Breaking down the Yamim Nora'im

Breaking Down “Avinu Malkeinu”

  • This prayer utilizes two distinct images of God—the parent (av) and the sovereign (melekh)—offering us a variety of ways to connect to the Divine, embracing the sense that we each experience God in different ways in different moments.
  • Traditionally singing “Avinu Malkeinu” from the beginning of the month of Elul through Yom Kippur during both Shaharit (morning services) and Minha (afternoon services), we rise before an open ark to offer this prayer, signaling its centrality in the liturgy’s journey.
  • Despite the iconic role “Avinu Makeinu” plays in the spiritual work of the season, it is traditionally not said on Shabbat; on Shabbat we refrain from certain modes of petitionary prayer, shifting our energy away from asking, wanting, and pleading—making space for the elevated sense of joy and contentment we enjoy on Shabbat—even when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat.
  • While there are many beautiful melodies for this prayer, the two most iconic are this traditional Ashkenazi melody—sung here at B’nai Jeshurun—and this melody popularized by Barbra Streisand.

Fun Fact: The band Phish recorded a version of “Avinu Malkeniu” as well!