The recitation of the Unetaneh Tokef prayer is one of the central liturgical moments of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. The prayer speaks to one of the major themes of the holidays–“Who shall live and who shall die. Who shall perish by water and who by fire. Who shall be exalted and who shall be brought low,” followed by the hopeful and elevating response to those questions–“But repentance, prayer and righteousness avert the severe decree.” Who wrote this famous prayer?
A. The prayer was written by Tanna Rav in 3rd century Babylonia. He was also the author of the Aleinu prayer, which, like the Unetaneh Tokef, was originally written for the High Holidays services, though it later became part of the daily prayer ritual.
B. Just before he was killed, Rabbi Ephrayim of Bonn uttered these words, which he claimed were told to him in a dream by Rabbi Amnon of Mainz.
C. No one knows.
D. Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, more commonly known as the Rambam or Maimonides, wrote the Unetaneh Tokef as a liturgical expression of the themes of The 13 Principles of Faith, his famous commentary on the Mishneh. The Unetaneh Tokef specifically references the 10th principle–God’s awareness of all human actions and thoughts, and the 11th–Reward of good and punishment of evil.
E. RASHI, RAMBAM and RAMALAMADINGDONG is taking the rare step of allowing the author of the Unetaneh Tokef to remain anonymous. The author is a “senior official of the synagogue” who claims to be “one of the adults” in the shul. He says that he is “not of the deep-chevra, but of the steady-chevra,” and that his goal is to expose the amorality, the repetitive rants, the impulsiveness and the reckless decisions of the synagogue president, in hopes of getting all members of the congregation to reach across the mechitzah and follow a common lodestar of David.