Reflections on Avinu Malkeinu (+ free download!)


Free download: A live performance of me singing Avinu Malkeinu (arr. by Janowski) (for women only)

We are currently in the aseres yemei teshuvah – the ten days of teshuvah from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. It is an auspicious time for deep introspection and prayer, for being truly present in each mitzvah that we do, for focusing our thoughts on our relationship with G-d and how we can strengthen it in the coming year.

Since this year, Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat, we will not be singing the Avinu Malkeinu prayer. It’s one of my favorite prayers, and has some of the most beautiful melodies, and I must admit, will miss it. I was thinking about what exactly it is that makes this prayer so powerful to me.

There are so many metaphors for our relationship with G-d. One minute we speak of Him as our father; the next, He’s our spouse; then suddenly, He’s our King.

I mean, it’s a little confusing. Freud would have a field day.

But think about this. Which relationship do you think is most true? Which speaks to you more? Which best represents our relationship with G-d? Your relationship with G-d?

This piece that I posted a link to above, Avinu Malkeinu, is an expression of our relationship with G-d as both a king and a father. Our role oscillates between that of a faithful servant and that of a son or daughter.

Many think of the High Holidays as a time when we are meant to be filled with fear and anxiety. G-d is like the scary IRS Man coming to audit us, except this IRS Man knows us inside and out. He knows what’s in the depths of our hearts. He knows what we’ve done behind closed doors. He is Judging us. He is Writing down all our deeds in meticulous detail. He’s Sealing our fate for the coming year. When we think about this, we should be trembling in terror.


Imagine leaving your office at 5pm on a Friday and your co-worker telling you that the Scary IRS Man is coming to audit you first thing Monday morning. Even if you thought you had been “good,” you’d still be filled with anxiety and fear.

But then you walk into your office Monday morning at 9am, and who do you see look up at you? It’s your father. Who smiles at you and hugs you. Who wipes away your tears. Who always gives you the benefit of the doubt. With whom you share the deepest, most essential bond. Who is, on the deepest level, blind to all of your faults. Who knows you inside and out. Who sees you in your purest state. Who loves you.

It is true that G-d is our King. It is true that he is awesome (in the literal sense of the word). It is true that He judges us. But He does it as a Father. Whose love for us is unconditional, who wants, more than anything, a relationship with us.

To me, the most powerful words of this prayer are shema koleinu, “hear our voice.” It is a pure calling out. It says, “I want to be close to you.” Like a shofar blow. It’s a cry that can only come from a child to a father.


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