Yom Shabbat, 10 Tammuz 5778
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 The Avinu Malkeinu is so named because each of its verses begins with those words.  The literal meaning is “Our Father, Our King”, an obvious gender-specific reference to God.  Rather than introduce a gender-neutral version of this phrase, our prayer book chooses instead to not translate the phrase at all but simply to transliterate the words.  In doing so, we are reminded that the One before whom we stand on the High Holy Days is not only beyond gender but is also intimately available to us while simultaneously transcending the universe.  Avinu is right there with us like a loving parent, providing support and gentle guidance as we, like children, struggle with how best to live our lives.  At the same time, Malkeinu stands outside of the moment with an eye towards eternity and overseeing the universe.

During Elul, we have need for both elements of God’s being.  We are most concerned with the quality of our own lives and our relationships with those closest to us.  At the same time, we are part of something much greater than ourselves; we are part of the universe and, through our actions, help to shape eternity.  

--Rabbi Alan Freedman