"Don't tell God how big your storm is; tell your storm how big your God is."

I believe in God.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Rosh Hodesh Elul and U'N'Taneh Tokef

Today (and yesterday) is Rosh Hodesh Elul, the start of the new Hebrew month of Elul.  Because Rosh Hodesh is traditionally a women's holiday, I have sought ways beyond just the extra prayers to make it extra special.  Here is what I have come up with, so far:

  1. I wear jewelry, not just the plain Jewish star brooch I wear every day, but special jewelry like that which I wear for the Sabbath and holidays.
  2. I use my fancy, Sabbath-holiday-and-special-occasion bobby pins to keep my kippah attached to my hair.  (On normal days I wear plain black hair barrettes or bobby pins.)
  3. I spritz one small spritz of cologne on.
  4. This is my newest one, that I just figured out yesterday: On Rosh Hodesh, regardless of what day of the week it falls out on, I wear my ladies' tallit katan in order to feel graceful and pretty while fulfilling a commandment.  It doesn't get much better than that.
Now, because it is now Elul, the month leading up to the High Holidays, I am listening (through headphones, so I don't wake up my brother) to--what else?--U'N'Taneh Tokef.  To me, U'N'Taneh Tokef is the most beautiful piece of liturgy there is, possibly (though I'm not sure on this one) even more beautiful than Kol Nidre, which begins the Day of Atonement.  (U'N'Taneh Tokef comes during the daytime part of the Day of Atonement.)

Because this is at least my second time talking about U'N'Taneh Tokef on this blog, I thought I had better explain it a bit more.  Here is a link to the Youtube recording I love so dearly:


And here is a translation, so you can see why this piece is so important to me.  This translation is taken from Mahzor Hadash, "The New Mahzor," a High Holiday prayer book put together most recently in 2009.  Even that translation is out of date, but it's the one I grew up on, so it's the one I'll put here.  Here I go.

U'N'Taneh Tokef
"We proclaim the great sanctity of this day,
A day filled with awe and trembling.
On this day, O Lord, we sense your dominion,
As we envision You on the throne of judgment,
Judging us in truth, but with compassion.
You, indeed judge and admonish,
Discerning our motives, and witnessing our actions.
You record and seal, count and measure;
You remember even what we have forgotten.

"You open the Book of Remembrance,
And the record speaks for itself;
For each of us has signed it with deeds.

"The great Shofar is sounded, and a still small voice is heard.
Even the angels are dismayed; in fear and trembling they cry out:
"The Day of Judgment has arrived!"
For even the "heavenly hosts" sense that they are judged,
And know that they are not without fault.

"On this day all of us pass before You,
One by one, like a flock of sheep.
As a shepherd counts sheep, making each of them pass under the staff,
So You review every living being,
Measuring the years
And decreeing the destiny of every creature.

"On Rosh Hashanaah it is written,
And on Yom Kippur it is sealed:

"How many shall leave this world, and how many shall be born; who shall live and who shall die, who in the fullness of years and who before; who shall perish by fire and who by water, who by sword and who by a wild beast; who by famine and who by thirst, who by earthquake and who by plague; who by strangling and who by stoning, who shall rest and who shall wander; who shall be serene and who disturbed, who shall be at ease and who afflicted; who shall be impoverished and who enriched, who shall be humbled and who exalted.


"We offer praises to You, for You are slow to anger, ready to forgive.
You do not wish that the sinner die;
You would have the sinner repent and live.

"You wait for us to return to You, even until our final day.
You welcome us, O our creator, whenever we repent, 
Knowing the weaknesses of Your creatures;
For we are mere flesh and blood.

"Our origin is dust and our end is dust.
At the hazard of our lives do we earn our bread.
We are like a fragile vessel, like the grass that withers,
The flower that fades, the shadow that passes.
The cloud that vanishes, the wind that blows,
The dust that floats, the dream that flies away.


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I am a bipolar, Jewish young adult (had my Hebrew birthday, the one I count, and turned 23 this past January) who also suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. I love life and I live for my best friends: they are my purpose and my reason for trying so hard. I remain passionately devoted to those I love; I will not let my disorders make me totally self-centered. I like to read, write, and sew. My Rabbinical school plans did not work out, and I am now hoping to go into the field of Early Childhood Education. Please note: I am currently maintaining only Carried in His Hands. Enjoy!