by Melanie Gruenwald
According to the Torah reading over Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year)- Abraham is called on by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham’s response to God is “Hineni,” or in English, “I am here.” And when Isaac calls to his father to understand what is happening, Abraham responds again, “Hineni.” God’s angels call to Abraham to stop the sacrifice of his son- “Abraham, Abraham” and Abraham replies- “Hineni. I am here.”
Hineni is more than a physical showing-up. It is a full-on, spiritual, physical, intentional showing- up. What does it mean to show up fully, to say Hineni?
Hineni is eye-contact. Vulnerability. Active listening. And leaning into the maybe.
Hineni can be uncomfortable and unsettling. It can be striking up a conversation with a complete stranger. Hineni might mean taking ‘the path less travelled.’ Hineni means authenticity, masks (for safety), vaccines, calculating risk versus reward, and caring for complete strangers. It means looking away from our phones when in the presence of others, and not walking across the street (or driving!) with our face in a screen. Hineni, I am here.
Hineni means self-awareness and self-care. Hineni means showing up for ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities—even when it is not convenient. It means recognizing our core values, and checking if our actions- and our inactions- reflect the strength of our values.
I’m reading a book right now, called The Gift of Maybe, by Allison Carmen. One of the lessons that I am taking from this book- is not fearing what can go wrong, but imagining what possibly can go right. Rather than thinking something has to go the way I envisioned it, I can explore the possibilities when life takes a different path. Rather than feeling stuck when life throws me challenges, I see there is hope in uncertainty. Rather than looking away when I see someone that makes me uncomfortable- I can look at them in the eyes and ask if they’re doing okay at this moment. Hineni.
What is the power of Hineni?
Hineni is a moment of standing tall and stating our full presence. Hineni signals “I’m all in.”
In the Yom Kippur liturgy, the cantor sings a prayer called Hineni. S/he states his/her readiness to pray to God on the congregation’s behalf. You might also be familiar with Leonard Cohen’s song, You want it Darker, released 19 days before his death in November of 2016, where he sings “Hineni, hineni…. I’m ready, my Lord”.
What does it mean to stand ready? What is Hineni in this ever-changing world of an endless pandemic, wars ending, women’s rights being taken away, the environment being destroyed, kids without access to education, more and more people without homes, food insecurity, and ongoing uncertainty?
My hope for each of us, is that we learn to stand and say Hineni to ourselves, to one another, our communities and to all living things.
Hineni, I am here for you. Hineni, I have time to talk, and to really listen. Hineni, I can make time to take action in this broken world that needs tending to. Hineni, I can make time to sit, reflect, breathe, and not always be doing.
How will you show up this year?
How will you say Hineni?