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A Modern Avinu Malkeinu for Transforming Our World

Avinu Malkeinu, open our hearts so that we will see all the things we have been unwilling to see, and grow in humility and compassion.

Avinu Malkeinu is one of the most powerful and evocative of the High Holiday prayers. Said during the standing prayer, the Amidah, on both Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur it speaks to a vision of God as an all powerful parent watching over us. It is eternal.

And yet, in 2020, as  Cantorial Soloist Sabrina Sojourner was preparing for the New Year, she was feeling both frustrated and hopeful. In a world shut down by COVID, in a country torn apart on party lines, and continually plagued by racism, the traditional prayers felt “painfully mild,” explained Sojourner, and “I was inspired to dig deeper.”

She began by asking herself what her own plea to the Eternal might be. Her own theology brought about a vision of the prayer that “would aid us in being the person needed for our own time.” Instead of changing the Eternal, Sojourner envisioned a prayer that would focus us on what who we need to be to change the world in which we live because, “unfortunately, most of us are not paying attention or refusing the opportunities that aid our growth.”

The New Year is all about growth and renewal. According to Sojourner, “Teshuvah is not an intellectual exercise. It is the intentional act of breaking our hearts open to own our responsibility for the challenges that exist in our lives from the personal to the global.” We need to work to make change happen.  As Sojourner explains, “every one of us is responsible for the continued existence of White Supremacy. We are either actively working toward dismantling and replacing the social, political, and legal structures that hold it in place, including the ways in which we contribute to it, or not. Not one of us is safe and free until all of us are safe and free.”

And while the image of God as King is not one that resonates for Sojourner, the format of the Avinu Malkeinu provided a template for her as she wrote her own plea. Sojourner calls on the long tradition of Jews adding their voices to the canon of Jewish prayer and hopes that in her words we will all be called to make the New Year one of social transformation.


Avinu Malkeinu: A Modern Prayer

by Sabrina Sojourner

Avinu Malkeinu, open our hearts so that we will see all the things we have been unwilling to see, and grow in humility and compassion.

 Avinu Malkeinu, remove cynicism from our hearts that we may experience and move through despair and hopelessness to be the person You are calling us to be.

 Avinu Malkeinu, inspire us to be a contribution to efforts to end structural racism, personal racism, and bigotry, including in our Jewish Institutions.

 Avinu Malkeinu, inspire us to be a contribution to efforts to end structural sexism, personal sexism, and bigotry, including in our Jewish Institutions.

 Avinu Malkeinu, inspire us to be a contribution to efforts to end structural heterosexism, personal heterosexism, and bigotry, including in our Jewish Institutions.

 Avinu Malkeinu, inspire us to be a contribution to efforts to end structural ableism, personal ableism, and bigotry, including in our Jewish Institutions.

 Avinu Malkeinu, inspire us to be a contribution to efforts to end structural ageism, personal ageism, and bigotry, including in our Jewish Institutions.

Avinu Malkeinu, inspire us to be a contribution to efforts to end structural anti-Semitism, personal anti-Semitism, and bigotry.

Avinu Malkeinu, inspire us to be compassionate to those with whom we disagree. May we see their humanity, even when they fail to see ours.

Avinu Malkeinu, move us to own our humanity wherein we live what You have taught us all our lives: we are all Your creations.

Avinu Malkeinu, let us not rest comfortably in the words of these prayers, waiting for You to first act on us. We must act on ourselves.

Avinu Malkeinu, have mercy on us and answer us, for our deeds have no little merit; deal with us charitably and lovingly and redeem us

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