Balancing the scales
This week's portion: asymptote

Hineni: Here I Stand

During the Musaf (additional) service on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it's traditional to recite a prayer called Hineni, "Here I stand." It's an outpouring of hopes written by an anonymous medieval cantor, and I find it tremendously powerful. (Here's a translation of the traditional text, with some commentary.) This prayer is traditionally sung not with, or to, but for the congregation by the cantor, hazzan, or shaliach tzibbur (lit. "messenger of the community" -- the community's representative before God, e.g. the person leading prayer.)

This year I'll be reciting it on behalf of a community for the first time. I'll be chanting the traditional Hebrew text, but as a way of getting inside it and taking its message to heart, I wrote something (a prayer / a poem) which presents its themes and ideas in my own words and metaphors. This is not a translation -- rather an interpretation. I offer it for anyone else who's davening Hineni this Yom Kippur. Feel free to use it in whatever way is meaningful for you.


Here I stand
painfully aware of my flaws
quaking in my canvas shoes
and in my heart.

I'm here on behalf of this kahal
even though the part of me
that's quick to knock myself
says I'm not worthy to lead them.

All creation was nurtured
in Your compassionate womb!
God of our ancestors, help me
as I call upon your mercy.

Don't blame this community
for the places where I miss the mark
in my actions or my heart
in my thoughts or in our davening.

Each of us is responsible
for her own teshuvah.
Help us remember that
without recriminations.

Accept my prayer
as though I were exactly the leader
this community needs in this moment,
as though my voice never faltered.

Free me from my own baggage
that might get in the way.
See us through the rose-colored glasses
of Your mercy.

Transform our suffering into gladness.
Dear One, may my prayer reach You
wherever You are
for Your name’s sake.

All praise is due to You, Dear One
Who hears the prayers of our hearts.

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