A few weeks ago, when speaking about the theme, “A Question of Belief”, we looked at some of the tough questions in the book of Bereshit (Genesis) and how these questions may help us in our own walk with Yahweh. Questions like “Adam, where are you?” and “Am I my brother’s keeper?” At that time we calculated that there was an average of just under 3 questions per chapter in the book of Genesis and that one of the chapters within the Torah portion of that week (Gen 24) contained a relatively high number of between 7 and 9 questions, depending on which translation one was using. It is a well known fact that within the Hebrew culture, whenever a conversation takes place, it is unavoidable that many questions are going to be asked and, more often that not, a question will be answered with another question, in an effort to get to the bottom line of the issue under discussion. This past week I came across another very good example of the Jews’ love for questions in Leo Rosten’s book, “The Joys of Yiddish”. Two men, an Englishman (O’Neill) and a Jew (Pinsky), were talking about a fight between two well known boxers that took place somewhere. “Did you hear about the fight between Cooley and McGraw?” “How could I miss it?” said Pinsky. “Wasn’t it in front of my eyes?” “I didn’t know you were there” said O’Neill. “What then? Do you think I was in the White House?” “Whose fault was it: Cooley’s?” “Who else?” O’Neill sighed. “Pinsky, why do Jews answer every question with another question?” Pinsky pondered. “Why not?”
This week’s Torah portion includes another chapter, Genesis 37, that contains a relatively high number of between 7 and 9 questions, depending on which translation one is using. When looking at the various translations it basically boils down to 7 questions, because the same question occurs twice in verse 8: “Shall you indeed reign over us? Shall you indeed rule over us?” This, of course, is the question Joseph’s brothers asked him when he told them about his dream in which their grain sheaves bowed down before his sheaf, as slaves would bow down before their master. So, let’s say that this chapter contains seven questions, of which this is the first one. The extraordinary thing is that, at least in some translations, like Woord en Getuienis, there are also seven exclamation marks in this chapter! Some people might say: This is mere coincidence – exclamation marks and question marks were not included in the original texts – they were added by the translators according to their own understanding. Yes, that is true, but the fact is that we are not only finding a lot of question marks in Scriptures, we are also seeing a lot of exclamation marks – in some translations even more exclamation marks than question marks – when looking at Scriptures as a whole. Dictionaries are saying “An exclamation is a sound, word, or sentence that is spoken suddenly, loudly, or emphatically and that expresses emotions like excitement and admiration”. Sometimes we are getting stuck with all the questions in our minds. These questions may become a genuine stumbling block in our walk with Yahweh. We should not allow our questions to overshadow our excitement and our admiration for the WOW ASPECTS of the words and the works of Yahweh!
There are critical times in life when all of us will ask some serious questions like the one Reuben asked in Genesis 37:30 when he returned to the pit and was shocked to find out that Joseph wasn’t there any longer: “My brother is not here, where am I to go?” Let us take care, however, that when we are confused or fail to understand certain things and even when we are losing something or someone, in whatever sense of the word, that we don’t lose ourselves in the process. There is a Hebrew word, “hineini” that carries the meaning of “Here I am!” (often written with an exclamation mark). This word is not only used as an answer when someone is calling your name and wants you to do something for him or for her, like Joseph used it in Genesis 37:13 when his father wanted to send him to his brothers. When you are using this word, it is also an indication that you are in touch with reality, that you haven’t lost perspective and that you not only know WHERE you are, but also WHO you are – Here I am!.
Yosef (Joseph) got sidetracked with his dreams and his fascination about the fact that his dreams seemed to indicate that he was going to be a leader of his people, but when he was called back to reality and asked to take food to his brothers, he quickly answered “hineini” – “Here I am”! Four hundred years later, when the oppression under the Egyptians had been going on for a very long time and Mosheh (Moses) was confused about this and about the bush that he had discovered that just kept on burning, he did not hesitate when Yahweh called him from out of the burning bush and he answered “Hineini” – here I am! And two hundred years after that, when Shemuél (Samuel) was living in a time when the word of Yahweh was rare and no vision was breaking through, he immediately answered with “Hineini” (Here I am!) when Yahweh called him by night. Three hundred years later the prophet YeshaYahu (Isaiah) was called by Yahweh for the first time. YeshaYahu was overcome with fear and said: “Woe to me, for I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips – and my eyes have seen the Sovereign, Yahweh of hosts.” But when Yahweh said to him, “I have touched your lips; your crookedness is taken away, and your sin is covered” and asked him, “Whom shall I send, and who would go for Us”, this man who would become one of the greatest prophets of all times, could only say, “Hineini – Here I am!” Eight hundred years later, after the death and resurrection of Y’shua, when a certain Pharisee by the name of Shaúl was sowing havoc among the assemblies in Damascus, one of the believers living in Damascus by the name of ChananYah (or Ananias, meaning “The favour of Yahweh”) – a man who must have lived in constant fear for what may happen to himself and those close to him, answered “Hineini” (Here I am!) when Y’shua appeared to him in a vision and told him that Shaúl had received a similar vision and was expecting him in a house in the center of the town.
Maybe this word, Hineini, is a word that we need to use more often, throughout our daily lives. In times when we have lost track of where we had come from, the One who had called us, the works He had done in our lives, the promises we had received from Him and the unparalleled favour out of his hands (ChananYah!), we need to say to ourselves, and to Yahweh: Hineini – Here I am! I am not here by accident. I have not come this far on my own steam and by my own doing. I am here, simply because Yahweh took care of me and showed much patience and compassion and favour towards me. And when I use this word, Hineini (Here I am!), I am reminding myself that I need to be close to Him, before Him, at a place where I can hear his voice and where I can obey his commandments. If I am not HERE, but somewhere else, engaged in matters that draw me away from Yahweh and trying to find answers to questions that will probably always remain unanswered and have very little to do with the core message of Scriptures, I will never be able to become a vessel in his hands like Mosheh and Shemuél and YeshaYahu and Y’shua (Y’shua’s birth was announced with these words: Mat 1:23 “Behold – Hinei! – a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, Elohim with us).
Hineini – Here I am! – is a practical way of steering away from asking too many questions and progressing to a point where we regain our amazement and excitement about being a follower of Yahweh and a believer in his Son, Y’shua. Let us make a deliberate choice of focusing on the exclamations in Scriptures and the exclamation mark events in our lives! Here are just a few examples from the first 5 books of Scriptures.
Gen 49:18 I have waited for your deliverance, O Yahweh!
Ex 15:1 I sing to Yahweh, for He is highly exalted! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!
Lev 10:3 This is what Yahweh spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me let Me be set-apart! And before all the people let Me be esteemed!’ And Aharon was silent.
Num 11:23 And Yahweh said to Mosheh, “Is the arm of Yahweh too short? Now see whether My word meets you or not!”
Deut 6:4 “Hear, O Yisrael: Yahweh is our Elohim, Yahweh is one!
And if we are still full of doubt and hesitance whether we can just stand up before the Almighty and boldly say “Hineini”, let us remind ourselves of the absolute willingness of our Master, Y’shua, to subject Himself to his Father’s will (“nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done”) and even the unheard of fact that Yahweh Himself often does not hesitate to use the word “hineini” to demonstrate his loyalty to his followers and his commitment to be their Helper and their Saviour, as may clearly be seen in YeshaYahu 65:1-2 and 23-24 “I have let Myself be inquired of, not by those who asked; I was found, not by those who sought Me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ (hineini, hineini) to a nation not calling on My Name. I have held out My hands all day long to a stubborn people, who walk in a way that is not good, after their own thoughts … They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble. For they are the seed of the blessed of Yahweh and their offspring with them. And it shall be that before they call, I answer. And while they are still speaking, I hear.”