"Here I am"- Hineni, the heroism of the Binding and 'Sha'at Neilah'

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald

The Parasha in our everyday life - Vayerah – 5781

The Parshat HaAkida, (Yitzchak's Binding), which we will read on Shabbat, is one of the formative Parashot in the Torah, which arouses puzzlement, and the human mind has difficulty to understand. The binding attempt marked in the people of Israel's collective DNA, the willingness to sacrifice and an 'inconceivable devotion', for what is dear and sacred to us. And teaches how far resilience can reach in the face of a challenging experience like no other. Thanks to a firm faith in G-d and His Torah.

In the Parasha of the binding, Abraham's complete response is mentioned three times. In a unique expression - 'Here I am'. In response to the Divine command - וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי׃ and he answered, “Here I am” (Bereshit 22:1), in response to his son Yitzchak "הִנֶּ֣נִּֽי בְנִ֑י" “Yes, my son.”  (ibid 7), and in response to the angel who commands him " אַל־תִּשְׁלַ֤ח יָֽדְךָ֙ אֶל־הַנַּ֔עַר “Do not raise your hand against the boy" וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי׃ “Here I am.” (ibid 11).

"Here I am" is a powerful expression that expresses an extraordinary willingness to give the most precious of all - life, and to go against the natural paternal feeling:

ויאמר הנני. הנני לכהונה, הנני למלכות, הנני לשחוט, הנני ליהרג.

(Ber 22:1) And he said: Here am I, i.e., Here am I for the priesthood; Here am I for the kingship; Here am I ready to slaughter my son; Here am I   ready to be killed. (Midrash Tanchuma Buber Vayera 44:1)

Absolute willingness to the point of losing our personal desires:

מַהוּ לְשׁוֹן הִנֵּנִי, לְשׁוֹן עֲנָוָה, לְשׁוֹן חֲסִידוּת, שֶׁכָּךְ עַנְוְתָנוּתָן שֶׁל חֲסִידִים בְּכָל מָקוֹם.

"What does the expression hineni (“Here am I”) signify? It signifies meekness and piety. The meekness of pious men is indicated in every instance by the use of these words". (Midrash Tanchuma Vayera 22).

The Psukim mainly describe Abraham Avinu's test in the act of binding, but in fact Yitzchak is the main personality in the binding, his test does not fall short of his father's. It is named after him 'Yitzchak's Binding'. Some refer to Yitzchak as a teenager (Ibn Ezra pasuk 5), who is led to be bound by his father, in a passive manner.

However, the Sages emphasize that at the time of the binding, Yitzchak was thirty-seven years old.  (Bereshit Rabbah 55:4 - Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer {Eliezer ben Hurcanus} 31).

This could not have happened if he had not been willing to surrender to the binding according to the Divine command, in a way that is difficult to grasp in human reasoning:

"הא לכם יצחק, ע"ה, אשר מסר עצמו בלי שום סרוב ועיכוב, ופשט צווארו על גבי מזבח להישחט, לעשות רצונו, יתברך, עם שהיה יכול בקטנה שבתנועות להמלט על נפשו, בהיותו בתוקף, במבחר ימיו"

"Yitzchak, ע'ה, who gave himself up without any refusal or delay, and stretched his neck on the altar to be slaughtered, to do His will, to be blessed, even though he could have, with a small movement, escape while being in the prime force of his life”. (Bina Le’Itim :65). "And the Guardian Angels say, 'Let us see two righteous men, a father who slaughters and a son who is about to be slaughtered and there is no restraint in his hand" (Avot De Rabbi Nathan, manuscript, Q&A 92).

From ‘The Binding’ to the present day the people of Israel have known many bindings. During the years of exile, these were mainly as a result of people’s desire to convert Jews to their religion, or as a result of hatred of Jews. Since the establishment of the State of Israel and the establishment of the hebrew defensive forces, Israel has known the binding of sons who call 'Here I am', who responded, with a clear mind and wholeheartedly, to protect the nation, who were willing to give up their soul and bind themselves to protect their nation with their bodies. And fathers and mothers educating their sons for this.

In recent weeks, the series "Sha’at Neilah" about the Yom Kippur War has been screened. The screening was accompanied by a tremendous campaign that created the expectation, that before us is an invested production, which for the first time, will finally present the war in the right light.

In various forums, we have addressed a number of aspects in which the episodes of the series that have been screened so far, miss the point, and that it is no different from the familiar agenda in relation to the war. Focusing on failures, surprise and omission, and ignoring the unprecedented upheaval that took place during the war (in the Golan, within five days to forty km from Damascus, and in Egypt within eleven days, up to one hundred and one km from Cairo).

In the context of the Binding I would like to point out to another aspect. In this war (as well as in other wars) it was demonstrated, the astonishing devotion expressed by the ordinary warriors who sacrificed their lives, knowingly, and out of a clear mind, to stop the tanks’ attacks that threatened the country.

Warriors who responded with 'Hineni'-‘Here I am’ and who acted out of a deep and clear belief that this is what they should be doing, and that as part of their duty they might pay the highest price of all- their lives.

Of these, more than two thousand three hundred of the best soldiers paid with their lives (and more than three hundred during the period of Attrition until after Pesach).

Instead of focusing on this miraculous phenomenon, the series tends to produce a telenovela of insignificant matters.

'Devotion' is one of the causes of this 'upheaval'. After forty-seven years it is time for us to call it a miracle and cherish the warriors for their work.

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