Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is upon us once again, beginning in a few hours time here in Israel, when we will be entering a 25-hour fast with day-long prayer services being held in shuls and community centers throughout the Jewish world. It is a day when we must ask forgiveness from our fellow man if we have wronged them, forgive those who have wronged us if they ask to be forgiven, and pray that Hashem will seal us in the Book of Life.
In Israel, traffic comes to a complete halt throughout the country, even in the most secular towns, and a serene and holy calmness pervades throughout the land. Even the international airport and public transport close down for the day, starting from a few hours before the fast until an hour or so after the fast ends.
You can read more about Yom Kippur at the Chabad site.
Someone(s) who should be begging Israel for forgiveness is the UN who permitted Iran’s tyrannical president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at its podium. Compounding the sin was the United States, both for giving Ahmadinejad an entry visa and for not walking out during his rant, as they have done in previous years.
From the ridiculous to the sublime, here is a beautiful video, published by the IDF Spokesman’s office, of the Chief Hazan (Cantor) of the IDF singing U’Netaneh Tokef.
The description of the video on YouTube explains that the song is performed by the IDF’s Chief Hazan Lt. Col. Shai Abramson in Tel Aviv’s Great Synagogue on Allenby Street together with IDF soldiers from various units. The background clips are from the Yom Kippur War in 1973, featuring Lt. Gen. Avigdor Kahalani who was a batallion commander in the Armoured Brigade who fought in Emek Habacha (Valley of Tears), and was awarded the medal of valour.
The U’Netaneh Tokef prayer itself is extremely dramatic and is a highlight of the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur prayers. Here is a translation of the words of the complete prayer (not all of which is sung in the video):
We will express the mighty holiness of this day, for it is tremendous and awful; on which Your kingdom is exalted, and Your throne established in grace; where You are seated in truth. It is true that You are the Judge and Arbitrator, knowing all and a witness, who writes and seals and counts and enumerates, and remembers all that is forgotten, and you will open the Book of Remembrance. And it will be read by itself, and the signature of each man is in it.
The great Shofar will be sounded, and a small still sound will be heard. The angels will rush and trembling and fear will take hold of them. And they shall say “Here is the Day of Judgement! The Heavenly Hosts will be visited in judgement” for even they will not be found innocent before You. And all who come to this world will pass before You as a flock of sheep.
As a shepherd counts his flock, passing his sheep under his crook, so You shall pass and count and enumerate and record and visit every living being, and assign the limit [of life] on all Your creatures, and You will write and prescribe their fate.
On Rosh Hashana, the first day of the year, it is written, and on the fast of Yom Kippur it is sealed: how many shall pass, how many will be created. Who will live and who will die; who at the end of his days and who not. Who by water, and who by fire. Who by the sword and who by the wild animal. Who by hunger and who by thirst. Who in an earthquake and who in a plague. Who by strangulation and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will be moving. Who will be tranquil and who will be uneasy. Who will be calm and who will be disturbed. Who will be poor, who will be rich. Who will be cast down and who will be exalted.
But Penitence, Prayer and Charity can avert the evil decree!
In the spirit of the day, I would like to ask forgiveness from anyone whom I might have offended or hurt.
To those who are fasting I wish an easy fast.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish my family, friends and readers Gmar Hatima Tova – May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.
גמר חתימה טובה