Here I Am! – Parshat Vayeshev

Let's do this! What a bold statement! People who are aware of the import of what is about to happen, can feel pumped by the anticipation of what they are doing. They can also be filled with fear and trepidation. How do we then find clarity? 

This is highlighted by a difficulty in Rashi pointed out by the great teacher, Prof. Nechama Leibowitz, z"l. Yosef was just asked to visit his brothers and see how they're doing. He knew they didn’t like him. He knew this would be a difficult, if not dangerous, task. His father, Yaakov, knew that. And Yosef said, "Hinneni! Here I am."1 Rashi explains the term 'here I am' as being mixed with humility and diligence. Yet when God appeared to Avraham to send him to perform the Akeida, and Avraham responds Hinneni, here I am.2 Rashi there explains the term to mean with humility and readiness. Why the difference, Prof. Leibowitz asks. Her teaching method was to ask questions and let the student offer the answer. My answer is that Avraham was not told at the beginning what his task would be so he answered that he is willing and ready.

Yosef who already knew the task at hand, responded not only with readiness but with diligence as well.

When we have difficult tasks, are we ready for them? When we have new struggles, do we slink away? Perhaps we go into a funk. Or do we gather our strength to meet the challenge head-on and courageously.

Preparing ourselves for the next task – we may ask: "Is it worthy of us?" Perhaps the question should be:  "Are we worthy of the task?" or, in the words of Dostoevski, “There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.”3

Do we perform it half-heartedly or do we say as the prophet Yeshayahu said: "Here I am! Send me!"4 I am ready! I know the task at hand and am prepared for it.

We all have difficult tasks in life. We can, at times, even identify with Sisyphus of Greek mythology who was condemned to be forever rolling a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down again. Do we have the strength to start again? Yosef knew the character of his mission. And still, he said hinneni.

It is not easy. Finding that inner strength can be harder than preparing for and running in a marathon. That new attitude will not even change the reality of the struggle. But it helps. It gives perspective, it gives hope and it gives meaning.  

I wish for everyone to have a wonderful Chanukah and hope that you will never find yourselves in a difficult struggle. But if you do, I will also wish for you the strength and courage to say, "Here I am!"

Image by Jürgen Sieber  on Pixabay


  1. Bereishit 37:13
  2. 18:1
  3. As quoted by Frankl, Viktor E.. Man's Search for Meaning (p. 66). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.
  4. Yeshayahu 6:8

Have A Great Shabbat!laughing

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