One of the most haunting melodies of the High Holy Day season is the one that wafts the prayer Avinu Malkeinu up to the rafters at my synagogue, Temple B'nai Brith, every year. The words are equally poignant. Taken literally, they ask God to answer our prayers and show us a grace we don't deserve, because our good deeds are nothing close to what they should be.
This year, I read the prayer against the grain. I know that aseh imanu tzdakah va-chesed means that we ask God to show justice and lovingkindness in God's dealings with us. I choose to read "with us" as meaning "through us." As John Kennedy once said, "Here on earth God's work must truly be our own." When we chanted Avinu Malkeinu, I prayed that we in this community become the agents of justice, and of kind and loving deeds, that we would normally think are too much for us to achieve. This poor world needs so much from us. It is so daunting sometimes. Let us find the strength to go on working for a better world.