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Who by Fire, Who by Water

Un'taneh Tokef (Prayers of Awe)

Lawrence A. Hoffman (Editor), Merri Lovinger Arian (Contribution by), Tony Bayfield (Contribution by)


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (7/1/2013)


The most controversial prayer of the Jewish New Year-what it means, who wrote it, why we say it.

Over forty contributors who span three continents and all major Jewish denominations examine Un'taneh Tokef's theology, authorship, and poetry through a set of lively commentaries. Men and women, scholars and rabbis, artists and poets trace the history of Un'taneh Tokef and connect the prayer to its biblical and rabbinic roots. They wrestle with the personal and community impact of its deeply moving imagery, probe its haunting message of human mortality, and reflect on its call for sanctity, transformation and renewal.

Prayers of Awe: A multi-volume series designed to explore the High Holy Day liturgy and enrich the praying experience for everyone-whether experienced worshipers or guests who encounter Jewish prayer for the very first time.


  • Merri Lovinger Arian
  • Rabbi Tony Bayfield, DD
  • Rabbi Sharon Brous
  • Dr. Marc Brettler
  • Dr. Erica Brown
  • Rabbi Ruth Durchslag, PsyD
  • Rabbi Edward Feinstein
  • Rabbi Elyse D. Frishman
  • Rabbi Andrew Goldstein, PhD
  • Dr. Joel M. Hoffman
  • Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur
  • Rabbi Elie Kaunfer
  • Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar
  • Dr. Reuven Kimelman
  • Rabbi Lawrence Kushner
  • Rabbi Noa Kushner
  • Rabbi Daniel Landes
  • Rabbi Ruth Langer, PhD
  • Liz Lerman
  • Rabbi Asher Lopatin
  • Catherine Madsen
  • Rabbi Jonathan Magonet, PhD
  • Rabbi Dalia Marx, PhD
  • Ruth Messinger
  • Rabbi Charles H. Middleburgh, PhD
  • Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum
  • Rabbi Aaron Panken, PhD
  • Rabbi Or N. Rose
  • Rabbi Marc Saperstein, PhD
  • Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
  • Rabbi Jonathan P. Slater, DMin
  • Rabbi Brent Chaim Spodek
  • Rabbi David Stern
  • Rabbi David A. Teutsch, PhD
  • Rabbi Gordon Tucker, PhD
  • Dr. Ellen M. Umansky
  • Rabbi Avraham Weiss
  • Rabbi Margaret Moers Wenig, DD
  • Dr. Ron Wolfson
  • Rabbi David J. Wolpe
  • Rabbi Daniel G. Zemel
  • Dr. Wendy Zierler

Jewish Lights Publishing, 9781580234245, 274pp.

Publication Date: March 1, 2010

About the Author

Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, PhD, has served for more than three decades as professor of liturgy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. He is a world-renowned liturgist and holder of the Stephen and Barbara Friedman Chair in Liturgy, Worship and Ritual. His work combines research in Jewish ritual, worship and spirituality with a passion for the spiritual renewal of contemporary Judaism.His many books, written and edited, include seven volumes in the Prayers of Awe series: Who by Fire, Who by Water-Un'taneh Tokef; All These Vows-Kol Nidre; We Have Sinned: Sin and Confession in Judaism-Ashamnu and Al Chet; May God Remember: Memory and Memorializing in Judaism-Yizkor; All the World: Universalism, Particularism and the High Holy Days; Naming God: Avinu Malkeinu-Our Father, Our King; and Encountering God: El Rachum V'chanun-God Merciful and Gracious. Hoffman also edited the ten-volume series My People's Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries, winner of the National Jewish Book Award; and coedited My People's Passover Haggadah: Traditional Texts, Modern Commentaries, a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award (all Jewish Lights).Rabbi Hoffman cofounded and developed Synagogue 2/3000, a transdenominational project to envision and implement the ideal synagogue of the spirit for the twenty-first century. In that capacity, he wrote Rethinking Synagogues: A New Vocabulary for Congregational Life (Jewish Lights).