Avinu Malkeinu – a hot prayer

By Getta Neumann

We anticipate the days of the great autumn holidays with the emotion of childhood reminiscences and the joy of the ritual to be performed. Every year we waited for the afternoon of Yom Kippur when my father, Rabbi Dr. Ernest Neumann, sang the Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father, Our King) prayer in the Fabric Synagogue in Timisoara. The whole congregation intertwined its voice in his prayer, a burning supplication that encompasses everything a human being desires, from health and long life to prosperity and peace. After a day of fasting we were hungry, a little dizzy and at the same time with sharp senses, with an awake mind. As for me, without paying much attention to the meaning of the words, I was convinced that the fervor of singing should work miracles. Nowhere have I encountered such an interpretation or the same song since then. Only now do I realize that the manner in which my father prayed was certainly that of Oradea or Budapest, in an environment where the first syllable of the word is emphasized, where the voice has passionate modulations as in a dialogue with someone whom you love, where you literally give your body and soul to the invocation of divine grace.

The appeal made according to all the rules of rhetorical art has a wide range of arguments and is a real plea to gain divine goodwill. Avinu Malkeinu's invocation repeated at the beginning of each verse, the sequence of prayers, the melody, all converge towards an imploration that cannot be rejected.

Our Father, our King, / I have sinned before You, / I have sinned. (The text was translated into verse by Lucian-Zeev Hershovich)

The complex relationship between man and divinity is known from the Bible. The audacity of Jacob who clashes with the angel, the emissary of God, is evident in the prayer in which we address the divinity and plead for our cause, as we would with a father, a father, a man. The covenant between God and his people involves obligations on both sides.

Remember that we are dust and earth And we have a covenant with thee.

Our father, Do this for the martyrs who died for Your Holy Name, On this earth.

The strongest argument is to convince the one from whom you want to get something that it is in his own interest to do what you want.

Do this, if not for us - for You We will be fine too.

We pray for understanding and indulgence, not because we deserve them, but because true generosity manifests itself even when it is not deserved.

Although we can't say, That we would have done good deeds, Although I did no good deeds, For which we can receive a reward, Have mercy on us, Save us from all hatred, We ask for alms, not justice, Please, save us in everything.

Prayer and plea are combined, potentiated. Let's repeat the climax verse In the Book of Life to be inscribed with a good life! often in these 10 days of silence, judgment and new commitments with a strong desire to be realized. So it will be!

Barbra Streisand's Classical Interpretation of Prayer in Composer Max Janowski's Version (1912-1991):