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Monday, September 6, 2010

Playing With Fire, Bibi's Dangerous Game

As all of my regular readers know, I'm very upset that ouir Israeli politicians are playing the "negotiation game."  I've blogged about it a lot and recommend that you scroll through the various posts.  We're at the Eve of Rosh Hashannah when G-d decides our fate accourding to our repentence.  Ten days later, on Yom Kippur the decision is sealed, finalized.

One of the most moving prayer we say is the U'Netaneh Tokef.  I'm copying the story of that prayer.  To me it's a lesson to our politicians that they should never negotiate over our Holy Land. 

"Let Us Tell How Utterly Holy This Day Is"

The Background

The prayer entitled "U'Netaneh Tokef" is attributed to a Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, Germany, who lived about one thousand years ago. The story behind this piyut, a prayer-poem, is sad and poignant, and may shed light on the prayer itself.

The Bishop of Mainz summoned Rabbi Amnon, a great Torah scholar, to his court and offered him a ministerial post on the condition that Rabbi Amnon would convert to Christianity. Rabbi Amnon refused. The Bishop insisted and continued to press Rabbi Amnon to accept his offer. Of course, Rabbi Amnon continued to refuse. One day, however, Rabbi Amnon asked the Bishop for three days to consider his offer.

As soon as Rabbi Amnon returned home, he was distraught at the terrible mistake he had made of even appearing to consider the Bishop's offer and the betrayal of G-d. For three days he could not eat or sleep and he prayed to G-d for forgiveness. When the deadline for decision arrived, the Bishop sent messenger after messenger to bring Rabbi Amnon, but he refused to go. Finally, the Bishop had him forcibly brought to him and demanded a response. The Rabbi responded, "I should have my tongue cut out for not having refused immediately." The Bishop angrily had Rabbi Amnon's hands and feet cut off and then sent him home.

A few days later was Rosh HaShanah, and Rabbi Amnon, dying from his wounds, asked to be carried to shul. He wished to say the Kedushah to sanctify G-d's Name and publicly declare his faith in G-d's Kingship.With his dying breath, he uttered the words that we now know of as the U'Netaneh Tokef.

Three days later Rabbi Amnon appeared in a dream to Rabbi Kalonymous ben Meshullam, a scholar and poet, and taught him the exact text of the prayer. Rabbi Amnon asked that it be sent to all Jewry and that it be inserted in the prayers of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur for all time.

The prayer portrays G-d as a Shepherd over His flock, counting and examining each sheep one by one as it passes under His rod. So does He review the flock of humanity one by one, determining each individual's fate for the coming year.

But the individual human being is not just a helpless sheep! Rather, he or she can contribute to their verdict by altering their behavior towards G-d and Man, specifically in the areas of sincere Repentance, Prayer from the heart and Charity given with a cheerful spirit.

כַּמָּה יַעַבְרוּן וְכַמָּה יִבָּרֵאוּן How many will survive and how will get healthier

מִי יִחְיֶה וּמִי יָמוּת How will live and who will die

מִי בְקִצּוֹ וּמִי לֹא בְּקִצּוֹ Who in his dying day and who is not

מִי בַמַּיִם וּמִי בָאֵשׁ Who by water and who by fire

מִי בַחֶרֶב וּמִי בַחַיָּה Who by sword and who by beast

מִי בָרָעָב וּמִי בַצָּמָא Who by hunger and who by thurst

מִי בָרַעַשׁ וּמִי בַמַּגֵּפָה Who by avalanche (perhaps also earthquake) and who by disease

מִי בַחֲנִיקָה וּמִי בַסְּקִילָה Who by strangling and who by stoning

מִי יָנוּחַ וּמִי יָנוּעַ Who will rest and who will move

מִי יִשָּׁקֵט וּמִי יְטֹּרֵף Who will be silenced and who will go mad

מִי יִשָּׁלֵו וּמִי יִתְיַסָּר Who will be peaceful and who will suffer (with agony)
מִי יַעֲנִי וּמִי יַעֲשִׁיר Who will be poor and who will be rich

מִי יֻשְׁפַּל וּמִי יָרוּם who will be insulted and who will be praised

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