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January 15, 2011

An Iraqi Piyut
For Shabbat Shira
Chazzan George Mordechai

Click to hear the song

Be merciful to Your Children
who are returning to You,
and who stand before You with trepidation,
fearful of the time they will be called
to judgment; it is for that reason that they come
in distress.

Recall compassion, [on] the Day of Judgement;
do away with anger and wrath
at the time You will judge
those who fear You,
and those who are engrossed in
Your Name - they are sitting
in judgement.

Bring near to me the year of the Redeemer
and redeem me;
upon restful waters, O God, lead me.
And recall for me the merit of the innocent man;
place me like a seal upon Your heart.

Return to your residence,
and dwell in your chosen [abode],
for every mouth and every tongue
shall give splendour
to your kingdom.
When it (the Ark) rested, he (Moshe) would say.
"Return, Adonai,
[to the] tens of thousands of Israel"
Bring us back to You, Adonai,
and we shall return;
renew our days as of old.

  Hon Tahon

Hon Tahon is a piyyut - liturgical poem - that is very dear to my heart. This live recording is a melody that was taught to me by my Uncle Shaul Abrams who spent hours imparting so many Iraqi Jewish liturgical melodies to me over a period of five years.
Hon Tahon is sung in Middle Eastern Jewish communities just before the Musaph Amidah for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. It is also sung as part of the Selichot service which takes place daily during the month of Elul in Judeo Arabic and Sephardic communities.
Hon Tahon invokes imagery from the book of Psalms, Song of Songs and the prophet Isaiah asking God for forgiveness and mercy. The pytan asks of God that God should go beyond the strict boundary of judgement and deal compassionately with his people. If the Jewish people are truly repentant, and if God acts with compassion, the relationship between God and Israel is alchemically transformed from one of transgression and strict judgement one of tikkun and pure Love.

This week's commentary was performed by

Chazzan George MordechaiChazzan George Mordechai,
Born in Sydney, Australia to Iraqi and Indian Jewish immigrants, he was immersed from an early age in the musical and liturgical traditions of his family. He went on to lead services at the Sephardic Synagogue in Sydney and appeared at various multicultural music festivals around Australia. George also sang with the Renaissance Players, a renowned and innovative early music ensemble based at Sydney University, and with the Capella Floriani, a musical/theatrical company devoted to a spiritual vision of the performing arts. He also toured Europe with Cantor Naphtali Hershtig and the Great Synagogue Choir of Jerusalem. He received a B.A. in history from the University of New South Wales and received his Cantorial investiture and Master’s Degree in sacred music from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2000.
Upon graduation, he worked for four years as the cantor at Temple Beth Zion Beth Israel in Philadelphia. George continued to perform Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and Middle Eastern liturgical music at concert halls and synagogues in England, Paris, Israel, and various cities around the U.S. while concurrently working on interfaith performance projects with Arab, Jewish, and African-American musicians. Cantor Mordecai comes to Temple Beth El from Temple Emanu-El, “The South Beach Synagogue” in Miami Florida where he served as Cantor.
Cantor Mordecai resides in Stamford with his wife, Michal, and daughters Gabriella and Eliora.
Contact Cantor Mordecai: | (203) 322-6901 x 303

This week, Masorti congregations around the globe have registered for the World Wide Wrap including congregations in Chile, Australia, Germany, India, France and Sweden. If you, dear reader, are a member of a Masorti/Conservative congregation make certain that your congreation participate and is registered. Last year fifty sets of tefillin were donated by participaing congregations and distributed to Masorti congregations in Europe, Latin America, the FSU and Israel. We encourage you to assist us in the great mitzvah. Click here to register your Wrap.

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