OPINION: One prayer, 40 opinions

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

OPINION: One prayer, 40 opinions

Andrew Goldstein
Andrew Goldstein

by Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein 

Andrew Goldstein
Andrew Goldstein

I have been honoured each year, along with Rabbi Dr Charles H Middleburgh, to submit an essay to Rabbi Laurence A Hoffman’s volumes on aspects of High Holy Days liturgy.

This year’s volume, the sixth, has more than 40 essays all on one prayer: Avinu Malkeinu. You might wonder how so much can be written on this prayer.

Most of the essays seek to solve the problem of the opening words: how could a modern non-Orthodox Jew appeal to “Our Father, Our King”?

Charles and I explain how we considered various alternatives to that literal translation.

We rejected the easy way of just transliterating the Hebrew, as some have done, making the opening verse “Avinu Malkeinu, we have sinned before you”.

An easy change was from ‘King’ to ‘Sovereign’. As we wrote, we live, “in a country whose head of state is our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth II”.

An alternative for ‘Father’ was not quite so easy. We chose ‘Creator’, based on the fact both parents have a part in creating us, but must admit it does not quite convey the aspect of God as the close and caring parent.

Several essays in Hoffman’s book conclude that more important than the actual words is the melody.

Think of Kol Nidrey… the traditional words are unacceptable to a Liberal Jew with its claim that just by reciting the formula our promises in the year past are cancelled.

We happily use an alternative – which I suspect few read through – but change the music and so many would object.

So as you spend the next month preparing for the High Holy Days, please think about what is most important for you – the intellectual thoughts, the traditional words, the creative themes, the music?

Which prayer works best for you, and which troubles you most?

• Naming God: Avinu Malkeinu, “Our Father, Our King” by Rabbi Lawrence A Hoffman is available now from Jewish Lights Publishing

• Andrew Goldstein is president of Liberal Judaism

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: