Hineini-Have You Said it Lately?
Rabbi Yaacov Haber
If you are called upon to make history – and accept the challenge upon yourself regardless of personal cost – the correct word to use while accepting is “Hineini”. In the Torah “Hineini” – I am ready - is a serious response. It follows a call to action, a call to fulfill an important mission, a call to enact a quantum event that will change the shape of the history of Jewish people and the world. “Hineini” means, ‘Whatever it takes I accept.’ Avraham said “Hineini” when asked to sacrifice his son. Moshe said “Hineini” at the burning bush when he agreed to his historic mission to free the Jews from Egypt . Jews have said “Hineini” throughout the generations, when called upon to perform heroic acts on behalf of G-d and our people.
In this week’s Parsha, we find what seems to be an overreaction. Yaacov sent his son Yosef to Shechem to see how his brothers were doing. Yosef heard his mandate and said “Hineini”. What turning point in history was Yosef anticipating? What sacrifice did Yosef realize was waiting for him that he answered “Hineini”?
Yaacov sent Yosef to Shechem to make peace. Yaacov knew well the animosity that the brothers had towards Yosef. For Yaakov’s sons to become the “Bnei Yisroel – the Jewish people”, there had to be peace. The peace initiative had to come from Yosef himself if it were to be effective and long lasting. This was a dangerous mission, but the historical process had to continue. Yaakov said, “Go make peace!” Yosef said ““Hineini”, I am ready!”
Let us look at the geography. Yaacov met Yosef in Chevron. Chevron was a city of peace. Its very name comes from the word Chaver, which means friend. It was the place where the eternal covenant of peace between the Jews and G-d took place. It was the place of the Meoras HaMachpela, where the Avos were eternally reunited with their wives and with each other. Later in Jewish history it would be the city in which King David made peace with Yehudah. From Chevron, Yaacov sent Yosef to Shechem which was a place of division. It was in Shechem that Dina was violated. It was in Shechem that Yaacov argued with his sons Shimon and Levi. It was there that finally Israel would be divided in two. The word Shechem in Hebrew implies division.
Yaacov sent Yosef from the city of peace to the place of division. The brothers themselves were not at peace. Each one of Yaakov’s sons, especially Yosef, was developing and coming into his own, which caused hate and jealousy. It was a fateful mission. In Shechem, the brothers overpowered Yosef, almost killed him and sold him away as a slave, sure that they would never hear from him again. Ultimately Yosef accomplished the task. In the end he brought all the brothers together, he made them stand together with one heart as one man. Yosef said “Hineini”, I must make peace,” and at the end he came through.
Has anyone said ““Hineini”” lately? America is at war and Israel is at war. Our kids are at risk, our brothers and sisters are being shot at and bombed! Our communities are fragmented. We have shiduchim problems and parnossa problems. Assimilation is at an all time high.
Most of us sit at the sidelines, observe and comment. It’s not good enough – we have to do something, we have to say “Hineini”! If there are kids that need help, come find out what you can do with a couple of hours a week. Make a connection with a terrorist victim in Israel that is being ignored. There is so much to do in your own Shul, from picking up a paintbrush to sitting on a committee. As the world is changing so drastically and quickly, we have to change. We have to change our priorities and our schedules. Just as much. Like Yosef, we can no longer avoid the issues, we must hit them head on. Like Yosef, each one of us has to consider what we can do, and say “Hineini” – I’m here and I’m ready – to do what ever needs to be done for G-d and His people; and like Yosef, we will succeed.
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