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Who By Fire, Who By Water
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Who By Fire, Who By Water

Un taneh Tokef

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The most controversial prayer of the Jewish New Year what it means, who wrote it, why we say it.

A peculiar aspect of High Holy Day liturgy is the medieval poetry full of lessons and imagery that most modern worshipers find baffling. Un taneh Tokef is a warning that at every New Year, God establishes, in advance, who will live and who will die ... who by fire and who by water and by such deaths as strangulation and warfare. To be sure, repentance, prayer and charity can help, but how? With actual relief from dire fate? That hardly rings true to people who lost loved ones in tragic events such as 9/11, for example; or to cancer at a tragically young age. How then can we even say this most famous of New Year prayers?

Over forty contributors who span three continents and all major Jewish denominations examine the prayer s theology, authorship, and poetry through a set of lively essays, all written in accessible language. They are men and women, scholars and rabbis, artists and poets. An introduction traces the actual history of the prayer and its authorship. A new translation is accompanied by detailed notes that connect the prayer to its biblical and rabbinic roots.

Contributors: Merri Arian Rabbi Tony Bayfield Dr. Marc Brettler Rabbi Sharon Brous Dr. Erica Brown Rabbi Ruth Durchslag Rabbi Edward Feinstein Rabbi Elyse Frishman Rabbi Andrew Goldstein Dr. Joel Hoffman Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, PhD Rabbi Delphine Horveilleur Rabbi Elie Kaunfer Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar Dr. Reuven Kimelman Rabbi Lawrence Kushner Rabbi Noa Kushner Rabbi Daniel Landes Rabbi Ruth Langer Liz Lerman Rabbi Asher Lopatin Catherine Madsen Rabbi Jonathan Magonet Rabbi Dalia Marx Ruth Messinger Rabbi Charles H. Middleborough Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum Rabbi Aaron Panken Rabbi Or N. Rose Rabbi Marc Saperstein Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso Rabbi Jonathan Slater Rabbi Brent Chaim Spodeck Rabbi David Stern Rabbi David Teutsch Rabbi Gordon Tucker Dr. Ellen Umansky Rabbi Avraham Weiss Rabbi Maggie Moers Wenig Dr. Ron Wolfson Rabbi David J. Wolpe Rabbi Daniel G. Zemel Dr. Wendy Zierler

  • Edited by Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, PhD.
  • (304 Pages)Publisher: Jewish Lights, 2010

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