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Author: Gidon Ariel

Published Date: September 25, 2016

463px-gottlieb-jews_praying_in_the_synagogue_on_yom_kippurWe have prepared a video lesson about Rosh Hashanah, including most of the main themes of the holiday.

I have just heard a famous rendition of one of the most famous of the Rosh Hashanah prayers, and I hope some of you might be able to taste a bit of the striking beauty and significance of the prayer, its words and its haunting melody.

First of all, here is the comprehensive Wikipedia article. I especially refer you to the Themes and Sources, and the instances in Popular Culture.

This article will actually focus on what Wikipedia relegated as culture, because it has truly become a very important part of Israeli culture, especially where that culture intersects with Judaism.

First of all, here is the famous rendition of that song:

Now, a little background and explanation. This prayer is recited on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as it presents the essence of both of those days. The tradition states that the prayer itself was composed leading up to both of those days. And for hundreds of years, it was one of the highlights of those days.

But then, in 1973, the term Yom Kippur took on a new meaning.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_Kippur_War
Even though Israel won that war, it left an indelible scar on Israel’s psyche. And as more and more Israelis tragically fell less and less connected to Jewish tradition, the significance of the biblical holiday of Yom Kippur is slowly being replaced for many Israelis by the memory of the Yom Kippur War.
But this is not only a sad development in my opinion, because that convergence of Jewish and Israeli identities is a dynamic phenomenon.
So here I share the rendition of that song by the IDF’s Chief Cantor, complete with English subtitles, interspersed with clips from the Yom Kippur War.

Now this specific tune for this prayer was actually composed by a popular nonreligious Israeli Yair Rosenblum, and performed by the famous nonreligious kibbutz choir, the Gevatron. (see the first video above.) But that was many years ago, not long after the Yom Kippur War itself in 1973.
Last year, the Chief Rabbi of Israel conducted a tour of the North of Israel leading up the the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He found himself in a seniors residence, and met the very soloist of this famous song, and encourage the frail aging singer to repeat his performance.

At the end of the emotional prayer, the Chief Rabbi told the soloist, “you have helped me to completely fulfill my requirement for preparing for the High Holy Days.”

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