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When I was a kid, I learned very early on that when the teacher calls your name you raise your hand and say, “Here!”            

It’s a simple word and a simple action.  Raise your hand and say, “Here!”  It means – “I am present.”  It means “I care enough to show up.”            

In the Torah, the word “Hineni” or “Here I am,” shows up more than 20 times and each time it means that a person is about to be challenged.  When that person says “Hineni” it means he is not only present, but he is present and accounted for – prepared to give his very best.  Hineni means – life will test us and when the test unfolds before us, we must be prepared.            

Gen.Ch 22 – “And God put Abraham to the test and said to him, “Abraham?” And Abraham answered, “Hineni – Here I am.”  From that moment Abraham is confronted with his greatest test – take his son and sacrifice him to God – or not.            

It’s a complex story.  But one thing is straightforward.  Abraham showed up and confronted his challenge.  When life challenges you – show up.  The world seems to have figured out this past week that Islamic Fundamentalism is testing and jeopardizing every nation on earth.            

Three million Frenchmen showed up in Paris and they said, “Hineni – Here I am and I’m not afraid.”  This week the world showed up and said – we are all journalists.  We are all Jews and we will not live in fear.            

Presidents, Chancellors and Kings all showed up and walked the streets of Paris arm in arm.  Shall I tell you the lineup?  There they were – the Prime Minister of Britain, the Mayor of Paris, the Prime Minister of Israel, the President of Mali, the President of France, the Chancellor of Germany, the President of the Palestinian Authority and the King of Jordan.            

There they were, linked arm in arm – walking the streets of Paris while being embraced by 3 million Frenchmen.            

Three million people were, in unison, saying Hineni.  Here I am.  It was as if the world had finally, finally woken up to the challenges of Islamic terror.  It was as if everyone had finally gotten it – everyone except the government of the United States.

I watched the leaders of the world and I was mortified and embarrassed that not one official of the United States was in that front line – no President, Vice President or Secretary of State.  Each of them was MIA.  Not one of them was present.            

The greatest damage the world faces is that the greatest nation on earth does not know the meaning of the word Hineni.  


Rabbi Ira Rothstein