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Hineni- Here I Am

09/20/2020 11:48:32 AM


Lisa Schachter-Brooks

Ahhhh, deep breath, here we are. Hinenu

Here I am- hineni 


We have finally crossed the bridge that is the new year of 5781….and boy do we need a new year! .disappointed as we are to not be together in 3D, I am counting our blessings that at least we can gather this way, still in real life, still in person but think of it as 2D rather than 3D.


 in the tradition of our Rabbi Avi, I’d like to point out that 5781 is no insignificant number!  I saw the acronym for the Hebrew letters Tav Shin Pey Alef. (Tihiye, Shana Pakhot Aiyum) That is should be a  less terrible year. May we have reached the bottom and with the merit of our gathering, our prayer, our acts of goodness, our community connections, and our resilience, may we be cycling back towards goodness, towards balance, towards resilience, or at the very least towards less terrible.


The grandeur of the liturgy of Rosh Hashana creates for us a holy portal that allows us to shift our consciousness, to step into change, to renew ourselves, our outlook, our relationships, our habits. We are blessed with a tradition that brings us back to this same place every year; same but different, of course. The cycle of the year, a circle like the round challahs we eat on Rosh Hashana, goes around and around, each year moving through the same order of holy days, of fast days, of rituals, of months, of moons. And yet, each year/shana brings change as the meaning of the word shana indicates. Each year brings a different stage in the lifecycle, Maybe a birth. Maybe a wedding! Maybe a death as we have experienced so much of us this year -of course through the incredible loss of lives due to COVID but also in our community where there are tender hearts among us from the losses of this past year and even this past week.


Hopefully, we are never exactly the same stepping into this Rosh Hashana as we were the year before. We are circling around the year but we are spiraling through our lives...touching the same points, enter the same gateways, chanting the same prayers, maybe even eating the same foods and sending the same holiday wishes…..but every year we have changed- hopefully, we have made internal growth, or refined some aspect of our personalities or habits, or fine-tuned our relationships- but also each year our physical bodies change -our levels of health and wellness, of comfort and ease, of life circumstance, maybe of place or home or work.  We have never before sat in a Rosh Hashana service at this exact age that we are right now with all that this moment brings to the table. And Of course, most, if not all of us have never sat in a Rosh Hashana service on Zoom…We have cycled through this year- and what a year- at the same time that we are spiraling through our lifetimes.


And here we are. Hinenu.


Of course, we are always here. 


I am grateful for our tradition that gives us holy moments in which to pause, to reflect, to pinpoint where we are in this cycle, and in our own life spirals. .to locate ourselves and notice where here is.  And to remind us that our life paths (as individuals, as a community, as a country, as a People, and as a species) are not straight and linear- there are moments for course corrections… for teshuva, For returning, to more authentic versions of ourselves.


May we allow ourselves the gift to use these days of Awe for this deep introspection. To ask ourselves Where are We? And to find the answer Hineni

We are here.
We are always here.


Rosh Hashana is also Yom Ha’arat Olam- the Birth Day of the world!    

And this world that we are so blessed to call home is going through its own cycle and spiral-though of course the Earth’s spiral spans millions upon millions of years….though even 5781 would be a long spiral….and perhaps the changes on our planet are happening more rapidly than they have in the past much as a result of our own treatment of her.  So on the Earth’s birthday may we also consider where we are in our treatment of this planet,


This Earth, this gift from HaShem created out of the Tohu u’vohu….the emptiness and void, the chaos. In many ways, this pandemic has thrown us into chaos- physical more mundane chaos of needing to recreate the ways we get our groceries or educate our children and also the emptiness and void that so many people are feeling- of isolation and loneliness, of fear for our wellbeing and for the unknown of the future.  YET, so much creativity has emerged at this time as well. Finding new ways to stay connected and to celebrate life’s milestones, new creations of art and music, and crocheted toys. We are an adaptive species….We are able to change and we are able to thrive with change even if its not a change we would EVER choose.


I’m struck every Rosh Hashana when we read the story of the Akeda. In the midst of a joyous festival, we read one of the most heart-wrenching and somewhat puzzling stories of our tradition. Of course, this story became even more difficult to understand and relate to once I became a parent.  Abraham, our first ancestor, and forefather of our People is asked to take his son, his only son, the one that he loves and bring him as an offering on the mountain. (I don’t have time to digress on the point that Isaac was NOT Abraham’s only son but I had to mention it. That’s a whole different drash.)


HaShem calls Abraham’s name and he answers 

Hineni, here I am. 


I’m thinking of this story today, in the context of our current reality, I’m zooming out (no pun intended)  on the story and seeing the bigger picture.


 Avraham says Hineni 3 times.

Once when HaShem first calls his name and tells him the plan.

Once when Yitzhak, puzzled that they have all of the elements of a sacrifice- knife, fire- but no lamb to sacrifice 

And a third time when HaShem calls his names twice and then provides a ram to be slaughtered in place of his beloved son.


Each time, Avraham shows up. Whether or he likes the message or not, he is there, with his whole self, to read the situation, to listen, to move slowly but always forward. 


I think it makes sense to read this story today as a reminder that we do are constantly being called. During these holy days throughout this entire season which comes a crucial time in our history as human beings on this planet, we can choose to make time and space in our lives to hear that calling, to read the situation, to truly listen to what is being asked of us, to move slowly, deliberately but always forward.


I’d like to end by reading a poem by our dear poet friend, Bruce Silverman


Hineni:”Here I Am” 


is a koan. Your name is called, you don’t say

‘What?’ or who’s there?  You say “here I am!”

Where did that voice come from?


Hashem calls to Abraham moments before his

knife is about to make the dreadful sacrifice.

But does it not confound you how the sound of

 an angel’s voice can so transform a moment

 into paradise?


As for Moses, a voice calls his name and rather

then run from the sacred fire in the burning bush

his refrain is the same: “Here I am,” knowing his

fears and speaking woes, those nagging voices say

“who am I” to fly so high? Yet Moses goes.


I think Hashem is always calling and those derisive

voices beneath our skin must be some kind of 

stupor that we’re in, and I suspect that here I am

 is a divine reflex of some kind, a karmic infusion

 that over-rides the trivial fears of the mind.


To recognize that voice is a daunting proposition,

so be ready for the moment when your name rings out

beneath the desert sun, and you’re the chosen one to

pay attention to some open door of a new dimension.


The toughest test by far on the earth plain is daring to

be who you are and the final oral exam is to blurt

out “here I am.” 

Fri, September 17 2021 11 Tishrei 5782