Our foundational narrative of moving from slavery to freedom begins with waking up and becoming present. In this week’s Torah portion, Moses tends his sheep in the wilderness, and he notices a bush that is on fire but not being consumed.
The beginning of our liberation always starts with waking up.
This week’s Torah portion – Shemot – prefaces our people’s central story of the exodus from Egypt.
The work begins with a call that is answered with presence.
As he turns, a voice from inside the bush addresses him: Moshe Moshe (Moses Moses)!
It’s God, the Great Mystery, calling to him from within the bush.
His response rings throughout time, until today.
Moses replies Hineni.
In Hebrew, Hineni means:
I am here.
I am open.
The Etz Hayim commentary offers: “Hineni is the spontaneous, unhesitating response to a divine call.”
Upon responding Hineni, Moses is given his life purpose, even though when he says “I am here” he does not yet know the task he will be given. He says “yes” before the Divine gives him the humungous charge to free the people from slavery. (And to be fair, he then tried to get out of it..)
Even though he feels inadequate (Who me? Mi Anochi?) he listens. He is present.
Let’s talk about the Divine call.
The very first call we receive as human beings is in the Garden of Eden. Right after Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit, God calls out to them: “Where are you? Ayecka?”
This is not a question of “location.” Because of course, God knows where they are.
No, this is a deeper question:
Where ARE you?
Are you awake?
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz brings this question into our own present moment:
“The voice, in the garden is still reverberating throughout the world, and it is still heard, not always openly, or in full consciousness but nevertheless still heard in one way or another, in a person’s soul and [the person] may repeat to himself: Indeed, where am I?” (The Thirteenth Petaled Rose)
So we have one call that comes with a life purpose. And we have another voice simply asking us — where are you?
There is no better lesson for leading a mindful life.
Make no mistake: We are all being called. Every moment of every day.
Will we respond with Hineni?
I am present, aware, and awake.
My prayer is: May you have the ability to listen to the call that is reverberating in your life. May you carve out time each day to be silent and listen. May you have the courage to confront your insecurities so you can fulfill what you were put here to do. Choose to be with people who help you listen to the call, YOUR call. Figure out what helps you become awake. And may you participate in healing what is broken in our world.
Rabbi Jill Zimmerman
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