A Note on the Origins of the Avinu Malkeinu Prayer—by Matia Kam

A Note on the Origins of the Avinu Malkeinu Prayer
Matia Kam

Avinu Malkeinu
Avinu Malkeinu

Avinu Malkeinu, Our Father our Sovereign, is a special prayer recited on the Days of Awe (and on days of fast). It is customary to recite the prayer in the synagogue, in the morning (Shaharit) and during the afternoon (Minha) service. In most Jewish communities, this prayer is recited standing, as the Holy Ark is open. In Ashkenazi communities the Avinu Malkeinu is not recited on Shabbat, with the exception of Neilah at the end of Yom Kippur when it is included in the service.(1) In Sephardi communities the Avinu Malkeinu is recited on Shabbat though parts of it are also omitted in honor of Shabbat.

The origin of the prayer is the two petitions mentioned in the Bavli Talmud and attributed to Rabi Akiva: “Our Father our Sovereign, we have no other king but you. Our Father our Sovereign, for your sake have compassion for us.”

Over the years several more petitions of Avinu Malkeiny were added to these two:
Avinu Malkeinu grant complete healing to the sick among Your people.
Avinu Malkeinu annul our harsh decree.
Avinu Malkeinu remember us favorably.
Avinu Malkeinu seal us in the book of a good life.
Avinu Malkeinu shower us with your blessings.
Avinu Malkeinu accept our prayer compassionately and willingly.
Avinu Malkeinu open the gates of heaven for our prayers.
Avinu Malkeinu may this hour be before you a time of compassion and favor.
Avinu Malkeinu have compassion for us, answer us, for we are short of deeds, deal with us charitably and kindly and redeem us.

(1) On Shabbat daily needs and wants – reflected in Avinu Malkeinu – are not mentioned due to the holiness of Shabbat and therefor  Avinu Malkeinu is not recited with the exception of Neilah, or recited with omissions when Yom Kippur is on Shabbat as is the case this year, 5775.

Translated from the Hebrew by Ayala Emmett
Some of the translations draw on Mahzor Lev Shalem