Hineni in Our Lives by Norman J. Cohen
I read, for the second time, the first 2 chapters of this book and came away annoyed and perhaps mad.
The moral and practical takeaways of the midrashim are fabulous. I like the idea of hineni. Maybe in our sacred community that is what we should be saying when someone wants to talk to us. “Hineni”, then with full attention turn your body to the person and listen and engage – remove all else and focus on that person. Maybe just start at home and do it with our spouse and children. This is something I would like to try and practice.
However … The rationalization of the binding of Issac in this book I am not going to practice or repeat.
The analysis is infuriating. The analysis makes the binding of Isaac story apologetic. That somehow it is OK from a moral standpoint to take your kid up to the mountain to sacrifice him. The analysis does not do much with the problem it just twists it to a solution for today. So I learn that “hineni” is important with our loved ones and in relationships. Abraham says hineni to G-d then to his son and that is all good for the takeaway.
However, if you are going down this path and trying to map this to today’s world there is a big elephant in the room that is not being acknowledged. If you were to hear the voice of G-d and bring your son to sacrifice – it is not a personal sacrifice – it is insanity (we are not biblical heroes). The leap from taking what Abraham does and rationalizing beyond the the story in which we should struggle with is very difficult.
It does not matter in the morals of today or those in past. If you hear G-d’s voice and want to kill your child there is a much larger relationship issue you need to work with. Rationalizing the story for this relationship takeaway is morally infuriating for me. The midrash should have stopped with the first hineni, bringing the second hineni (I am here, my son) into the midrash overshadows the point being made.