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Hazzan Steve's Message

High Holiday Hits – Part 2

Need a tug at your heartstrings to help you open up? Try this, Barbra Streisand singing Avinu Malkeinu:

Open up to what? Maybe the miracles in drifts around us as we go about our daily lives. Or open up to who you really are. Yes, I know that sounds like work, but that is one of the blessings of the month of Elul, as we move day by day, moon phase by moon phase, toward Rosh HaShanah 5783, which falls on the new moon of Tishrei, Sunday evening September 25th. We are blessed with a month to open our hearts.

Why Avinu Malkeinu? In part, from my perspective a huge part, it is the melody, or two distinct melodies really. Barbra Streisand is famous for renditions of some of the main text of the Avinu Malkeinu prayer. That gorgeous melody is by the composer Max Janowski.

Then there is the melody for the ending of the prayer, which is sung, hummed, murmured in synagogues all over America that use Ashkenazic music. That is the part we sing together at CBI, in 6/8 time, simultaneously halting and lilting. For me, it is the sound of the High Holidays. Here are a couple of YouTubes (with apologies that you have to click through the ads):

The first is kind of heimish, the second quite a bit schmaltzier.

Here are the words of that last part of the Avinu Malkeinu prayer:

אָבִֽינוּ מַלְכֵּֽנוּ

חָנֵּֽנוּ וַעֲנֵֽנוּ

כִּי אֵין בָּֽנוּ מַעֲשִׂים

עֲשֵׂה עִמָּֽנוּ צְדָקָה וָחֶֽסֶד


Avinu, Malkeinu

Choneinu va’aneinu

Ki eyn banu ma’asim.

Asei imanu tz’dakah vachesed


Our Father, Our King

Be gracious to us and answer us,

For we have accomplished nothing.

Deal with us with righteousness and lovingkindness,

And be our help.

Remember that we use words like “Father” and “King” to speak to God because metaphors really all we have to try to come a bit close to what God might be like. We are not asserting (or at least I am not asserting) that God is a father or my father, or that God is a king, just that those constructs give us a glimpse of some of God’s attributes. When we express our shortcomings and ask for grace and kindness, it might help to conceive of a loving parent. If that metaphor is not helpful, you can choose another, another sense of where help has come from in your life. And my teacher Hazzan Dr. Saul Wachs teaches that we say that God is king to remind us that we are not.

With blessings for a happy, peaceful and healthy week,

Hazzan Steve

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