Friday, September 25, 2009

Yair Rosenblum's Unetaneh Tokef

There is no doubt that the Unetaneh Tokef is one of the pivotal moments of the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, resonating with a deep awe for God. It's about as cataclysmic a piyyut as there is.

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.

And that's only the warm up. By the time we get to the end, we're knee deep in

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,


Like many Jews I very much look forward to the Unetaneh Tokef. For me, being confronted by something so much larger than myself help me re-examine myself. Am I living up to my own expectations? To Gods? To other Jew's, the core of the Unetaneh Tokef is its profound reminder of humility, that so much in this world is not in our control.

Either way, and probably a dozen more ways, the Unetaneh Tokef has inspired generations of musicians to pick up it's challenge. Last year I wrote about Leonard Cohen's "Who By Fire", which picks up the latter theme.

This year I want to showcase Yair Rosenblum's version. Like Cohen's, it's undeniably a pop song but it manages to carry the weight of prayer. According to one source, the origin of Rosenblum's version goes like this...
"In the 1973 Yom Kippur war, kibbutz Beit Hashita lost eleven of its sons. For the 60th anniversary of the Kibbutz, Yair Rosenblum composed a tune for "U'Netaneh Tokef. The tune is very powerful and stirring and makes the connection between the ultimate sacrifice of Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, the author of the prayer, and the 2,656 Israeli soldiers who fell in the Yom Kippur War. "
Here's Gevatron, the Israeli Kibbutz Singers, performing Yair Rosenblum's "Unetaneh Tokef"

Update: I just got a comment pointing out that "yair rosenbloom's unetane tokef is available as sung by avraham fried mp3 - at" Love it. Thanks mjyeres!

Hat tip to YouTube user JoshuaJacobson for uploading the video. If I'm correct, this Dr. Joshua Jacobson, artistic director of the amazing Zamir Chorale of Boston. Also, hat tip to Cantorial Soloist Barbara Linn Powell of Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City, CA, who recently reminded me of the Rosenblum's version. Linn's also a fine jazz singer. Just sayin'.


mjyeres said...

yair rosenbloom's unetane tokef is available as sung by avraham fried mp3 - at

Jack said...

Thanks! Love it.

Internet radio player said...

"Unetaneh Tokef" is very well performed! I subscribed to their YouTube channel, thank yu for sharing!
Linn is a great singer indeed.