I didn’t know whether to smile or not when I overheard my six-year-old grandson Yossi reporting some of his impressions regarding Yom Kippur to my husband. “Do you know Zeidi,” he boasted, “I almost fasted on Yom Kippur?”
“What does ’almost’ mean?” inquired my husband. “Well,” said Yossi, “if not for Henny [his five-year-old sister] who enticed me into tasting some of the goodies she was enjoying, I would certainly have gotten there.”
Sound familiar? What was Adam HaRishon’s answer when questioned about tasting from the forbidden tree: “Ha’isha asher nasata imadi” – the wife you presented me with, she lured me into sinning.
I marvel at man’s ability and innate tendency to discover a culprit in every situation. Somehow, the slate we present must be immaculate. We are accomplished advocates for our cause and know how to skillfully protect our image. Whatever goes wrong is due to… so and so. There is always a someone at fault and that someone is not us.
A woman recently came to see me: Whenever she spends time with her extended family, one of her sisters-in-law makes every possible effort to put her down in public. Understandably, she was quite upset.
So, I shared with her the secret of “Ayeka” vs. “Hineni.” Is it really so, I asked, that every strained relationship with a parent, sibling, neighbor, or spouse is the fault of the other party and not at all ours? Can we put the full responsibility on those we interact with? Honestly, do we not share any of the blame?
When the Almighty addressed Adam, he asked him one brief, but penetrating question: “Ayeka” – Where are you? No external circumstance serves as an answer to this question. We could always act differently – no matter what others do.
If someone puts us down, it is highly advisable to ask ourselves: Why does he or she feel an urge to do so? What in our attitude triggers this behavior? Yes, some people choose to ignore the nuances, disregarding their importance, but quite often it is those minor subtleties that engender and create the problematic situation.
Instead of belonging to the “Ayeka” club – deflecting blame – why not join the “Hineni” group? Instead of blaming our surrounding, why not ask ourselves what part we played in creating the existing situation? Instead of expecting change from someone else, why not offer something different?
Adam was created on Rosh Hashana and was asked “Ayeka” on that very same day. It is no coincidence that exactly on that same day of Rosh Hashanah Abraham replied, “Hineni” to the Almighty when called upon to sacrifice his son. “Hineni,” as Chazal comment, is the optimal response to life’s call – as a soldier, ready to take responsibility, fighting life’s trials with dignity, accomplishing one’s assignment, fulfilling one’s duty.
The choice is ours: “Ayeka” versus “Hineni.”