Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of May,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling?

And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate,
Who in these realms of love, who by something blunt,
And who by avalanche, who by powder,
Who for his greed, who for his hunger,
And who shall I say is calling?


And who by brave assent, who by accident,
Who in solitude, who in this mirror,
Who by his lady’s command, who by his own hand,
Who in mortal chains, who in power,
And who shall I say is calling?

Leonard Cohen’s song “Who by Fire” is especially appropriate this time of year, in the midst of the Days of Awe.  It’s his take on the evocative U-netaneh Tokef prayer, a part of our High Holy Day liturgy that pictures the Almighty as a shepherd, watching his flock pass under his staff one by one as the fate of each is decided.

How many will pass on, and how many will be born;
Who shall live, and who shall die;
Who will enjoy long years, and who will die untimely;
Who by fire, and who by water;
Who by sword and who by beast;
Who by hunger, and who by thirst;
Who by earthquake, and who by plague;
Who by strangling, and who by stoning;
Who will be at peace and who will be troubled;
Who will be serene, and who disturbed;
Who will be tranquil, and who tormented;
Who will be impoverished, and who made wealthy;
Who will be brought low, and who will be raised up.

We are told that repentance, prayer, and charity avert the severe decree... but who really knows?

My own paraphrasing of the U-netaneh Tokef - there is a bit of the ol’ tongue in cheek, but not all that much - is here.  It is a prayer that resonates especially strongly with me, especially as I get older and see how Time works its will upon us all.

May you, Esteemed Reader, be spared the severe decree in the coming year... and may only good things come your way.

1 comment:

Kevin Kim said...

This is how you die: a comic meditation on one's eventual fate.