Hineni,, Here I am
The problem is especially acute when the task at hand has to be done immediately. The volunteer commitment cards which were distributed yesterday are intended to address that situation, and I hope that you have responded and will respond generously to that appeal.
On the one hand, I cultivate a cosmopolitan persona, and I frequently deflate Jewish pretensions of uniqueness, in part by noting the similarities or parallels between aspects of Jewish life and culture and that of other groups. All of those things notwithstanding, I believe that the life of the Jewish people, such as it is, is of great significance, and that the Jewish people must endure.
In my cosmopolitan mode, I would like to see cultural diversity endure, and so I may be interested in the preservation of Native American, Inuit, and Romany formerly called Gypsy cultures. So why not Jewish culture, too? However, my concern for the Jewish people goes beyond that level. In theological terms, I believe that God established a special relationship with Knesset Yisrael, the idealized, metaphysical, representation of the Jewish people.
Leaving theology aside and speaking informally, I care about Jews. I am glad when Jews do good things and when Jews do well, I am upset when Jews do bad things, and I am upset when Jews are in trouble.
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It has to do with personal presence. Today, I want to focus on the first half of that formula, which applies to all of us, not just to rabbis. Personal presence is tremendously important. Rabbi Kushner criticized those friends for trying to explain his misfortunes in conventional terms, in terms of things that he, Job, had done. However, he wrote, they did two good things: they came to sit with Job, and they listened to him speak. When we deal with other people, whether they are in distress or not, we must make our presence felt, we must listen, actively and sensitively, picking up the emotional overtones of the situation as well as the surface features, and react with empathy.
As I have learned from Rabbi Uzi Weingarten, giving advice, having an answer, if it has a place at all, comes later in the process. Further, I want to emphasize that, while there are techniques, which we can learn from books, in courses, or on the internet, for active listening and the like, the real need is not for technique but for a way of being. In general, when I speak about desirable personal qualities, I am preaching to myself as much as to anyone. One of the most egregious breaches of personal presence and attention is consulting a PDA while talking or listening to someone else, and I have been known to do that.
It will be a small step in a very good direction. I remember when I was much younger, in my 20's, and singing in coffee houses, where I would need to sing above the chatter of the audience, the clatter of dishes, and the sounds of the cappuccino machine— I remember how hard it was to get my heart behind my singing— I would look for the one person who was really listening, one person who might reflect back in his or her face understanding and appreciation, show that they were moved by my words and my music. It's this reflecting back that I need from you..
You have to say Hineni back to me; you have to be listening as intensely as I'm singing. This Hineni has to be a totally mutual, even as our inner experiences may be different.
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You cannot sit back or be distracted any more than I can. We're all on the line here. Hineni is a statement of a promise to begin something. What commitment might you be ready to make to yourself and to your community? Perhaps you don't know, but are you open to finding out? You are not alone. We have each other to lean on.
Here I Am - Hineni
Frankly, I am in awe of my own part in all this and you may ask, How did I even get here? In answer, I'd like to end with a story from my own childhood:. A cacophonous wailing of men's voices fills the synagogue. Dissonant and nasal, each man keeping to his own tempo and his own key, the sounds crescendo around the room and ricochet on up to the balcony where I stand with my mother. We turn and face the back wall and I hold myself rigid so that I don't accidentally turn and look.
It was said we'd be struck blind if we did. I wondered, did my two brothers sitting downstairs with my father, also have to close their eyes? I didn't know it was about blessing.
Here I Am – “Hineni”
It was just one more mystery that little girls weren't privy to. I let the sounds come up on me, enthralling and frightening, a sound that haunted my dreams, a sound I wanted to make but didn't know if I was allowed to. One year, when we were nine, I sat with the Cantor's daughter, Lily. It was Lily who initiated me into some of the tricks of the ultra-orthodox life-style: the light switches on timers, the pre-torn sheets of toilet paper. My own family like many post-holocaust refugee families was bound more by tradition than faith.
My parents attended this orthodox shul and sent us to a Yeshiva an orthodox day school because they wanted to be sure that we knew exactly what it was that we didn't believe in. Saturdays after services, we would drive down to the Lower East side to Delancey Street to do our discount shopping. As we passed our fellow congregants taking their Shabbat strolls along Riverside Drive, my brothers and I would hunch down in the back so as not to be seen.
Hineni: 'Here I am' and 'I am here' are different | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle
Slowly we turned our heads, and were mesmerized, frozen, but with our sight intact. Kurtz, Mechi's father; Mr. Frankel, Toolie's uncle; Mr.
Pollock; and in the corner Mr. Even now, so many years later, I still feel this gesture forbidden to me.
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So what a shock it was to see this holy configuration appropriated by Mr. Spock as the Vulcan salute on Star Trek! The men were swaying from side to side, rocking back and forth.