“A prayer offered without intent (Kavanah), is like a body without a soul.”

When the rabbis taught us that lesson, they were encouraging us that when we recite our personal and public prayers, rather than merely reciting the words, we should garb them with our own personal meanings and thoughts. Just as our clothing choices help us stand apart, so do our contemplation and intent transform even standardized prayers into deeply personal, unique offerings.

Avinu. Malkeinu.

Our Father. Our King.

Who is unfamiliar with this powerful refrain, chanted, and pleaded, and cried over and over during the High Holiday season? Who isn’t moved by our supplication to G-d, both in His identity as our Father, and in his role as our King? So well known are the lines of Avinu Malkeinu that Barbara Streisand recorded a version of it on one of her albums (to a tune by German composer Max Janowski), and performed it live at President Shimon Peres’ 90th birthday. Peres was so moved by that rendition, that it was reprised by David D’Or at Peres’ funeral.

Avinu Malkeinu.

Since the outbreak of the war, this plaintive prayer has been recited twice daily in many Shuls around Israel, and perhaps beyond. I suspect that many have found that that the verses resonate with them in novel, deep, and powerfully-relevant ways — ways which may never have occurred to us during their seasonal recitations.

Here are some of the meanings which have adorned the words of my own Avinu Malkeinu over the last number of months.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ הָפֵר עֲצַת אוֹיְבֵינוּ.

Our Fatherour Kingfoil the plans of our enemies.

The Palestinians were working on the October 7th plan for years, or possibly decades. Some reports say that they had planned coordinated attacks from the north and the west.

Was that You who got in the way of those plans, oh G-d? Are there tunnels from Lebanon leading into Israel awaiting the orders to attack? Probably. Are there tunnels from the Arab villages in Judea and Samara which lead to our precious Jewish communities? Again, probably. Despite the unspeakable devastation of October 7th, You foiled their grander plans for our sudden and complete defeat. Our Father, our King, please continue to have our backs, frustrate the plots of our foes, and allow us to live in peace in Your land.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ סְתֹם פִּיּוֹת מַשְׂטִינֵנוּ וּמְקַטְרְגֵנוּ.

Our Fatherour Kingshut the mouths of those who instigate and work against us.

The world is convulsing in a meticulously-choreographed uproar.

“From the river to the  sea!”



Within days of October 7th, much of the world had united in unmasking their vile, naked hatred of the Jewish People, brazenly calling for our elimination in tones not heard in generations. The voices seemed to come from nowhere. What spontaneously emerges from the depths can just as quickly be banished there. So please, our merciful Father, our merciful King, abruptly silence their hatred, seal their mouths, and allow the voice of a civilized world to lead the conversation once again.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ שְׁלַח רְפוּאָה שְׁלֵמָה לְחוֹלֵי עַמֶּךָ.

Our Fatherour King, send complete recovery to those of our nation who are ill.

There is no need to recount here the myriad ways we have suffered as Jews, as Israelis, as citizens of the world. So many broken bodies, so many shattered souls. Avinu Malkeinu, heal the bodies and minds of our citizens and soldiers who have been brutalized and traumatized. Only You can provide the salves which will heal both our visible and invisible wounds, and make us whole once more.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ זָכְרֵנוּ לִגְאֻלָּה וִישׁוּעָה.

Our Fatherour Kingremember us for redemption and salvation. 

Enable our swift, total victory. May the caches of our enemies’ weapons be confiscated and destroyed. May their infrastructure crumble and crush them alive. May their leadership be decimated, without any hope of replacement. May their constituents find no hope in the old ways, and turn toward peace.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ זָכְרֵנוּ לְפַרְנָסָה וּלְכַלְכָּלָה.

Our Fatherour Kingremember us for livelihood and sustenance.

A nation where hundreds of thousands of its able-bodied work force are doing battle is a nation whose livelihood and economy are on the line. Our reservists have left their jobs, some of which may never return. Our businesses (parnassah) have lost key members and customers. The economies (kalkalah) of the southern towns, some of which are not safe to return to, are in dire jeopardy.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ הַצְמַח לָנוּ יְשׁוּעָה בְּקָרוֹב.
Our Fatherour Kingcause redemption to bloom speedily

Who could have dared dream, at the conclusion of World War II, that from the decimation of European Jewry, anything could possibly take root and grow? Who could have dreamt of a future –any future – which involved anything but basic survival?

Yet from the ashes of the Holocaust sprouted a dream beyond any poet’s wildest fantasy. A new beginning for the Jewish People. The hope borne in the souls of our people for 2000 years of exile.

If you travel to Re’im, the site of the Nova Festival massacre, you will visit a poignant landscape, a field composed of photos of the dead and the kidnapped. The photos are mounted on tall stakes in the bare earth below.

At the base of each stake, in the otherwise barren patch of land, someone planted seeds. At each one, a patch of grass has taken root. The killing field has sprung new life. The innocent photos of lives destroyed have become a very source of vitality. And beauty. And, somehow, a glimmer of hope.

Please cause Your redemption to bloom from this very tragedy, and let us see the splendor yet to come.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ חֲמֹל עָלֵינוּ וְעַל עוֹלָלֵינוּ וְטַפֵּנוּ.

Our Fatherour Kinghave mercy on us, our children and young ones. 

No age group, no gender, no nationality was spared on that infamous day. We all need a curative dose of Your infinite kindness.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ עֲשֵׂה לְמַעַן טְבוּחִים עַל יִחוּדֶךָ.

Our Fatherour Kingsave us in the merit of those who were slaughtered for the for the unity of Your name.

There was no reason for the slaughter other than the fact that we are Jews. How many died with Your name on their lips? How many cried out Shema Yisrael? How many recognized in their final moments that they would be the latest link in an historical chain of bloodlust called antisemitism?

Lest we think that the nightmare may be over, let us remember that Hamas has vowed to repeat October 7th over and over again.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ עֲשֵׂה לְמַעַן בָּאֵי בָּאֵשׁ וּבַמַּיִם עַל קִדּוּשׁ שְׁמֶךָ.

Our Fatherour Kingprotect those who put themselves through fire and water to sanctify Your name.

Just as in English usage, “fire” can mean not only flames, but being “under fire” from gunsthe Hebrew word “Eish” has the same dual connotation. When our soldiers fought to recapture Kfar Aza and the other Southern towns in the early days of the war, they discovered not only the fires of battle, but quite literally they had to deal with the water. Explosions had ruptured water mains and house plumbing, and water was everywhere. Often the removal of the bodies of those murdered involved tedious extraction from ravines of mud which had formed.

Our soldiers went through fire and water to do their holy missions. Please cleanse their minds and souls of all the lingering reminders of that horror.

Avinu. Our Father.

Malkeinu. Our King.

This is a year where we are – perhaps more than ever before – taking our prayers and making them our own. And then we are hurling them heavenward, to the One who anxiously awaits the deeply creative dressing in which we have enveloped His words.

Avinu Malkeinu is a prayer which technically belongs to the season of repentance. Yet this year it appears it will be recited right into the season of freedom. And our prayers — usually separated by a gulf of two seasons — might just create some sort of celestial mashup as they ascend, to become a mighty new plea:

Avinu. Malkeinu. Dayeinu.

Our Father. Our King. It’s enough.