Cantor Eyal Bitton shares a few thoughts on prayer and the parasha of the week.

Avinu Malkeinu: Protect Us and Our Homeland

2023-09-09 Parashat Nitzavim-Vayelech

The State of Israel, that sacred land where dreams and prayers intertwine, stands strong amidst a storm of threats that loom over its existence. As Jews scattered across the globe, we must acknowledge these perils and understand their profound implications for our brethren in Israel.

Palestinian groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and even the Palestinian Authority openly espouse a singular, chilling goal: the destruction of Israel. Their ideologies, steeped in extremism, brazenly deny the presence of Jews in the land that holds our shared heritage. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas himself has spewed words that dismiss our ancient connection to Israel, and has displayed an anti-Jewish viewpoint on multiple occasions in the form of Holocaust denial. To achieve their sinister aims, the proponents of destruction envision a path paved with ethnic cleansing and the horrifying potential of a genocide that would claim the lives of seven million Jews. 

Tragically, anti-Israel sentiment finds an unwelcome home in certain corridors of American and Western academia. These voices seek to paint Israel as a colonial-settler state, claiming that its destruction is a moral imperative, an act of corrective justice. Such skewed perspectives not only undermine the legitimacy of Israel but perpetuate a cycle of hostility that consumes reason and breeds enmity.

Equally disheartening is the ostracism faced by Jewish students who dare to embrace their connection to Israel. These brave souls, who yearn to express their heritage and proudly assert their identity, are unfairly branded as oppressors in an environment that stifles dialogue and selectively defines diversity. The marginalization of these students exemplifies the broader challenge of combating antisemitism and ensuring that Jewish voices, varied and vibrant, find a rightful place in our shared discourse.

In the face of these daunting threats, we must draw strength from the wellspring of our shared heritage, finding solace in the words of the Avinu Malkeinu prayer resonating through our prayer spaces on Yom Kippur.

Avinu Malkeinu – Our Father, our King! Annul the designs of those who hate us.
Our Father, our King! Thwart the plans of our enemies.
Our Father, our King! Rid us of every oppressor and adversary. 

This powerful prayer, echoing through centuries, reminds us that the challenges we face today are not unique but part of an ancient continuum. Throughout our storied history, we have stood firm, fortified by faith and resilience.

The echoes of Parashat Nitzavim-Vayelech resound with profound relevance. This parasha emphasizes our unity as the Jewish people, bound by an unbreakable covenant with God and inexorably linked to the land that beats with the pulse of our identity. Just as our ancestors forged a covenant, we, too, bear the weight of that sacred bond, tying us to our ancestral homeland, Israel.

As Jews, we bear the imprints of our collective history, from the dark days of exile to the agony of persecution. We understand, more deeply than most, the intrinsic value of a homeland—a sanctuary where our traditions flourish, our spirits soar, and our faith finds fertile ground. For it is in the Land of Israel, promised to our forefathers, that the tapestry of our religious and cultural heritage finds its most vibrant expression.

Recognizing the threats that Israel faces, and the implications they bear for Jews far and wide, is a solemn commitment to protect the safety, security, and well-being of our people.