of this here

Because it is so moving, and because we are in the period of Asseret Y'mei Teshuvah, the Ten days of Teshuvah, I hope Cohen will play this song: Who By Fire, which is based on the well-known prayer "U'Netane Tokef", a prominent part of the service on Yom Kippur.

Compare the lyrics in Cohen's song with those of the original.

Cohen's lyrics are at this link

Here are the words to U'Netane Tokef, according to a translation at
On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed
and on Yom Kippur will be sealed
how many will pass from the earth
and how many will be created;
who will live and who will die;
who will die at his predestined time
and who before his time;
who by water and who by fire,
who by sword, who by beast,
who by famine, who by thirst,
who by storm, who by plague,
who by strangulation, and who by stoning.
Who will rest and who will wander,
who will live in harmony and who will be harried,
who will enjoy tranquillity and who will suffer,
who will be impoverished and who will be enriched,
who will be degraded and who will be exalted.

Another version of the same prayer can be found here, with English translations appearing on the screen
To hear yet another version of this same prayer by the Israeli group Gevatron, click here and listen from the beginning of the 4th minute.

Another modern take on a traditional idea:

  • Write your own version of Unetaneh Tokef
  • Compose your own melody for Unetaneh Tokef
  • Illustrate your understanding of Unetaneh Tokef
  • Write a short description of what Unetaneh tokef means to you.
I wish you all G'mar Hatimah Tovah, and may this Yom Kippur be meaningful for you and for all those around you.

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