Leonard Cohen's Who By Fire and the Unetanah Tokef Prayer in High Holiday Services, 5772

Who By Fire, Oakland, Dec 6 2010  (screen shot)

October 7, 2011

Just before sundown tonight, many Jews around the world will gather with a congregation for the holiest night in the Jewish year, the start of Yom Kippur.  While thinking of my plans for today to ensure getting to Synagogue services on time, the song by Leonard Cohen, "Who By Fire", which is so inextricably connected in my mind with the liturgical poem, Utnetaneh Tokef, has been playing repeatedly in my head.

Leonard Cohen's gentle but haunting melody intertwined with his deeply rich and sensitive poetry makes his version of this Piyut utterly compelling

We heard the Unetenah Tokef prayer on Rosh Hashonah and we will hear it again at Yom Kippur services.
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

Leonard Cohen's "Who By Fire"
New Skin For An Old Ceremony (1974)
And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of may,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling?

And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate,
Who in these realms of love, who by something blunt,
And who by avalanche, who by powder,
Who for his greed, who for his hunger,
And who shall I say is calling?

And who by brave assent, who by accident,
Who in solitude, who in this mirror,
Who by his ladys command, who by his own hand,
Who in mortal chains, who in power,
And who shall I say is calling?

My video from Oakland is cued to start at 5.16 when LC begins singing his prayer composition. 
At the beginning of the video (0.0-5.15) there is a five minute exquisite intro by Javier Mas.

WHO BY FIRE, Oakland, Leonard Cohen, Dec 6, 2010

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