Rabbi David Walk
One of the more popular songs played during the dancing at religious weddings these days is the upbeat tune for the poem Mareh Cohen (the appearance of the cohen), which comes from the Yom Kippur services. We sing this melody not only because of the great tune, but also because the radiance of the bride and groom reminds us of the magnificence of the High Priest emerging from the Holy of Holies on this most sanctified occasion. One of the verses actually compares the spectacle of the Cohen Gadol to the 'Kindliness emblazoned on the face of the bride groom.' We say that our weddings days are like a personal Yom Kippur, and now we compare the appearance of the groom back to that of the Cohen Gadol. Both of these phenomena should inspire a special reaction deep inside of us. Since the sight of awe on the face of a child is the most moving, it's appropriate that this now famous tune was written by Yigal Cilak back in the sixties when he founded the London Boy's Choir. But what is the significance of this poem and song?
It's hard for us to imagine the scene in
In our repetition of the Musaf service, we initially remember all of the order of the service in the
When he was finished he donned his own clothing, and went home. The Mishneh (Yoma 7:4) records that he didn't go home alone. Many of the joyous throng escorted him to his residence in what we call the Jewish Quarter today. This procession was full of joy and thanksgiving. Rabban Gamliel, who saw it with his own eyes, tells us that Yom Kippur afternoon was the most joyous moment of the year. The High Priest exulted because he had successful navigated the complex rituals of the day; the people because they were confident that their blood red sins had been bleached white as snow. The aftermath was that the Cohen Gadol threw a great party (everybody loves a Kiddush.), and blessed the nation with great prosperity and security. Our Machzor records all this delight, and culminates the tale with the paean to the High Priest's splendor, Mareh Cohen.
So, what do we do? We read this complicated poem recording these bygone events, but few fully realize the import of this account. The last selicha (penitential poem) recited on the eve of Yom Kippur informs us of our predicament, 'Notice that there is no one to atone for us. There is no one to perform the
In place of the splendor and pomp of the
I understand his point, but I can't refrain from adding what Rabbi Akiva said another thousand years before that as the final idea in the Mishne about Yom Kippur (Yoma 8:9), 'How fortunate are you