J.J. Goldberg

Tunes for Atonement II: Who Shall Live, Who Shall Die, Who Shall Get Eaten by a Big Fish

By J.J. Goldberg

  • Print
  • Share Share

Now we’re coming into the home stretch. Coming up are Leonard Cohen, Hasidic crooner Mordecai Ben-David, Abbott and Costello, Louis Armstrong, Barbra Streisand, Meir Banai and The Band getting us, finally, released.

Berosh Hashana: On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on the fast day of Kippur it is sealed, who shall live and who shall die, but repentance, prayer and righteousness — teshuva, tefila u-tzedaka — avert the harshness of the decree. Here’s a lively Hasidishe version, sung by kosherer krooner Mordechai Ben-David. (Here is another take on teshuva, tefila and tzedaka, set to the tune of — what else? — “Tequila.”)

And here’s the piece you knew was coming: Leonard Cohen singing his version, Who by Fire, with Sonny Rollins on sax. (If you didn’t catch his tour last year, you owe it to yourself to check out this version, not for the vocals but for the incredible 3-minute intro by Javier Mas on the bandurria.)

Essential to the Yom Kippur cycle is the reading of the biblical Book of Jonah during Minchah in the late afternoon. Here are three versions of the story, first as stunningly related by Louis Armstrong; then perhaps the weirdest version of Jonah ever, by the eternal high priest of hip, the late Lord Buckley; and finally as told by Abbott and Costello.

Jonah and the Whale (Lord, Wasn’t That a Fish?) – by Louis Armstrong.

Jonah and the Whale, Lord Buckley’s hipster version, performed by Lord Buckley impersonator Rod Harrison. (If you’re curious, here is a clip of Lord Buckley himself in a 1949 television show, doing his impersonation of Louis Armstrong.)

And bringing up the rear, Abbott and Costello offering their learned exegesis, Captain Jonah and the Whale:

The final service of the day is Ne’ilah, the Closing of the Gate. In Sephardic traditions it is introduced by a piyut or sacred poem by Moshe ibn Ezra called El Nora Alila (“God of Awesome Deed, grant us forgiveness at this hour of Ne’ilah”). This is an up-tempo version by Israeli rocker Meir Banai, a scion of one of Israel’s best-known showbiz families. I blogged it last winter, but it’s too good to leave out. Here are the Hebrew lyrics. Here is my blog with my translation, since I can’t find a more authoritative one.

And now the climax, my favorite moment in all of Jewish liturgy, Avinu Malkeinu, which we will not hear this year because it is not sung on Sabbath, which I have always found very annoying. Anyhow, here is Barbra Streisand doing her haunting, ethereal version, followed by the Vienna Jewish Choir doing a lovely version of the more familiar melody.

Here is the Vienna Jewish Choir doing Avinu Malkeinu as most of us probably remember it:

And what could be more appropriate to follow and wrap up this moment of absolution than the image rendered by The Band in this 1970 concert version of Bob Dylan’s I Shall Be Released? (I almost went with this version sung by Cass Elliott, Mary Travers and Joni Mitchell, which should have been incredible but has a truly hokey instrumental backup that sounds like the Mary Tyler Moore theme song, though it’s redeemed by Cass’s first verse and especially Joni Mitchell’s third verse which is worth the price of admission.)


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Louis Armstrong, Leonard Cohen, Jonah and the Whale, Barbra Streisand

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.