Hineni: “I am ready” and “I am prepared
Shalom! I am so happy to be starting my third year serving BJEP as your Director.
As you might expect, the start of school and High Holiday preparations are always daunting for a Jewish professional and no prayer brings that point home more than the Hineni (הִנֵנִי), which reflects on the ability to pray with humility and sincerity, while fearing that one is unworthy of the task. Hineni ִmeans much more than just the perfunctory “here” some of us may remember from attendance in school. Rather, Hineni ִis “I am ready” or “I am prepared” or, more liberally, “I am present and paying close attention to what is being asked of me.”
In the Torah, Hineni appears eight times, including three times when the phrase is spoken by Abraham during the story of the binding of Isaac – the Akedah – which is traditionally read on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. First, God speaks to Abraham and tells him to take his son, Isaac, to the mountain and to offer him as a sacrifice. Then Isaac, seeing the fire and the wood, asks Abraham where the ram is for the altar. Finally, the angel of God calls to Abraham at the critical climax of the story and prevents him from completing the act. Abraham’s Hineni ִbecomes increasingly important as each occurrence represents an inflection point in the narrative, moments of decision requiring action. Abraham’s Hineni moments ask him to see what is unfolding around him because he is not really ready to confront it.
When Moses is called by God from the Burning Bush, he also says “Hineni.” This is more of the feeling invoked in me by the High Holidays. Although Moses demurs when first asked to serve because he’s not sure he’s worthy, Moses then takes on the mantle of leadership with a sense of responsibility and awe. Similarly, I feel humbled and honored by the opportunity to take on the role of leading the BJEP community. Truth be told, I’m always a little bit nervous about the start of a new school year and want to make sure that I am as prepared as possible. Perhaps all of us, as we approach this season, whether it is our first time in a new place or something more familiar, can explore what a new year means together.
Rabbi Steven Pik-Nathan in his D’var entitled “On Being Ready” writes, “May we each have the courage to say “Hineni” when we are called – no matter how afraid we might still be. And may we each eventually see ourselves as part of something greater than ourselves, something that is meant to improve us and the world around us.” I appreciate the opportunity to serve the BJEP community and am grateful to be your Director. Thank you for the trust you place in me to do this sacred work – Hineni!
From my family – my husband, Steve and our children, Corey and Jordan – to yours, may you have a year full of blessings.
Shana tova u’metukah / may you have a good and sweet year,
Cantor Jeri Robins