A Prayer for the 2016 Election

Avinu Malkeinu / אבינו מלכנו

The gates will close
on November 8.
And we will be written in the book.
Someone is going to win the American presidential election,
and then, the gates of this particular election season will be closed for good.
You can’t get more Yom Hadin, Day of Judgment,
than November 8, 2016.
The outcome of that day will shape the world in ways
that we cannot even fathom right now.

Whatever we believe about the traditional imagery
of the Book of Life,
at this season,
we are acutely aware of our responsibility —
for writing our own fates,
for deciding the future of this country,
the future of its citizens,
and in no small measure,
the future of citizens in countries around the world.
If you think the stakes are anything less than that, you have been asleep.

As a nonprofit, our Jewish Community of Greater Stowe
neither opposes nor endorses specific candidates.
But in such a moment of import,
There is still much we can do.
I, like many of our members, am a Canadian.
I cannot even vote in this country.
But this election goes well beyond borders of the U.S.,
The impact is larger than this one nation alone.
No matter your citizenship,
there is still much that each of us can do.

As the gates close this Yom Kippur,
on this most holy and awesome eve of Kol Nidrei,
there is still time to do teshuvah,
to return to acting on our highest values;
to return to making an impact where we can.
Please G-d,
help us carry the awareness we hold today
into the coming weeks
until November 8, and beyond.
Help us to remember that we are accountable.

Tonight, I offer the prayer of my own heart,
shaped by the words of our ancient Yom Kippur liturgy.
Avinu Malkeinu speaks in the plural of our collective accountability.
We will conclude with that prayer,
and a moment of silence,
in which I will invite each of you to offer
the prayer that is in your own heart.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ! פְּתַח שַׁעֲרֵי שָׁמַיִם לִתְפִלָתֵנוּ
Avinu Malkeinu, Open the gates of heaven to our prayers.
Many of us have awoken to the need for prayer in this time.
May You, God, awaken to the prayers we offer.
Help our prayers rise up in this time of great turmoil.
Hear our prayers.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ! חָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ
Avinu Malkeinu, we have sinned against You.
We have lost our way,
Drifted far from our own ideals.
We have lost our sense of agency and accountability.
Something is terribly wrong when so few voters in this country
help pick the candidates for the most powerful person on earth.
Return us to our deepest values.
Remind us of our power, and our responsibility,
to protect that which we hold most precious.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ! כָּתְבֵנוּ בְּסֵפֶר סְלִיחָה וּמְחִילָה
Avinu Malkeinu, write us in the Book of Forgiveness and Pardon.

Grant us forgiveness for the ways
we have lost our civility and sense of decency.
Help us create a well-informed and thoughtful public voice.
Guide us towards truth telling, not politicking and persistent lies.
Help move us beyond the pervasive sensationalism of our media
and the one-dimensional obsession with political personalities.
Even in our passion and protest,
make our strength non-violent and respectful.
For those of us who have been on the front lines of this election,
embolden us and help keep us both courageous and kind.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ! סְלַח וּמְחַל לְכָל עֲוֹנוֹתֵינוּ
Avinu Malkeinu, forgive and pardon all of our sins.
We, who have been sitting on the couch,
checking our smart phones on social media,
watching the poll numbers flicker up and down —
please move us beyond our own stunned inaction,
our incredulity, our apathy or our simple lack of engagement.
Weave us all together in the notion that an active, engaged democracy
is not just a distant ideal but a reality we can strive for.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ! כַּלֵּה דֶּבֶר וְחֶרֶב וְרָעָב וּשְׁבִי וּמַשְׁחִית וְעָוֹן וּשְׁמַד מִבְּנֵי בְרִיתֶךָ
Avinu Malkeinu, rid this country and our world
of disease, war, hunger, captivity, destruction, sin, and waste.
Help us cross the seemingly impossible divides among our people.
Help us overcome the seemingly insurmountable hurdles that stand before us.
This election has cast a blinding light on these realities:
Global warming, mass incarceration,
a broken political system, big money in politics,
structural racism, endemic poverty, ISIS and terrorism,
Israel’s relationship to the world, the refugee crisis, immigration,
a livable wage, treatment of Native lands,
paid sick and parental leave, and so much more.
Illuminate for us the ways in which we ourselves
have caused pain and suffering towards our own citizens,
to the strangers among us, and to citizens around the world.
Grant us the wisdom to work together,
to find the opportunities that call out to us from places of despair,
and to choose life.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ! כַּלֵּה כָּל צַר וּמַשְׂטִִין מֵעָלֵינוּ
Avinu Malkeinu, rid us of every oppressor and adversary.
Forgive us for not taking the sexist, homophobic, Xenophobic,
bigoted, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim,
and racist comments of this election more seriously.
Please soften our hearts, open our minds,
to the stranger, to the widow, to the orphan —
to the most vulnerable among us.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ! כָּתְבֵנו בְּסֵפֶר פַּרְנָסָה וְכַלְכָּלָה
Avinu Malkeinu, write us in the book of economic prosperity and sustenance.

Mahatma Ghandi said:
“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”
Yet, we have swapped our own values:
Instead of relieving the poor, we have burdened them.
Instead of expecting the rich to support our society,
we have relieved them of their duty to others.
In the words of our Yom Kippur Haftarah:
“Share your bread with the hungry.
Bring the poor, the outcasts, to your house…
(for) they are your flesh and blood!”
G-d of Sustenance,
guide us toward policies
that provide for all in need and treat all with equal dignity and respect.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ! הָפֵר עֲצַת אוֹיְבֵינוּ
Avinu Malkeinu, frustrate the plottings of our adversaries.
In the words of former Prime Minister and President of Israel,
Shimon Peres z”l:
“When you have two alternatives,
the first thing you have to do is to look
for the third that you didn’t think about,
that doesn’t exist”.
Please G-d, guide us in the ways of global affairs.
Lead us towards the middle way.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ! אֵין לָנוּ מֶלֶךְ אֶלָּא אָתָּה
Avinu Malkeinu, we have no Greater Force than You.
No one of us alone can fix the problems of today.
Thus, may this democracy be ever more profoundly democratic,
mirroring the interdependence of Your Being.
Let the power of the people be reflected
in the Congress, the Judiciary and the White House.
Help us protect humanity’s most sacred values
as we talk politics among friends and community members,
as we help register voters and drive people to the polls,
getting others involved in the pressing issues of our day.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ! עֲשֵׂה לְמַעַן שִׁמְךָ הַגָּדוֹל, הַגִּבּוֹר וְהַנוֹרָא שֶׁנִקְרָא עָלֵינוּ
Avinu Malkeinu, do this for Your great name,
Great and Awesome One who beckons us.
Help us be humbled by the greatness of Your universe,
to see this land and its people
as a small piece in a greater cosmic puzzle,
to seek not the greatness of any one person or nation,
but Your greatness alone.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ! זָכוֹר כִּי עָפָר אֲנָחְנוּ
Avinu Malkeinu, Remember that we are but dust.
Yet, help us not be so humble that we have lost sight
of the fact that we are partners with You
in creating a better world.
Grant us the power that remains in our hands.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ! כָּתְבֵנוּ בְּסֵפֶר גְאֻלָּה וִישׁוּעָה
Avinu Malkeinu, write us in the Book of Redemption and Salvation.
Move us beyond fear, and towards hope.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ! חַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ שָׁנָה טוֹבָה
Avinu Malkeinu, renew for us a good year.
Remind us that none of us is too old,
too tired, too cynical, or too flawed
to taste the sweetness of joy and possibility
on this day and in the coming year.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ! הַחֲזִירֵנוּ בִּתְשׁוּבָה שְׁלֵמָה לְפָנֶיךָ
Avinu Malkeinu, return us with a complete turning to You,
to each other
to our deepest values
and to our highest selves.

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ! חֲמוֹל עָלֵינוּ וְעַל עוֹלָלֵנוּ וְטַפֵּנוּ
Avinu Malkeinu, have compassion on us, our infants and our children.
Let us see clearly the impact
that our choices will have on future generations.
Help us act on their behalf.

I would now like to welcome everyone into a moment of silence,
in which I invite each of you
to hear the prayer that is in your own heart.
What stirs in your heart because of this election?
Where do you feel most accountable?
What more might you do?


אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ! חָנֵּנוּ וַעֲנֵנוּ, כִּי אֵין בָּנוּ מַעֲשִׂים, עֲשֵׂה עִמָּנוּ צְדָקָה וָחֶסֶד וְהוֹשִׁיעֵנוּ
Avinu Malkeinu, have mercy on us, answer us! for our deeds are insufficient;
deal with us with Your righteousness and compassion; G-d redeem us!
Teach us Your righteousness and justice,
Your compassion and kindness,
so that our work may rest on these values.

This day “will come to an end; soon the sun will set;
Let us come into Your gates…” (Neilah)
Guide us in these next days towards Your ideals and ours.
Clear our minds, and help us find discerning hearts.
There is still time for us to do the necessary teshuvah
to return our society and our people towards You.
Please G-d,
help us to carry the awareness we hold today
into the coming weeks until November 8, and beyond.
Help us to remember that we are accountable.

And open for us the gates of perseverance,
of resilience, and of patience;
for when the gates have closed,
and the victor has been chosen,
we are going to have to be at our best,
for the way ahead remains long and arduous.

Gmar Chatima Tova
“Seal us in the Book of Life for blessing…”,
for this year of 5777, for this 2016.