Unetaneh Tokef

The following poem was written by Hinenu member Tyler Vile, and read at the 5779 High Holy Days. To learn more about the Unetaneh Tokef, click here. To register to join Hinenu for the 5780 High Holy Days, click here.

Who by rocket launcher,
Who by machine gun,
Who by starvation,
Who by suffocation,
Who by friendly fire,
Who by grenade,
Who by the river,
Who by the sea,
Who by the land of the free,
Who by overdose,
Who by slaughterhouse,
Who by knife out front of a bar,
Who by drunk at the wheel of a car,
Who by suicide,
Who by unrhymed verse,
Who in prison,
Who at home,
Who by hate crime,
Who in self-defense,
Who by age,
Who by childbirth,
Who in terror,
Who in tenderness,
Who by inscription,
Who by prediction,
Who knows?
Who by cancer,
Who by AIDS.
Who on the operating table,
Who that you know,
How many of them,
And how often?

The names are yours and mine and those of people we’ve never met,
People we wished were dead,
People who wished we were dead,
Who can count my name among the heathens,
Who can count my name among the Jews,
Who for the Arab children crying,
Who for the poor,
Who for the sins of agriculture,
Who to erode the shorelines,
Who for your centuries of racism,
Who can reach between the nameless and the named?
There are worlds of blank space between ink and lambskin,
The judgment seat and the mercy seat are always empty,
Keep on crying, if it means anything to you, keep on crying,
Who says you can’t atone on an empty stomach?