Rosh Hashanah

“Unetanneh Tokef”

Prof. Avigdor Shinan

On the piyyut “Unetanneh Tokef” and its history


At the center of the prayers of the Days of Awe is a long and fascinating liturgy, which begins with the words “Unetanneh tokef” (“And gave validity”), and contains a description of the heavenly Day of Judgment when human fates are determined, “who will live and who will die”. The lecture clarifies obscure language in the piyyut, discusses its original role, and expands on an explanation of some of its main topics against the background of the ancient legend literature. The lecture also deals with the arrangement of content and melody proposed for this piyyut by Yair Rosenblum, following the horrors of the Yom Kippur War. In conclusion, other poetic works are mentioned that draw on ideas and expressions from this liturgy: the works of Tchernichovsky, Alterman, and Leonard Cohen.


Prof. Avigdor Shinan taught for many years in the Department of Hebrew Literature at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and is the academic adviser to Beit Avi Chai. His main field of research is the literature of legend and midrash.

צילום: דנה בר סימן טוב

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