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D'var Torah - Avinu Malkeinu

The Upper School celebrates Kabbalat Shabbat (welcoming in/receiving Shabbat) as a campus every Friday morning. The community gathering includes a D'var Torah (talk about the week's Torah portion) and a performance by students from across the grades. Dr. Eytan Apter, History Teacher and Israel Engagement Coordinator, delivered the D'var Torah on Friday, September 29.

Beginning on Rosh Hashanah and throughout the עשרת ימי תשובה, we say the Avinu Malkeinu, the liturgical poem that proclaims that God is our father, God is our King. This past Rosh Hashanah, I began to look at the lines of the Avinu Malkeinu, and I was struck by something interesting: there seems to be a lot of redundancy.

Avinu Malkeinu: Our Father, Our King

- nullify the plans of those who hate us

- Thwart the counsel of our enemies

- Rid us of every oppressor and adversary

- Close the mouths of our adversaries and accusers

In the effort to shave some minutes off of the long Rosh Hashanah service, I thought that we could just combine these four lines into one: as the theme appears to be the same: get rid of those who aim to do us harm. But as I continued to stare at these four lines, I realized that while similar, we were not saying the same thing.

Of the four lines, the word "אובינו" , our enemies, is only used once: 'thwart the counsel of our enemies.' For the Jewish people, Who is our worst enemy today? Anti-Semites? Terrorists? Iran? But if the adage is true, then you are your worst enemy.

Sitting throughout Rosh Hashanah, I realized that I truly am my own worst enemy, and I am sure that many of you feel the same way [not that I, Dr. Apter, am your worst enemy, although I do acknowledge that at points I may have made some you feel that way, and for that, I apologize, but that you too are your own worst enemy]. This past year, I have failed to take the risks I know I should take, I have opened my mouth when I knew I should have remained silent, I refused to accept new people into my life even though I knew I should have, and I have judged people wrongly despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And I have suffered for those things by missing out on great opportunities, alienating people and limiting my circle of friends. Don't get me wrong, over the past year I have made more good decisions than bad, but like you, there were some occasions in which I was my worst enemy. And for some of you, those occasions may be more frequent.

On Yom Kippur, we usually have the opportunity to say Avinu Malkeinu several times throughout the day, but because it is Shabbat, our only time this year will be during Ne'ilah, the final service of the holy day. At Ne'ilah, we open our mouths and hearts, asking for forgiveness and aiming to change our ways. This year, when we get to Avinu Malkeinu, only moments away from the Shofar blast, I will say: Avinu Malkeinu, הפר עצת אויבינו, thwart the counsel of my enemies, and this year, I truly hope that I will cease to be my worst enemy.

I wish everyone a G'mar Hatimah Tovah, and meaningful Yom Kippur and a productive and enriching year in which your own counsel allows you to reach new heights and chart new paths for yourself.

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