Unetanah Tokef for America
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Unetanah Tokef for America

In the wake of the shooting Sunday night in Las Vegas that left at least 58 people dead, a rabbi from Westfield has used a Jewish poem as a vehicle to argue against gun violence.

Everyone who was in shul on the High Holy Days most likely said, read, or otherwise encountered the “Unetanah Tokef,” which describes how, at the beginning of each Jewish new tear, God decides who will live and who will die.

“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,” reads the most recognizable part of the poem, which goes on to list different ways people can die.

The version by Rabbi Douglas Sagal of Temple Emanu-El, a large Reform synagogue, substitutes gun models and makes for the causes of death: “who by full automatic fire, and who by semi auto; who by AR, and who by AK; who by pistol and who by revolver.”

But unlike the “Unetanah Tokef,” in which the reader is comforted to know that “repentance, prayer and righteousness avert the severe decree,” Sagal ends by saying that those actions “will do absolutely nothing to avert the decree, nothing, for our politicians are too frightened.”

This is what Rabbi Sagal tweeted:

Unetaneh Tokef for America
Today it is written, today it is sealed in the United States of America-
Who shall die, and who shall be injured
who shall be scarred for life, and who shall be left disabled;
who by full automatic fire, and who by semi auto;
who by AR, and who by AK;
who by pistol and who by revolver;
who by Ruger, and who by Smith and Wesson;
who by Sig Sauer, and who by Colt;
who by Kimber, and who by Springfield Armory;
Who by CZ, and who by Beretta;
Who by HK, and who by Glock;
But repentance, prayer and charity, will do absolutely nothing to avert the decree, nothing,
for our politicians are too frightened.

JTA Wire Service

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