New Born Calf (Days of Awe) (New York State Fair, 2013)

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The great shofar is sounded,

A still small voice is heard.

The angels are dismayed,

They are seized by fear and trembling

As they proclaim: Behold the Day of Judgment!

For all the hosts of heaven are brought for judgment.

They shall not be guiltless in Your eyes

And all creatures shall parade before You as a troop.

As a shepherd herds his flock,

Causing his sheep to pass beneath his staff,

So do You cause to pass, count, and record,

Visiting the souls of all living,

Decreeing the length of their days,

Inscribing their judgment.

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 severity of the decree.

 [translation cribbed and altered from “My Jewish Learning”]

New life, this little guy was born at the birthing station, set up at the New York State Fair. This year, the High Holidays follow closely on the heels of the Labor Day Weekend, around which the Fair is held.  The famous liturgical poem or piyyut, the U’netaneh Tokef reflects on human life as animal fate. Too lazy to find or come up with a better translation, I found, cribbed, cut, pasted, and altered this one online from “My Jewish Learning.”

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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