I was asked to write for the Jewish Journal’s “Table for Five: Rosh Hashanah Edition.” They chose 5 writers/teachers/rabbi’s to write 250 words about the following verses:

Behold, I stand here, impoverished in good deeds, perturbed and frightened in fear [of Him,] Who is enthroned upon the praises of Yisrael. I have come to stand and to plead before You in behalf of Your people, Yisrael, who have appointed me their messenger, even though I am not worthy or qualified for the task.

– Hineni, From The Rosh Hashanah prayers

Here’s what’ll hit newsstands on Thursday:

When Leonard Cohen released what he knew would be his last album, he titled the song to begin his parting opus, “You Want It Darker.” On it, he sings “Hineni, hineni, I’m ready, my Lord.” Rosh Hashanah is a moment in time where we all stand as Leonard Cohen once did  – knowing it is time, we too stand as creations before our Creator, unsure as to our fate based on a string of moments where we may have felt faithless. Just as we admit to God in the Hineni prayer how we are “impoverished in good deeds, perturbed and frightened in fear,” Cohen sings, “There’s a lover in the story, But the story’s still the same, There’s a lullaby for suffering, And a paradox to blame, But it’s written in the scriptures.” We all stand in life just like this – a lover in life, caught in a paradox, seemingly set in the scene to fail. But it is Rosh Hashanah, a powerful time of teshuvah. All we have to do is remember that everything is in the Divine’s hands. We are meant to spiritualize material reality through this process of teshuva or returning, which is re-turning, to once again turn towards our innermost selves and the One who made us. As we read many times in Torah, “Whoever is generous of heart shall bring the offering of Hashem.” This is the time more than any other that we stand before our Creator, with a full heart and a desire to return and align with the Light of the infinite. It is this heartfelt prayer that mirrors the offerings we once brought in the Holy Temples that redeem us all. As our Sages taught, “God desires the heart.”

– Erez Safar




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