Gmar Chatimah Tovah

September 26th, 2009 by Melina

The Music of Yom Kippur

Yesterday, a colleague asked me if I was ready for Yom Kippur.

It’s a hard question. In some ways, Yom Kippur is one of the easier holidays. As in, there’s no cooking or cleaning like on other holidays. Practically, all I really have to do to prepare is make sure I’ve got my non-leather shoes ready,and make sure I’ve got food around for before and after the fast. And there’s Tashlich, which I did yesterday afternoon, in a beautiful spot in Prospect Park.

But mentally, it’s another story. As you may have noticed from my lack of recent blog posts and my sparse and kvetchy tweets and Facebook updates (and probably the unusually serious tone of this post), I’ve been exhausted and busy with work.

Which makes it kind of hard to feel ready for the most intense day of the Jewish calendar. But, I am in fact excited.

Excited may seem like the wrong word when it comes to a day of fasting and sitting (well, mostly standing) in shul, atoning for sins and wondering out loud who will be inscribed in the book of life.

But trust me, I’m excited. It all started on a Friday night about two weeks ago, in the middle of services, when the cantor sang one of the Shabbat prayers to a High Holiday melody. It completely made my week. It’s true. You can even ask the rabbi, who saw the look on my face and smiled at me.

Selichot, a service that happens at midnight the Saturday before Rosh Hashanah, and which I describe as “about an hour of “High Holidays Greatest Hits,” makes me even more excited. Plus, I love watching the Torahs being dressed in white.

So, I thought I’d share some of my favorite melodies with you.

Yom Kippur services begin with Kol Nidre. This is a Moroccan version I hadn’t heard until my mother sent me this link. (Here’s a traditional Ashkenazi version.) It’s beautiful:

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This is my all time favorite High Holiday piyut (liturgical poem or song):

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Here’s Avinu Malkeinu, probably the most famous of the High Holiday prayers:

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Towards the end of Yom Kippur, during the Neila service, as congregants are standing in the pews, exhausted and hungry (and in my case, suffering from a severe  lack of caffeine headache), the prayers begin focusing on the closing/locking of gates. It’s basically the last chance to ask for forgiveness. There are many different melodies, but here’s one of my favorites:

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Here are some more forgiveness hymns, sung by Yoel Ben-Simhon:

And here’s a whole collection of High Holiday music, in case you’d like to hear more. And here’s a video of the the shofar and an explanation of the four shofar blasts.

To those of you observing Yom Kippur, Gmar Chatimah Tovah and tzom kal

Posted in Fun With YouTube, Holiday Fun

3 Responses

  1. Karen

    Avinu Malkeinu is my favorite.
    Have an easy fast.

  2. Pamela Cayne

    Gmar Chatimah Tovah to you, Melina. I will think good thoughts for you and your loved ones during this time.

  3. » Blog Archive » Selichot

    […] chat about #3, shall we? I blogged about some of the music last year. So here’s a bit more, via Yoel Ben-Simhon. He used to be part of my synagogue, and […]

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