Rabbi Lawrence a. Hoffman, editor
Jewish Lights Publishing
PO Box 237, Woodstock, VT 05091
9781580238175, $27.99, 336pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Naming God: Avinu Malkeinu, Our Father, Our King" is an illuminating in-depth exploration of the complexities (and perhaps audacity) of naming the unnameable. One of the oldest and most beloved prayers known even to Jews who rarely attend synagogue is Avinu Malkeinu ("Our Father, Our King"), a liturgical staple for the entire High Holy Day period. "Our Father, Our King" has resonance also for Christians, whose Lord's Prayer begins "Our Father".
Despite its popularity, Avinu Malkeinu causes great debate because of the difficulties in thinking of God as father and king. Americans no longer relate positively to images of royalty; victims of parental abuse note the problem of assuming a benevolent father; and feminists have long objected to masculine language for God. Through a series of lively introductions and commentaries, almost forty erudite contributors ranging from scholars and rabbis, to artists and thinkers from all Jewish denominations and from around the world, wrestling with this linguistic and spiritual conundrum, asking, "How do we name God altogether, without recourse to imagery that defies belief?"
Critique: An impressive body of independent scholarship compiled and edited by Rabbi Lawrence a. Hoffman (has served for more than three decades as professor of liturgy at Hebrew Union College--Jewish Institute of Religion in New York), "Naming God: Avinu Malkeinu, Our Father, Our King" is a highly recommended and core addition to academic library Judaic Studies reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Naming God" is also available in a Kindle edition ($20.64).
Willis M. Buhle