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OMNAM KEN ():

A penitential hymn in the ritual for the eve of Atonement, according to the Polish rite. The author has been identified by Joseph Jacobs with R. Yom-Ṭob of Joigny, the rabbi and leader of the Jews who so heroically faced their enemies in the castle of York on March 17, 1190. A translation, preserving the meter, rime-system, and alphabetical acrostic of the original Hebrew, by I. Zangwill, was first published in Jacobs' "Jews of Angevin England," p. 109. The traditional melody is of very much later date, and of a jingling nature scarcely worthy of the subject. Although it is entirely devoid of Jewish character, the associations of the occasion when it is used endeared it during the nineteenth century to many a congregation, and the local versions differ but little, save in the phrase next preceding the cadence, where local fancy has run riot. This is probably due to the circumstance that the original form of the cadence, still preserved in north Germany, inconveniently displaces the customary accent of the Hebrew word used as refrain ("salaḥti"="I have forgiven"). In the English tradition there is a relic of the cooperation of those vocal accompanists of the past, the "singer" and "bass" (see Music, Synagogal), in the repetition of a portion of the second line of each couplet, originally theirwordless variation of the ordinary strain just chanted by the ḥazzan.

Bibliography:
  • J. Jacobs, The Jews of Angevin England, pp. 109, 131, 387, London, 1893 (metrical translation by I. Zangwill);
  • A. Baer, Baal T'fillah (Der Praktische Vorbeter), Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1883, No. 1319;
  • Marksohn and Wolf, Auswahl Altes Hebräischer Synagogal-Melodies, Nos. 8 and 4A. Leipsic, 1875;
  • J. L. Mombach, Sacred Musical Compositions, p. 205, London, 1881;
  • Cohen and Davis, Voice of Prayer and Praise, No. 251, London, 1899.
A. F. L. C.
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