We spent last weekend in Rhode Island on retreat with some other members of our synagogue. The opening session after Friday night’s services was an icebreaker based on the word hineini, which appears 14 times in the Torah. Hineini (pronounced hee-NAY-nee) means, “Here I am.” It’s what Abraham said when G-d called to him, and what Esau said to his father when called to his deathbed, and what Jacob said when G-d called to him at night and pledged to go down with him to Egypt.
In this context, hineini is a word that implies a full-on, all-encompassing alignment, a sense of being exactly where one needs to be, with every molecule and breath where it belongs. In the rush-rush world, there are few of us who are in touch with our own hineini potential on a moment-to-moment basis, but I think we all have experienced individual moments or events that possess that quality.
At the retreat, we talked about hineini moments in our own lives, moments when we felt clarity, certainty, presence — either a divine presence or our own presence to ourselves. The moments I chose to talk about were (surprise surprise) the births of my sons.
With the second birth, I was not only feeling my own clarity and presence, I was granted the gift of someone else’s willingness to say, “Hineini,” for me. Of course I am talking about Stephanie, whose loving calm during that intense and stressful day gave me and Bill the space we needed to focus on Gideon’s birth, knowing that Akiva was safe, happy, and well-loved. In a time when I could have been acutely divided, Stephanie gave me the chance to be whole and present for the birth of my second child, a gift for which I am still grateful, and will always be.
If you care to comment, I’d love to know about your hineini moments. Have you been the giver? The receiver? What did it feel like?