In Hebrew, one word can say so much. For instance, hineni. This seemingly simple phrase is understood as a powerful statement of a person’s state of mind. Literally, it is translated: “Here I am.” It is a statement first pronounced in the Torah by Abraham, and it underscores one of the essential differences between Adam and Abraham.
After Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, their relationship with God was based on fear. When God came to them in the Garden of Eden and called out, “Where are you?” Adam responded to God saying that they are hiding because they are ashamed that they are naked.
Similarly, while God communicated with Noah, Noah did not have a full relationship with God. God simply told him what to do, and he did it.
Abraham, on the other hand, had an active relationship with the Divine. When God informed him that Sodom was to be destroyed, Abraham challenged Him. So too, when God calls out to Abraham, Abraham answers, “Hineni” (Genesis 22:1). Let’s be honest, most of the time, when someone calls our name, the natural response is to say “yes,” or to ask “what?” Abraham, however, hears God call his name and immediately presents himself.
The declaration of hineni appears several other times in the Torah, and each time it is an affirmation that the person is ready to act. In fact, it is interesting to note that each of the patriarchs declares hineni at least once, as do Joseph and Moses. (The only other person quoted as saying hineni is Esau, in the context of fulfilling the one mitzvah for which he is given great credit – honoring his father.)
Hineni is about attitude. One can live a Jewish life passively, or one can grasp it, effectively declaring hineni! Here I am!
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