Avinu Malkeinu / Our Father, Our King

Introduction

Avinu Malkeinu is a central prayer of the ten days of repentance, which begin on Rosh Hashanah and conclude on Yom Kippur. Both the words and the melody evoke deep emotion as the congregation connects with God as a parent and monarch. On Yom Kippur, it is recited throughout the day, culminating with its recitation as part of the Neilah service in the final moments of the holiday.

אָבִֽינוּ מַלְכֵּֽנוּ חָתְמֵֽנוּ בְּסֵֽפֶר חַיִּים טוֹבִים: אָבִֽינוּ מַלְכֵּֽנוּ חָתְמֵֽנוּ בְּסֵֽפֶר גְּאֻלָּה וִישׁוּעָה: אָבִֽינוּ מַלְכֵּֽנוּ חָתְמֵֽנוּ בְּסֵֽפֶר פַּרְנָסָה וְכַלְכָּלָה: אָבִֽינוּ מַלְכֵּֽנוּ חָתְמֵֽנוּ בְּסֵֽפֶר זְכֻיּוֹת: אָבִֽינוּ מַלְכֵּֽנוּ חָתְמֵֽנוּ בְּסֵֽפֶר סְלִיחָה וּמְחִילָה:

...

אָבִֽינוּ מַלְכֵּֽנוּ חָנֵּֽנוּ וַעֲנֵֽנוּ כִּי אֵין בָּֽנוּ מַעֲשִׂים עֲשֵׂה עִמָּֽנוּ צְדָקָה וָחֶֽסֶד וְהוֹשִׁיעֵֽנוּ:

Our Father, our King! seal us in the Book of Good Life. Our Father, our King! seal us in the Book of Redemption and Deliverance. Our Father, our King! seal us in the Book of Maintenance and Sustenance. Our Father, our King! seal us in the Book of Merits. Our Father, our King!

Our Father, our King! favor us and answer us for we have no accomplishments; deal with us charitably and kindly and deliver us.

Reflecting:

  • When we recite Avinu Malkeinu during Neilah, the words are slightly different than when they are recited on other occasions. Here, during the final moments of the day, we ask for our fate to be sealed for good. Which of these "books" feels most pressing for you as you contemplate the year ahead?
  • The image of words being written or sealed in a book is one that recurs throughout the High Holiday prayerbooks. What books or writing - whether they are words you have written, or a book written by others - are most definitional in your life?
  • The final words of this prayer ask for favor and kindness, even though we may not deserve it. The Talmud (Shabbat 133b) mentions this kind of kindness in reflecting on the ways that we should strive to imitate the Divine. "Just as God is compassionate and merciful, so too you should be compassionate and merciful." In this moment of asking for God to "deal kindly" with us, how might we be kind to ourselves and others in the coming year?