Music

Five Repentance/Atonement Songs For Yom Kippur

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By / October 5, 2011
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Yom Kippur is about denying yourself pleasure for a day in order to be properly submerged into the despair you’ve cast out into the word with your bad deeds. You wake up, go to shul, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit and then go home and wait for shul again. If your mom is anything like mine, you mustn’t watch TV, play hide-and-seek, or do anything pleasurable as you wait to return to services.

However, if you’re going to watch TV, maybe watch something appropriate, something with that Yom Kippur malaise, like Lars Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark. As far as music’s concerned, it shouldn’t be too hard to find appropriate tunes to help you ruminate over your bad behavior. Certain genres of music are especially heavy on repentance/atonement-centric songs, while others are almost entirely devoid of them.  One is not likely to find many Yom Kippur-appropriate songs in the discography of Brittney Spears. But jump back 20 years and the most popular music of the time was full of atonement. Alternative rock is a treasure trove of sad, sappy music for hungry, weary Jews on Yom Kippur. Emo—old emo—specifically, is also pretty packed with sad, repentant lyrics.  (Though modern emo is much too self-obsessed and glammy to dwell on any wrongdoing.) Here are five Yom Kippur-appropriate songs to listen to in between services.

Don’t Hate Me by The Get Up Kids

What better song to listen to on Yom Kippur than one that begins with a sad sounding screechy voice shouting, “Forgive me!”  This song is a tad poppy for Yom Kippur, but it’s properly in the spirit of the day, just pretend that god is named “Amy.”

All Apologies by Nirvana

Pretty self-explanatory. I don’t think Kurt wrote this one for Yom Kippur, but Jewish Gen-Xers can probably attest that it makes for a good atonement song.

Unforgiven by Metallica

This list is starting to look suspiciously like the playlist I listened to in the 8th grade when I was being punished for something and angry at my parents. Back then, the notion of atoning for anything I did was totally beyond my understanding. For Metallica fans, this is the perfect song to listen to you’re when feeling guilty about all the illegal music you’ve downloaded. It’s also the perfect Yom Kippur song for the more mature, introspective listener.

Dear Mama by 2Pac

Before you call b.s on this one, take a look at the lyrics to this song.  Yes, it’s about Tupac showing appreciation for his mother Afeni Shakur, but at the same time, it’s him asking forgiveness for all the years he spent taking her love and support for granted, and for being such a delinquent youngster in the first place.  For those of us returning to our parents’ homes for the high holidays, sleeping in our childhood rooms, and reliving the memories that come along with that, this song should ignite all kinds of issues. Tell yo’ momma you love on her on Yom Kippah.

Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

Bohemain Rhapsody is the ultimate rock song, but it’s also the ultimate repentance song.  The whole thing is sung form the point of view of a man who’s made a mistake and is begging for forgiveness. In the end, he’s not so lucky, so it’s kind of a cautionary tale.  If you happen to miss temple this Yom Kippur, try going to karaoke and belting out Bohemian Rhapsody with a friend, then make up for it come Passover.