There was something a bit disturbing about watching Barbra Streisand serenade Shimon Peres at his 90th birthday party with a rendition of “Avinu Malkeinu.” Avinu Malkenu, our father our king, refers to God. Was Barbra Streisand trying to say something?
We say, or sing, this prayer during the Ten Days of Repentance that begin on Rosh Hashana and end on Yom Kippur as well as on fast days. Interestingly, it is not said on Shabbat because it is a supplication to God which is not considered appropriate for the Sabbath. In it we ask God to cancel bad decrees that have been made against us, bring us closer to repentance, to list us in the book of deeds (or credits) and to respond and console us and give us charity and salvation among other things. Singing this prayer, or any variation of it, at a celebration was inappropriate to say the least.
What could any of this possibly have to do with Shimon Peres’ birthday? Is he a God like figure who has brought or is bringing about our salvation through his righteousness and selflessness? Barbra Streisand was raised in a religious community and as a child studied at a Beis Yaakov – an orthodox girls’ school – in Brooklyn but is not herself an observer of the commandments. Perhaps she was attempting to make a statement as a secular Jew against looking to God for salvation and instead putting our faith in Great Men like Peres? Or maybe she was just clueless and only cared about what would sound good to the audience – most of whom being secular would not know anything about Avinu Malkenu – and make her look good.
But then again it may be that she was calling out to God. Perhaps she was calling to God to help all the Israelis with no cable who had nothing else to watch that night but Peres’ birthday party because all three Israeli broadcast channels broadcast the party live.
On that note, who made that decision? Have individual Israelis lost their right to dislike Peres. Do we praise Peres simply because he refused to ever go away? Plenty has been written in recent days to remind people that Israel’s president is far from perfect, but here are a few examples: The Stinking Maneuver. Not stepping aside when he was already close to eighty when Ehud Barak won the elections in 1999. Trying to buy votes with favors after getting only 60 votes in the Knesset – 61 were needed to win – in the first ballot for President in 2000 only to not win but actually lose four votes in the second round to the winner Moshe Katsav. Clinging to the Labor leadership after Barak was defeated by Ariel Sharon in 2001. Jumping ship from Labor in 2005 because the new generation no longer recognized their obligation to be in awe of his greatness and joining Ariel Sharon in the new Kadimah party. Etc.
Maybe we all needed to watch nothing but the birthday celebrations and pretend that our President has always been perfect if even for just one night because, after all, he is Our Father, Our King.