Rabbi Hershel Schachter, one of the leading U.S. orthodox rabbis and a rosh yeshiva (dean) at Yeshiva University in Manhattan, called on Oct. 12 for synagogues to recite two somber prayers on Shabbat that would typically be seen as out of line with the joyful nature of the Day of Rest.
Under normal circumstances, Orthodox synagogues would not recite “Avinu Malkeinu” (“Our Father, Our King”) on Oct. 14 because it is Shabbat. And since the new month (Cheshvan) is blessed on that Shabbat, congregations would omit a prayer called “Av Harachamim” (“Father of Mercy”).
But as Israel faces a “grave war,” and with shocking news developments reported daily, Schachter ruled that “Avinu Malkeinu” should be recited publicly during the morning (Shacharit) and afternoon (Mincha) prayers, even on more joyful days when it would not be recited and even on Shabbat. (The letter was written in Hebrew with some Aramaic.)
Av Harachamim should be recited on Oct. 14 despite it typically being omitted on a Shabbat during which the new month is blessed, the rabbi wrote, due to the “terrible pogrom, in which more than 1,000 Jews were killed the prior Shabbat.”
Schachter has been sharing responsa since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “As one of the most recognized Torah leaders in the world, he felt it was necessary to issue halachic rulings during times of crisis directly to the community,” Bashevkin told JNS, referring to the Hebrew word for Jewish law. “His rulings are disseminated by his students through rabbinic communities. They are meant to be shared.”
“Avinu Malkeinu,” Bashevkin said, “is a prayer where we address God in times of crisis appealing to God as both king and father—His kingship and mercy.”