Hineini: What We Must Be Willing to Do
This is Part 2 in a series.
Hineini has been my mantra all year. Hineini is a Hebrew word used by some of the great prophets to respond to the Divine call. It’s literal meaning in English is “here I am,” but most scholars interpret it as a statement of availability or readiness. As I shared previously, I understand this word to convey a sense of willingness.
We may not always feel ready to answer the Divine call, and that’s ok. We don’t need to be ready. We just need to be willing.
The natural question is: “Willing to do what?
In the story of the Akeida, where God tests Abraham with the command to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis, 22), Abraham answers three different calls with hineini:
- God’s call to him — “Abraham” — before God instructs him to bring Isaac to the mountain.
- Isaac’s call to him — “Father?” — as they walk to the mountain.
- The angel’s call to him — “Abraham, Abraham” — just as Abraham raises the knife.
One of the guiding principles of the Torah, is that no word is wasted, so the use of hineini three times must be for a reason. As I read this story, each instance of hineini carries a different lesson for what we must be willing to do in relation to our Divine call — the calling to our life’s purpose.
Our willingness to do these three things is what keeps us aligned with our purpose and paves our path to a life of meaning, fulfillment and impact.
Hineini: Willing to …. what?
(1) Willing to Listen
The willingness to listen has two components.
(a) Create Space to Hear
First, we must be willing to listen for the call.
The Divine call does not always come with the piercing sound of the shofar or an intrusive ringtone. Instead, it speaks to us in a “still, small voice” — a voice we can hear only if we make space to listen to it.
To hear the call, we must be willing to pause from the pursuit of busy, to step back from the cacophony and chaos of daily life. We cannot hear the call of the Divine when we are racing from one meeting to the next, from one appointment to the next, when we are churning out content and snapping selfies and buried in our phones.
We must be willing to sit in the silence and stillness, and make space to listen.
In a world of FOMO and 24/7 connectivity, this is our first big test:
Are you willing to retreat to stillness and silence, to make space to listen?
(b) Be Present
Creating space in our day to listen won’t help us hear if we are preoccupied with other things. When we are lost in thought, or stewing in outrage, we cannot hear the still, small voice. To truly hear, we must be fully present — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
The literal translation of hineini is “here I am.” On the surface, this is a statement of physical location. But we can also understand it as a broader statement of location that encompasses all of our parts: mind, body, spirit and emotions.
It’s easy to be physically “here” but not really “here” at all. We might be worlds away: lost in daydreams, thoughts, or in the world of the screens in front of us.
How often are we physically in a place while the rest of us is off in another world? To use the language of mindfulness, we often are not present.
Hineini conveys a sense of Presence.
The first hineini says,
(2) Willing to Trust
Second, we must be willing to trust.
God instructed Abraham to take his son “to a place that I will show you” and Abraham complied. When Isaac asked him about the sacrifice, Abraham told him that God would show them what to do. They ventured, together, into the uncertainty, trusting that God would guide them.
God was testing Abraham’s faith — his willingness to trust. If God had given Abraham all the detail in advance, it wouldn’t have been much of a test.
For us, too, the Divine call is often cloaked in uncertainty and apparent conflict. We often don’t see the full picture.
When we hear the call, we may have many of the same questions that Abraham and Isaac had:
- Where, exactly, am I going?
- What do I do when I get there?
- How will this work?
We tend to want the answers before we start. But, usually we don’t have those answers. We learn from the second hineini the importance of trust.
The second hineini says,
(3) Willing to Act
Third, we must be willing to act.
Abraham’s third hineini came in response to the angel, who called his name twice — Abraham, Abrahan — reflecting two aspects of action we must be willing to take.
First, we must be willing to commit to the mission and task for which we are called, even when it appears that what we are being called to do is counter to our interest.
On the surface, God’s instruction to sacrifice Isaac made no sense. God had previously promised Abraham that He would create a great nation out of Abraham through Isaac. How would this serve the outcome?
That Abraham committed to the mission teaches us that we must commit, even when it appears that our calling is taking us in the opposite direction from our intended path. This goes back to trust: we must trust that we will see the bigger picture in time.
Second, we must be willing to sacrifice, or release, something that we have worked hard to build.
What ultimately proved Abraham’s faith in God was that he was willing to sacrifice the precious son for whom he had prayed for so long.
Creation Requires Destruction
One of the fundamental laws of nature is that all creation entails destruction. All creation is a process of removing what doesn’t fit, what doesn’t serve the desired outcome, or the other possibilities that might exist.
For a writer, for example, the skill to master is not writing, but editing: deciding what to omit from a piece.
Growth is a Process of Subtraction
Although many in the personal development world think growth is a function of “becoming more,” true growth is really a process of subtraction. We step into our truth by shedding the masks we wear, releasing limiting beliefs and mindsets and destroying the protective walls we build around ourselves.
As we hear the call to step into our purpose, we may be asked to sacrifice things which we worked hard to bring to this world, or that we hold most precious.
So often, we hesitate to let go of something we invested in creating — a business, a home, a way of life — because we don’t know how we will “get it back” or replave it. But it’s only by letting go that we can be open to receiving something better.
When we are holding on to what we have, our hands are not open to receive new gifts.
The third hineini says,
The Path to a Life of Greater Impact and Influence
Each of us is here for a purpose. We are called to play a specific part in the Divine orchestra of life. We may not feel ready to answer the call, but we must be willing.
Willing to cultivate presence to hear the call, and to listen.
Willing to trust.
Willing to act: to commit to our unique path and release that which no longer serves us.
In theory, these are three simple things. But none of these is easy. They all require a commitment to dedicated practice — the practice that takes us out of habits and into rituals.
A mindset of intentional living cultivated through rituals helps us expand our capabilities to listen, trust and act. This is the path to growth, to meaning and fulfillment, and to greater impact and influence.
When it comes to cultivating the skills to Listen, Trust and Act, where do you stand? Which one comes easiest to you? Which is hardest for you? I’d love to hear your responses, so please share in the comments.