Hineni/ Here I am is not a simple response in the Tanach, nor in our lives.
After the seventeen year old Joseph describes his dreams to his family that seem to predict his future rulership over them, he creates a deepening rift of hatred and envy in the family.
We read the following ”So his brothers envied him, but his father awaited the matter-Shamar et haDavar” “.(Genesis 37:11) Some translate the final part of the verse as ”but his father kept the saying (haDavar) in mind” – what then does the word haDavar actually mean or imply?
We see in Tanach (the Bible) that the word , haDavar, is used to describe a fragment of prophetic destiny. In the book of Jeremiah we read; “The word (haDavar) that came to Jeremiah from HaShem, ” ( Jeremiah 31:1). Or in Isaiah ”This is the word (haDavar) that HaShem spoke concerning Moab in time past”..(Isaiah 16:13)
Therefore, perhaps the words “but his father awaited the matter. (haDavar) ” implies that the matter he kept to himself was a memory of an old prophecy. Jacob understood that the dream of Joseph carried great spiritual meaning and therefore that the wheels of prophetic destiny had begun to turn.
It is then that we read ; “ And Israel said to Joseph, “Are your brothers not pasturing in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Hineni/ Here I am.”( Genesis 37:13) .
It is not Jacob who sends Joseph on his mission but “Israel”. The Meshech Chochma teaches that whenever the name “Yaacov” is used ,it is related to the physical reality of this individual and of his descendants. The name “ Israel “, on the other hand, relates to their spiritual destiny and purpose. Joseph responds with the important response “Hineni/ Here I am.
Hineni/ Here I am is not a simple response.
Throughout tanach we hear of such a response at important junctures in the voyage of Destiny and Divine providence.
Abraham is first called by G-d and he responds “Hineni” and so begins his prophetic mission( Genesis 22:1)
Jacob responds to a divine call with a “Hineni” (Genesis 31:11 ) and returns to his homeland and continues his mission.He does so again and begins his descent into Egypt (in Genesis 46:2)
Moses responds to the voice from the Burning Bush with a “Hineni” at the beginning of his mission of destiny (Exodus 3:4)
Samuel also begins his prophetic mission with such a response to God’s call of “Hineni” (1 Samuel 3:1-10).
We see it as well with the prophet Isaiah who responds with a “Hineni” when he experiences his vision of G-d’s celestial court and agrees to begin his mission(Isaiah 6:8).
Joseph’s soul heard the call of destiny even though his physical intellect did not or could not grasp its meaning. Joseph’s declaration of Hineni – was a stepping into his own personal and corporate destiny.
This may help to unravel another question. We read that “And Israel said to Joseph, “Are your brothers not pasturing in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” So he said to him, “Go now and see to your brothers’ welfare and the welfare of the flocks, and bring me back word.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem (Genesis 37:13-14)
Why does it seem that Jacob tells Joseph about his mission twice? First he says “Come, and I will send you to them” and then “Go now and see to your brothers’ welfare”?
Our existence in this world is multi-layered. The physical is intermixed with the spiritual and as a result all that happens in our lives and destinies moves forward on these multi-layered tracks. We sense a purpose and reason behind things that we choose and are sometimes unaware of other more lofty force moving our decisions forward.
The name “Israel is used to describe the spiritual , destiny focused message that is delivered to Joseph. Joseph responds with the declaration “Hineni”. Then the more mixed ( physical and spiritual) mission of “bring me back word.” Is then expressed by Joseph’s father..
This duality exists in all our lives. We sometimes live out our existence connected to our individual reality and connect to our Neshama Pratit (unique and individual aspect of our soul). Yet there is a spiritual subtext in our reality that is very active and passionate. It is our Neshama Clalit (the corporate aspect of our soul) that is fine tuned to that calling. Life and its “noise” just keeps getting in the way to hear that “still small voice”.The young men and women in our armed forces hear that call often, sometimes unconsciously.The courageous pioneers spread throughout the settlements in the biblical heartland, hear and even recognize it.The constant waves of new immigrants that come to this land are empowered by this call.
All that it takes to become fine tuned enough for such an awareness is to muster the courage to sincerely declare “Hineni”.
Here I am and I am ready.