Podcast: Appreciating “Et Sha’arey Ratson”, by Rabbi Jonathan Cohen
Credit: The recording of the S&P Choir comes from the CD “A Sephardi Celebration”, which can be ordered by clicking here.
Many people find the last verse of this hymn, sung slowly by the hazzan, deeply moving.
♫ Livritecha [JC]
Et Sha’arey Ratson
Written in or around the twelfth century, this is the central hymn of Rosha Hashanah, being sung immediately before the Shofar is blown.
It paints an elaborate picture of the sacrifice of Isaac, interspersing various midrashic descriptions. Interestingly Sarah’s emotions are described in detail and given a central place in the account, something which the original Torah text does not do.
Picart’s famous illustrations of the Amsterdam S&P community show clearly that most most members of the congregation wore their tallet over their head, something done today in London only by the Kohanim when blessing the Kahal and by the man who blows the shofar.
I think it likely that the change occurred when tricorns were abandoned in favour of silk top hats, as the constant friction of the tallet is damaging to the silk fibres of the top hat.
Here’s a video of the combined S&P choirs singing Et Sha’arey Ratson at Maurice Martin’s retirement concert in October 2010: