The Hineni is one of the central prayers of the services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is recited by the person who leads the Musaf prayer, after the public reading of the Torah portion. It is in a tradition of prayers called reshuyot, “requests for permission”, essentially asking God for permission to pray on behalf of the congregation. In medieval times when most people did not possess their own prayer books, praying on behalf of the congregation was an awesome responsibility. But this prayer also is very individualistic: it asks for permission to supplicate, to bare one’s soul, to be one’s most genuine self, and that there be no impediment to this kind of self-expression.
Traditionally, the prayer is phrased in the masculine—an artifact of the time when only men led prayer—but versions in the feminine do exist (gender-neutral Hebrew being notoriously hard to produce). The version that I have created here is phrased for a reader who identifies with feminine pronouns, but I have chosen to phrase references to God and the divine in the masculine and feminine, and in as neutral language as possible in the English version. I have not shied away from some problematic language (“terrible” to describe God as a translation for nora, for example), and I have not changed many of the images from the traditional prayer, preferring instead to find resonances in them for myself and my own life, not that many of the traditional ones really needed much changing to produce such resonances. And of course, the traditional prayer is theistic, which I have also kept—but I have rephrased my supplication as one to my community of humans as well as one directed towards a divine figure.
I plan to take this Hineni with me to Rosh Hashanah services tomorrow and Tuesday, and to pray it. We’ll see if I wish to make any revisions before Yom Kippur.
L’shanah tovah umetukah—my best wishes to you and yours for a good and sweet year of blessing and peace.
הִנְנִי הָעֲנִיָּה מִמַּעַשׂ, נִרְעֶשֶׁת וְנִפְחֶדֶת מִפַּחַד. בָּאתִי לַעֲמֹד וּלְהִתְחַנֵּן לִפְנֵי עַמִּי וְלִפְנֵי אֱלֹהָי, אַף עַל פִּי שְׁאֵינִי כְדָאִית וַהֲגוּנָה לְכָךְ. לָכֵן אֲבַקֵשׁ מִמְּךָ, אֱלֹהֵי שָׂרָה, אֱלֹהֵי רִבְקָה, אֱלֹהֵי רָחֵל, וְאֱלֹהֵי לֵאָה, אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם, אֱלֹהֵי יִצְחָק, וְאֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב, יְיָ יְיָ אֵל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן, אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, שַׁדָּי, יָה הַשְּׁכִינָה, הֱיִי נָא מַצְלִיחָה דַּרְכִּי אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי הוֹלֶכֶת, לַעֲמוֹד וּלְבַקֵּשׁ רַחֲמִים עָלַי וְעַל שׁוֹלְחָי.
וְנָא אַל תַּפְשִׁיעֵם בְּחַטֹּאתַי וְאַל תְּחַיְּבֵם בְּעֲוֹנוֹתַי, כִּי חוֹטֵאת וּפוֹשַׁעַת אָנִי. וְנָא אַל תַּפְשִׁיעִי בְּחַטֹּאתַם וְאַל תְּחַיְּבִי בְּעֲוֹנוֹתַם. וְאַל יְכָּלְמוּ בְּפִשְׁעַי, וְאַל אֵבוֹשָׁה בָּהֶם. וְתִגְעַר בְּשָׂטָן לְבַל יַשְׂטִינֵנִי. וִיהִי נָא דִלּוּגֵנוּ עָלַיִךְ אַהֲבָה וְעַל כָּל־פְּשָׁעִים תְּכַסִּי בְּאַהֲבָה. וְכָל־צָרוֹת וְרָעוֹת הֲפָךְ־לָנוּ וּלְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵל לְשָׂשׂוֹן וּלְשִׂמְחָה לְחַיִּים וּלְשָׁלוֹם. הָאֱמֶת וְהַשָּׁלוֹם אֱהָבוּ, וְלֹא יְהִי שׁוּם מִכְשׁוֹל בִּתְפִלָּתִי.
וִיהִי רָצוֹן מִלְפָנַיךְ, יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵי שָׂרָה רִבְקָה רָחֵל וְלֵאָה, אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקֹב, הָאֵלָה הַגְּדוֹלָה הַגִּבּוֹרָה וְהַנוֹרָא, אֵל עֶלְיוֹן, מְקוֹר הַחֲיִּים, יָה הַשְּׁכִינָה, אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, שֶׁתָּבוֹא תְפִילָּתִי לְפָנַיִךְ, וְתִשְׁמְרִי מִכָּל צָרָה וְצוּקָה, וְתִשְׁלְחִי בְּרָכָה וְהָצְלָחָה בְּכָל מַעֲשֵׂה יְדִי, בַּעֲבוּר כָּל־הַצַּדִיקִים וְהַחֲסִידוֹת הַתְּמִימִים וְהַיְשָׁרוֹת, כִּי אַתָּה שׁוֹמֵעַ תְּפִלָּת יִשְׂרָאֵל עַמְּךָ בְּרַחֲמִים. בְּרוּכָה אַתְּ שׁוֹמַעָת תְּפִלָה.
Here I am. Impoverished in merit, I tremble and am afraid with fear. I have come to stand and make supplication before my people and my God, even though I am unworthy and unprepared for this task. Therefore I ask of You, God of Sarah, God of Rebecca, God of Rachel, God of Leah, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, Adonai Adonai, divinely merciful and kind, God of Israel, Shaddai, Yah, Shekhinah divine presence, please grant success along my path which I walk, as I stand and request mercy for myself and for those who send me.
Do not assume them guilty because of my wrongdoings, and do not charge them with my sins, because I sin and do wrong. But do not assume me guilty because of them, and do not charge me with their sins, because they sin and do wrong. May they not be put to shame because of my mistakes, but may I not be embarrassed by theirs. Rebuke the accuser who would impugn me and cause me trouble. Turn all our troubles and evils, and those of all Israel, into joy and gladness, into life and peace. Be a lover of truth and peace, and let there be no stumbling block before my prayer.
So may it be Your will, Adonai, God of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, divinely great, awe-inspiring, and terrible, Highest One, source of life, Yah, Shekhinah divine presence, Who calls hirself I shall be what I shall be, that my prayer come before You, and that you guard me from all trouble and frustration, and send blessing and success to all my handiwork, on behalf of all people who are righteous, loving, kind, and upright, for You hear the prayer of Your people Israel mercifully. Blessed are You, Who hears prayer.