Dreaming of Moshiach

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Unetaneh Tokef

Unetaneh Tokef is a piyyut written by Rabbi Amnon, zs'l, in the eleventh century CE (4700 - 4800). It is recited on both days of Rosh Hashanah as well as Yom Kippur.

Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, Germany composed it as he lay dying in martyrdom. For years, the local Bishop had been pressuring him to convert to Christianity. One particular time, about a week before Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Amnon asked for three days to think it over, hoping to find a way to stop the Bishop trying to force him. When he got home, he was horrified that he had given the impression that he might abandon his faith. [+/-] show/hide text
He didn't go back, and after the three days, the Bishop sent people to bring the Rabbi to him.

"Why did you not come?" asked the Bishop.

"My tongue should be cut off for suggesting I might leave my faith", answered the Rabbi.

"Not at all, your tongue was right!" said the Bishop. "It's your legs that have sinned, by not coming to me." His men cut off Rabbi Amnon's legs and hands, and put him on a stretcher to be sent home to his wife.

A few days later, on Rosh Hashanah, R. Amnon was carried to shul. Just before the Kedushah prayer, he asked to be carried up to the bimah in front of the Ark. "Let me sanctify the Holy Name", he pleaded. He then recited this prayer and died.

Three days later, R' Amnon came to R' Kalonymus zs'l in a dream, and taught him the prayer.

We shall ascribe holiness to this day.
For it is awesome and terrible.
Your kingship is exalted upon it.
Your throne is established in mercy.
You are enthroned upon it in truth.
In truth You are the judge,
The exhorter, the all‑knowing, the witness,
He who inscribes and seals,
Remembering all that is forgotten.
You open the book of remembrance
Which proclaims itself,
And the seal of each person is there.
The great shofar is sounded,
A still small voice is heard.
The angels are dismayed,
They are seized by fear and trembling
As they proclaim: Behold the Day of Judgment!
For all the hosts of heaven are brought for judgment.
They shall not be guiltless in Your eyes
And all creatures shall parade before You as a troop.
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 inscribed,
And on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
How many shall pass away and how many shall be born,
Who shall live and who shall die,
Who shall reach the end of his days and who shall not,
Who shall perish by water and who by fire,
Who by sword and who by wild 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 rest and who shall wander,
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 brought low,
Who shall become rich and who shall be impoverished.
But repentance, prayer and righteousness avert the severe decree.

For Your praise is in accordance with Your name. You are difficult to anger and easy to appease. For You do not desire the death of the condemned, but that he turn from his path and live. Until the day of his death You wait for him. Should he turn, You will receive him at once. In truth You are their Creator and You understand their inclination, for they are but flesh and blood. The origin of man is dust, his end is dust. He earns his bread by exertion and is like a broken shard, like dry grass, a withered flower, like a passing shadow and a vanishing cloud, like a breeze that blows away and dust that scatters, like a dream that flies away. But You are King, God who lives for all eternity! There is no limit to Your years, no end to the length of Your days, no measure to the hosts of Your glory, no understanding the meaning of Your Name. Your Name is fitting unto You and You are fitting unto it, and our name has been called by Your Name. Act for the sake of Your Name and sanctify Your Name through those who sanctity Your Name.

May we merit to accept Ol Malchut Shamayim and understand the "Tshuva" that is required of us, and to bring the redemption swiftly and gloriously without needless suffering. "May it be a year of the full revelation, the "knowledge of HaShem" that will flood all of reality with the revelation of Moshiach, Amen.

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והיה השם למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה השם אחד - ושמו אחד ישתבח שמו לעד לנצח נצחים בכל העולמות Blessed is His name for eternity in all worlds אין עוד מלבדו