If It Worked for Rabbi Akiva?
The prayer Avinu Malkenu (Our Father, Our King) is recited after the Amidah (the main prayer, said while standing) and before the Torah service. It is recited throughout the Ten Days of Repentance, from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, as well as on fast days. The following short passages explore different aspects of this popular and fascinating prayer.
Rabbi Akiva instituted this prayer, as it is stated: "Once Rabbi Eliezer ordered 13 fast days, but no rains fell.... Rabbi Akiva followed him before the Ark and said, 'Our Father, our King, we have no king but Thee.' He was immediately answered" (Taanit 25b).
--Orhot Hayyim, Aharon haKohen of Lunel. Reprinted from S. Y. Agnon’s anthology Days of Awe, published by Schocken Books.
Our Parent, Our Sovereign?
It can be argued that regular masculine language for God promotes the distinct presumption that though all of us are created in God's image, some of us are more Godlike than others. In Avinu Malkenu, by retaining the image of Father and King, one might infer that important decisions about life are made, or should be made, by fathers (but not mothers) and kings (not queens).
After all this discussion, it may come as a surprise to discover that it was decided [by the committee of Reform rabbis revising the Reform Machzor] to retain masculine language for God anyway. Some people held that neutral language virtually does away with the concrete imagery that the Days of Awe demand. Calling God "Our Parent, our Sovereign" here, for example, seemed far more remote, far less compelling, than the traditional "Father" and "King." Others noted that doing away with "He" and "Him” presented insurmountable problems in translation, which could not be overcome without completely altering the sense of ancient Hebrew passages whose integrity we respected. Would the committee charged with our liturgy vote that way today, if we had it to do again? I doubt it. One's consciousness of language's subtle effect on our thinking rises slowly. Nevertheless, it does rise. And today, I think, we would have voted the other way.
--Reprinted from Lawrence A. Hoffman’s Gates of Understanding 2: Appreciating the Days of Awe, published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
Inscribe us 5x
"Our Father, our King, inscribe us in a book." The five petitions of "Inscribe us in a book" correspond to the five books of Moses.
The first, "Inscribe us in the book of happy life” corresponds to the Book of Genesis, in which the creation of all things, meaning life, is spoken of. The second, "Inscribe us in the book of redemption and salvation” corresponds to the Book of Exodus, which speaks of the redemption from Egypt. "Inscribe us in the book of maintenance and sustenance" corresponds to the Book of Leviticus, which speaks of the holy sacrifices and thank-offerings, for the essence of sustenance must be in holiness. "Inscribe us in the book of aiding merit" corresponds to the Book of Numbers, which speaks of the Twelve Tribes that camped near their standards, every tribe being a Chariot to its root, that is to say, to the patriarchs, because of whose aiding merit we are alive. "Inscribe us in the book of forgiveness and pardon" corresponds to the Book of Deuteronomy, in which Moses our master upbraids Israel for all they did that was wrong, and which contains the scriptural portion of teshuvah (repentance), by means of which we merit forgiveness and pardon.
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