Yom Kippur
Rabbi Brander

Finding national inspiration in history and tradition Like Purim, on Yom K’purim the Jewish people stand together in either redemption or Divine abandonment and spiritual emptiness. By Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, September 14, 2021  In Jewish tradition, the day of Yom Kippur is wholly unique in multiple ways. While from the outsider’s perspective it may …

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As synagogues and congregations grapple with how to conduct the upcoming High Holiday services during the coronavirus pandemic, KAN English news reporter Naomi Segal spoke to OTS President and Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, about the specially- condensed, machzorim (prayer books) OTS has created for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, to respond to the …

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A Gate of Intentions for the High Holy Days Rabbi Sarel Rosenblatt is the Rosh Kollel of the Straus Kollel at the Joseph and Gwendolyn Straus Rabbinical Seminary  We are now in the midst of the days of teshuva and tikkun; days of atonement, forgiveness and mercy; days of judgement and love; days of festivity …

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One of the many challenges that the Jewish community faces as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic involves balancing the Biblical mandate of “v’nishmartem me’od l’nafshoteichem” – safeguarding our health – with fulfilling the halakhic requirements relating to the tefilot of Yom Kippur. To address this issue, Ohr Torah Stone has created a halakhically condensed …

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RSR

Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Haazinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – The very joyous and ritually rich festival of Sukkot comes at the heels of Yom Kippur, the Day of Forgiveness and Purity. Now that, hopefully, we have been forgiven for our transgressions, we begin afresh with a clean slate. It is certainly …

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As we embark on the spiritual journey toward Yom Kippur, our staff and global emissaries  share a daily dose of Torah along with a glimpse into their own personal journeys…  Click to read today’s! Click here to download our specially-condensed, halakhic machzorim (prayer books) for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, which responds to the health …

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RSR

Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Vayelech (Deuteronomy 30:1-31:30)/ Yom Kippur By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “Now, therefore write this song for you, and teach it to the People of Israel…” (Deuteronomy 31:19). Is Yom Kippur a happy day or a sad day? Many associate the Day of Atonement with solemnity and trepidation. Indeed, according to …

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As we embark on the spiritual journey toward Yom Kippur, our staff and global emissaries  share a daily dose of Torah along with a glimpse into their own personal journeys…  Click to read today’s! Click here to download our specially-condensed, halakhic machzorim (prayer books) for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, which responds to the health …

Read more

Yachad: Connecting Jews to the High Holidays, their Heritage and Each Other The High Holidays are a time when Jews of all backgrounds seek meaning and opportunities to connect – even Israelis who identify as secular or who may feel alienated from synagogues and Jewish institutions they view as “religious.”  During this uniquely reflective time …

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“Parsha and Purpose” – Yom Kippur 5781
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“U’Netaneh Tokef: Living Our Prayers”

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“U’Netaneh Tokef: Living Our Prayers”

With all that is happening around the world, the prayer that continues to hold more meaning for me than any other is U’Netaneh Tokef, for the haunting questions that it poses, particularly in our reality this year:

מי יחיה ומי ימות?

Who shall live and who shall die?

מי בקצו ומי לא בקצו?

Who in his time, and who by an untimely death?

מי במים ומי באש?

Who by water and who by fire?

מי ברעש ומי במגפה?

Who by earthquake and who by plague?

For nearly a millennium, authorship of U’Netaneh Tokef has been attributed to Rav Amnon of Mainz, the leader of his German Jewish community, which experienced horrific destruction during the First Crusade. 

Yet evidence suggests that the words were most likely written by the great poet Yannai, who lived in the Land of Israel sometime between the fourth and seventh centuries.

If so, why do we generally identify Rav Amnon as the author? Especially when research shows that even those who related the story probably had knowledge of the prayer’s actual author and origin?

The answer is because Rav Amnon of Mainz and indeed his entire community personified the deeds and actions attributed to him in U’Netaneh Tokef. Bearing a name that derives from the word emunah, faith, Rav Amnon has been immortalized in the ancient prayer as a tribute to the countless souls who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the horrific years of the bloody Crusades.

So even if Rav Amnon did not compose U’Netaneh Tokef, he most assuredly “established” the text through his deeds and actions.

In the past and present, the words of U’Netaneh Tokef have captured the pathos and the promise of the Jews – an ancient people that has often paid the ultimate sacrifice for our commitment to the higher ideals of our faith and our peoplehood.

This year, its haunting words call us together not just as Jews, but as members of a global society searching for stability in a time of fragility.

Like Amnon of Mainz – who did not pen the prayer, but lived it and therefore became its author – we, too, have the opportunity to become the “authors” of the prayers we read and the Torah we study. This occurs when we internalize their messages, and their ideals to become true representatives of the vision of Judaism that we wish to study and celebrate.

In a world of so much uncertainty, we still have the capacity to be ambassadors of ideas and ideals that can transform the society around us. May we merit to author a path of purposefulness in life and good health throughout the coming year.

Wishing you and your loved ones a G’mar Chatimah Tovah.

Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Haazinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-52) / Yom Kippur By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – The climax of Yom Kippurim is its closing Ne’ilah prayer when the sun is beginning to set, when the day is beginning to wane and when we are nearing our last chance for the opportunity to receive God’s loving …

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