It’s on Us: Yom Kippur 2018
“A few weeks ago, I was leafing through the Mahzor Lev Shalem in preparation for the High Holidays, and for some reason my eye wandered to the English translation of the Aleinu prayer. Aleinu is one of the most familiar prayers in Jewish liturgy. It concludes practically every service. I pretty much know it by heart, so I had never bothered to look at the English. You, too, if you are a regular shul-goer, have said Aleinu hundreds or even thousands of times, and you probably have not thought very much about the complexities of its message. The music we generally use for Aleinu during the year, and the prayer’s placement at the very end of the service, both conspire to have us not pay close attention. We sing Aleinu to a snappy 19th-century melody, in a major key, which moves us forward at a rapid and steady pace. The tune works well for us at that point in the service: we all know that when Aleinu is over, there is only mourners’ kaddish and Adon Olam or Yigdal, and of course announcements, before the service is done and we can snack and schmooze at kiddush.”
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