A Prayer of Hope

By Alan Mantel

While containing universally challenging themes, there has always been a majesty to the Unetanah Tokef that I couldn’t identify. Each Rosh Hashanah, when I was growing up, the Rabbi looked out over the congregation, from his podium on the bimah, and the low rumble of conversations came to a halt. He was going to speak about serious stuff: life and death, potential causes of death for the unrepentant, and varying qualities of life for those who lived. I had a pretty good year; I tried to be a good person – would I make it?

Now, the dread is gone; the majesty is hope. At BJ, my children grew up hearing the Unetanah Tokef as a prayer of hope. The message of the Unetanah Tokef is not to dread judgement and its implications, but rather, to take personal responsibility for our actions, and the possibility of meaningful change. Of course, bad things happen and everything isn’t perfect. I no longer look around the sanctuary wondering what will happen to the people around me. The chanting of the Unetanah Tokef is a deeply personal moment to take stock of my life. The focus is not on past transgressions; it is on a future that I can help determine. Who do I want to be? How can I be a better father, husband, and son? What do I want to accomplish? How do I help make the world a better place?

The Unetanah Tokef provides a wonderful moment.

About Alan Mantel

Alan, his wife, Jessica, and their children, Lauren, Rebecca, and Joshua, have been members of BJ since 2001. In 2005, Alan’s mother, Phyllis, and Jessica’s parents, Shirley and Jon, each moved to the Upper West Side and promptly joined BJ. Alan is President of the Board of Trustees of BJ.