Who By Fire (1979-1988)
A song taken from the liturgy of the Day of Atonement

There's an old tradition that insists that on a certain day of every year the Book of Life is opened and in it is inscribed those who will live and those who die, who by fire, who by fire, who by water...

That song derives very directly from a Hebrew prayer that is sung on the Day of Atonement, or the evening of the Day of the Atonement:(? Hebrew) Who by fire, who by sword, who by water? According to the tradition, the Book of Life is opened and in it is inscribed all those who will live and all those who will die for the following year. And in that prayer is catalogued all the various ways in which you can quit this veil of tears. The melody is if not actually stolen, is certainly derived from the melody that I heard in the synagogue as a boy.But of course, the conclusion of the song, as I write it, is somewhat different: "Who shall I say is calling?" Well, that is what makes the song into a prayer for me in my terms, which is who is it or what is it that determine who will live and who will die ? What is the source of this great furnace of creation ? Who lights it ? Who extinguishes it ?

The melody on which this next song is based I first heard when I was four or five years old, in the synagogue, on the Day of Atonement, standing beside my tall uncles in their black suits. Itıs a  liturgical prayer that talks about the way in which you can quit this vale of tears. It's according to a tradition, an ancient tradition that on a certain day of the year, the Book of Life is opened, and in it is inscribed the names of all those who will live and all those who will die, who by fire, who by water...

Thank you comrades. It's a wonderful convention that we have in this vale of tears to clap after a song. It gives the performers some sense that they're doing what they should. You may accuse me of being a conservative but I'm for these old conventions.

You know, I come from a country where we do not have the same struggles as you have. I respect your struggles. And it may surprise you but I respect both sides of this struggle. It seems to be that in Europe, there needs to be a left foot and a right foot to move forward. I wish that both feet move forward and that the Body move towards its proper destiny. This is an intense country. The people are heroic. The spirit is independent. It is a difficult country to govern. It needs a strong government and a strong Union. When I was a child and I went to the synagogue every Saturday morning - and once in this country there were thousands of synagogues and thousands of Jewish communities which were wiped out in a few months- In the synagogue at which I attended, there was a prayer for the government. We were happy and we are happy to pray for the welfare of the government. And I would like to say to you, to the leaders of the Left, and the leaders of the Right: I sing for everyone; my song has no flag, my song has no party. And I say the prayer that we said in our synagogue, I say it for the leader of your Union and the leader of your Party. May the Lord put a spirit of wisdom and understanding into the hearts of your leaders and into the heart of all their counsellors.

This next song arises from a prayer that is sung in the synagogue on the Day of Atonement. I used to stand beside my tall uncles in their black suits waiting for this prayer in which was listed all the ways in which we eventually must come to stand before the creator:who by fire,who by water....

This song arises from a time when I was very young and I stood beside my uncles in their black suits in the third row of the Synagogue, on the Day of Atonement, waiting for this most beautiful prayer to begin. And I based this song on that prayer. Who by fire, who by water (in Hebrew).

Extract from the Holy Bible : The Day of Atonement (Leviticus, 16)

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