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Tradition & Innovation

Hineini for the Individual

dark misty forest with clearing where person walks far in the distance into misty grayish landscape

It is tradition for the shaliakh tzibur, the prayer leader, to recite a personal prayer called Hineini (based on the famous biblical phrase, “Hineini,” “Here I am”) in front of the entire congregation before beginning the Musaf service on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The prayer expresses a leader’s sense of unworthiness in leading a community in prayer during the High Holy Days such that God would be moved by their prayers for forgiveness. They ask that their supplication be accepted “as if it were uttered by one worthy of this task.” I’ve always loved singing Hineini when leading services, but I wanted one of my own for the times when I’m not. I also wanted to rewrite it to express some of the self-worth this prayer actually conveys for those who dabble too much in self-doubt. This poem/prayer can be used by individuals during a formal prayer service or as a way to enter into the yamim nora’im, the Days of Awe, in general. 

Hineini for the Individual
 
Hineini, here I am, entering this season of teshuvah once again, 
Remembering that I can still change my ways, 
And disrupt the long-held patterns 
That frustrate me and hold me back. 
 
I know I have struggled with changing before, 
So I feel intimidated, unsure of my ability
To succeed at the daunting task of thinking and acting
Even a little differently. 
 
I know I am lacking in merit and deed, 
And I tremble as these sacred days of judgment approach.
 
I don’t mind this feeling—it’s humbling to be humbled. 
It’s healthy to feel unfit in the face of something greater,
So we can look at our core and know who we really are. 
 
But, just while admitting how unworthy I feel, 
I hear this prayer inviting me in anyway:
Hineini. Here I Am. 
 
If the prayer leader can say this and then go on to pray, 
So can I. 
 
By showing up, I express my worth. 
Why shouldn’t I be the one standing on the cusp of a new year, 
Asking to be forgiven and encouraged to keep going?
 
After all, 
Why not me? 
Why not me?
 
Hineini.

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