“Avenu Malkenu,” classically associated with Rosh Hashanah, the Ten Days of Awe, and Yom Kippur, was originally an ancient Hebrew prayer for rains during a season of drought. At this time in history, a rabbi prayed for rain, and yet there was none. Then Rabbi Akiva, in the late first century or possibly early second century, prayed a similar prayer to the Avenu Malkenu in the Our Father, Our King format (referencing Isaiah 63:16 and Isaiah 33:22 respectively), and the Lord blessed these humble prayers and brought rains to the drought striken lands.
In modern times, this prayer, which may have had 44 verses originally, is integrated into many High Holy Day services, as well as other times of fasting after the Amidah (the main prayer) but before the reading of the Torah services.
The opening lines of each verse in the prayer can be translated as, “Our Father, Our King, be gracious with us and answer us, even though we have no [worthy] deeds; treat us with charity and kindness, and save us.”
Through its poetic entirety, the Avenu Malkenu aknowledges that our Father in Heaven is with us, is near to us always, loves and cares for us, but also solemnly recognizes His authority and soverignty as Lord and Creator.
Written by Erin Parfet