Naming God: Avinu Malkeinu--Our Father, Our King

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$27.99  $26.03
Jewish Lights Publishing
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5.99 X 0.89 X 9.36 inches | 1.26 pounds
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About the Author

Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, PhD, has served for more than three decades as professor of liturgy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. He is a world-renowned liturgist and holder of the Stephen and Barbara Friedman Chair in Liturgy, Worship and Ritual. His work combines research in Jewish ritual, worship and spirituality with a passion for the spiritual renewal of contemporary Judaism.

He has written and edited many books, including All the World: Universalism, Particularism and the High Holy Days; May God Remember: Memory and Memorializing in Judaism--Yizkor, We Have Sinned: Sin and Confession in Judaism--Ashamnu and Al Chet, Who by Fire, Who by Water--Un'taneh Tokef and All These Vows--Kol Nidre, the first five volumes in the Prayers of Awe series; the My People's Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries series, winner of the National Jewish Book Award; and he is coeditor of My People's Passover Haggadah: Traditional Texts, Modern Commentaries (all Jewish Lights), a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.

Rabbi Hoffman is a developer of Synagogue 3000, a transdenominational project designed to envision and implement the ideal synagogue of the spirit for the twenty-first century.

Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, PhD, is available to speak on the following topics:

  • A Day of Wine and Moses: The Passover Haggadah and the Seder You Have Always Wanted
  • Preparing for the High Holy Days: How to Appreciate the Liturgy of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
  • The Essence of Jewish Prayer: The Prayer Book in Context and Worship in Our Time
  • Beyond Ethnicity: The Coming Project for North American Jewish Identity
  • Synagogue Change: Transforming Synagogues as Spiritual and Moral Centers for the Twenty-First Century

Click here to contact the author.


Preparing for the comingHigh Holy Days, I opened myMachzor RuachChadashah, saw it was
publishedin 2003, andwas amazedto realise andthat this yearwill be the13th year of itsuse. How timeflies and where have the years vanishedsince, as a newly ordained rabbi, I joinedthe committee to edit its predecessorGate of Repentance, which was originallypublished in 1973?

The first Liberal Jewish Prayer BookVolume II (for High Holy Days) waspublished by our founding Rabbi Dr IsraelMattuck in 1923--and was used for 51years. I wonder how long our currentmachzor will last? Will it need revisingonce our new siddur appears, wheneverthat will be? Intriguing how a year endingin three seems to mark the publishing ofour High Holy Days prayer books.

I have been honoured each year, alongwith Rabbi Dr Charles H Middleburgh, mycoeditor of Machzor Ruach Chadashah, to submit an essay to Rabbi Laurence AHoffman's volumes on aspects of HighHoly Days liturgy.

As well as good for our ego, for amongthe other contributors are names farmore well-known internationally thanours, we would like to think that it hasbeen an opportunity to make known toa wide readership the creativity of theBritish Liberal Jewish liturgy. This year'svolume, the sixth, has over 40 essays, allon just one prayer--Avinu Malkeinu.

You might be thinking: how could somuch be written on just one prayer? Mostof the essays seek to solve the problem ofthe opening words; how could a modernnon-Orthodox Jew appeal to "Our Father, Our King"?

Charles and I explain how weconsidered various alternatives to thatliteral translation. We rejected theeasy way out of just transliterating theHebrew, as some have done, making theopening verse "Avinu Malkeinu, we havesinned before you."

An easy change was from 'King' to'Sovereign'. After all, as we write, welive "in a country whose head of state isour Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth II".An alternative for 'Father' was not quiteas easy. We chose 'Creator', based onthe fact that both parents have a part increating us, but we have to admit that itdoes not quite convey the aspect of Godas the close and caring parent.

I wonder how Liberal Jews will feelthese High Holy Days, after 13 years ofuse? Did we get it right, or do they missthe literal translation? Do they preferthe alternative formula we have added"Shechina Mekor Chayyeynu--DivinePresence, Source of our lives"?

Several essays in Hoffman's bookcome to the conclusion that moreimportant than the actual words is themelody to which they are sung. Think ofKol Nidrey ... the traditional words areunacceptable to a Liberal Jew with itsclaim that just by reciting the formula ourpromises in the year past are cancelled.We happily use an alternative--which Isuspect few read through--but changethe music and so many would object.

As you prepare for the High HolyDays, please think about what is mostimportant for YOU: the intellectual thoughts, the traditional words, thecreative themes, the music? Whichprayer works best for you, which troublesyou the most?

The Hebrew word "machzor" conveysthe idea of a book that keeps cominground and round, just like the festivals.I hope that Machzor Ruach Chadashahand the services you attend help you findmeaning in these High Holy Days and Iwish you a good, healthy and successfulNew Year.

- Naming God: Avinu Malkeinu--OurFather, Our King, by Rabbi Lawrence A.Hoffman is available now from JewishLights Publishing.

--By Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein President of Liberal Judaism "Liberal Judaism Today "